Win an Independent Voices Book Bundle!

To celebrate the launch of the brand new Souvenir Press website (hurrah!), we’re giving one lucky person the chance to win a great prize – an Independent Voices book bundle!

Five of our favourite titles are up for grabs, all published in our acclaimed Independent Voices series.

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A little bit about Independent Voices…

The series is dedicated to publishing writers who provide alternative viewpoints and challenge conventional wisdom, making available work that has been unavailable in the UK although it is as relevant today as on its original publication.

You can see all of our other Independent Voices titles on our (brand new!) website at http://www.souvenirpress.co.uk/product-category/independent-voices/.

It’s very easy to enter – all you need to do is one of three things:

  1. Simply retweet one of our tweets about the competition on Twitter (@SouvenirPress)
  2. Like/comment on this blog post
  3. Or email me with the subject heading ‘Independent Voices Competition’

Good luck!

UK only. Deadline for entries is Friday 17th July at 5pm (UK time). One winner will receive a book bundle consisting of Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts, People Who Say Goodbye by P.Y. Betts, The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter by Albie Sachs and The Warriors by Sol Yurick. One entry per person. Winner will be selected by random draw.

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“I Have A Dream” – Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

So today is the 3rd Monday in January, a.k.a. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Since 2nd November 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill for the national holiday, Americans have celebrated a day designed to remember and celebrate the values promoted by the famous civil rights leader.

This year is particularly special – not least because Ava DuVernay’s Selma is released, but also because it is 50 years since MLK Jr. led his historic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

Celebrations to mark the occasion began yesterday, with some of Selma’s stars, including David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey, marching with hundreds of others as a tribute to the original march.

Elsewhere, US channel MTV will air in black and white for twelve hours and President Barack Obama will attend a community service project in Washington D.C.

Souvenir Press publishes MLK Jr.’s ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ and John Howard Griffin’s ‘Black Like Me’ – both part of our Independent Voices Series.

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“In 1959, a white American decided to turn himself into a ‘Negro’…John Howard Griffin would venture alone into some of the Deep South’s most virulently racist hotspots and experience life on the other side of the tracks…Black Like Me brilliantly reveals the dehumanisation of black people by the white majority…This reissued edition will introduce a whole new British readership to a work that is still an important, illuminating and fascinating read.”
Bernardine Evaristo, ‘The Times’

And if you haven’t already seen it, catch the Selma trailer here.

Black History Month: Stride Toward Freedom

It’s still Black History Month here in the UK. Last year we featured here on our blog four recommended books – read our two blog posts for Black History Month 2012 here and here. This year we’ll give you a more in-depth look at each of these four books.

In the spotlight last week we featured Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, the diary of a white man who travelled through the Deep South of the 1950s disguised as a black man. Read last week’s Black History Month blog here.

This week, take a look at Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr. Described by ‘Black History Live’ as “telling the inspiring story of the Civil Rights movement… A very important and moving book which tells the story of the movement that transported and changed not only America but globally”, it is published as part of our Independent Voices series, highlighting its continued cultural importance.

This is Martin Luther King Jr’s account, in his own words, of the origins of the Civil Rights movement in America which culminated in his 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

It starts with a story we all know: on December 1st 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. What follows is the unique story of King’s involvement of the budding Civil Rights movement, right from the start. With King at the head, the black community of Montgomery organised a year-long boycott of the bus service: the first large-scale, non-violent protest against racial segregation of its kind in America.

“This book is an account of a few years that changed the life of a Southern community, told from the point of view of the participants… it is the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their human worth.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Preface to Stride Toward Freedom

At the time of the Montgomery bus boycott King was only 26 years old. Within a year he was a national figure and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. Nine years later, in 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And only four years later than that, he was assassinated, on April 4th 1968, aged only 39.

What better way to celebrate Black History Month than to look back at where it all began, sowing the seeds that would grow into the Civil Rights Movement in America?

Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr. is a thought-provoking read, a doorway into history, perfect for Black History Month.

Visit the Black History Month website.

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Black History Month 2013: Black Like Me

October here in the UK is Black History Month. Last year we featured here on our blog four recommended books for you: STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM by Martin Luther King, Jr, BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin, SOFT VENGEANCE OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER by Albie Sachs, and THE HORN by John Clellon Holmes. Read our two blog posts for Black History Month 2012 here and here. This year we’ll give you a more in-depth look at each of these four books.

In the spotlight today is BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin. The diary of a white man who travelled through the Deep South of the 1950s disguised as a black man, it is required reading in schools and colleges in the United States, but has only recently been made available in the UK for the first time in decades, as part of Souvenir Press’ Independent Voices series.

The book starts in October 1959, when Griffin begins his transformation. He artificially darkens his skin and starts out in New Orleans, passing as a black man. He documents his struggle to find work, and the struggle of day-to-day living in the segregated Deep South. From finding a place to stay, to something as basic as finding a bathroom to use or somewhere to buy a glass of water, life as a black man is a series of struggles – some he was aware of before, as a white man, and some which are entirely new. And that’s in the city, where black men admit that they have made “progress” and are treated much better than their counterparts in rural areas.

For two months Griffin passes as a black man, travelling the southern states of America, documenting the varying reactions he receives from strangers. From “fellow” Negros – because at the time he was writing the term ‘African-American’ had not emerged – he found a sense of brotherhood, a community quick to help someone in need, but it was by no means a united community.

From white Americans he could experience everything from cautious politeness to outright hatred. He became accustomed to “hate stares” from whites, and in the worst states is even given a list of rules by a well-meaning Negro to help him “get by”. He’s told not to even look at a white woman, to look at the ground when walking, and to avoid alleyways when walking – he should walk in the middle of the street so as to avoid being beaten and mugged.

BLACK LIKE ME propelled Griffin to national fame for a while, but it provoked anger in equal measure, with Griffin enduring threats and physical violence in the aftermath of publication. Griffin died in 1980 at the age of 60 from complications relating to diabetes. Rumours circulated that his death was due to skin cancer caused by the drugs he used to darken his skin for BLACK LIKE ME, but in fact Griffin didn’t have skin cancer, and the only negative symptoms he experienced from the drugs were nausea and fatigue, and then the effects were only temporary.

Described by the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 as “one of the most extraordinary books ever written about relations between the races”, BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin is an eye-opening and thought-provoking read, perfect for Black History Month.

Visit the Black History Month website.

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Black History Month (part 2)

As October is celebrated as Black History Month here in the UK, we at Souvenir Press have put together a few book recommendations for you. You can find the first part of this post series here, where we recommended the fantastic BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin, and the equally brilliant A SOFT VENGEANCE OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER by Albie Sachs.

We now have two more titles to recommend to you as part of our Black History Month series of blog posts.

STRIDE TOWARDS FREEDOM – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Telling the inspiring story of the Civil Rights movement… A very important and moving book which tells the story of the movement that transported and changed not only America but globally”. – ‘Black History Live’

This is the account of the birth of a national Civil Rights movement in America, that pivotal turning point in American history, told through Martin Luther King Jr’s own experiences and stories, chronicling his community’s refusal to accept the injustices of racial discrimination. He described ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ as “the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.”

THE HORN – John Clellon Holmes

“This is a book you can return to again and again just for the writing alone… Holmes is a writer, not a musician, but somehow he captures the life of a jazz musician in the first half of the twentieth century… It should be on the reading list of anyone who cares about jazz.” – http://www.sandybrownjazz.co.uk

Edgar Pool is the Horn, the greatest tenor saxophonist of his generation, the man who created bop and who has become a myth for younger musicians. The Horn lives no life but jazz, his nights are spent in the crowded nightclubs of New York where the wistful, throaty sounds of his saxophone speak of the desires and pasts of his audience. After being out-played for the first time by a younger man the Horn sets out to stumble through New York for the last time. As his friends and lovers search for him they remember his life, and try to find the truth of his brilliant and tragic career. The Horn is a brilliant evocation of the world of jazz and a vivid memorial to the musicians who created it.

Black History Month

Here in the UK, October is Black History Month, and here at Souvenir Press we’ve got a great selection of titles to recommend! We will highlight four fantastic titles over the course of the month – two in this post, and two to follow in a later post. So join us as we celebrate Black History month here at Souvenir Press!

BLACK LIKE ME – John Howard Griffin

One of the most extraordinary books ever written about relations between the races. – The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4.

In 1959, before the Civil Rights movement spread across the United States, John Howard Griffin underwent medical treatments to disguise himself as a black man. He then travelled through the segregated Deep South of America, exchanging the privileged life of a white man for the disenfranchisement of the black man, and experienced the racism that was endured by millions on a daily basis. From the threat of violence to the indignities of being unable to use a drinking fountain or buy food from a particular shop Griffin documented his experience of racism and opened the eyes of white America to the abuses going on in their country.

THE SOFT VENGEANCE OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER

An extraordinary man, a living testimony to the belief that the human spirit can overcome all adversity… That he survived not just to exist but make so fulsome a contribution to the life of a new, altogether better South Africa is a triumph. – The Independent

In 1988 after decades as an anti-apartheid activist, Albie Sachs lost his right arm and an eye when his car was blown up by South African security agents. This is his own moving account of his recovery in and his gradual re-entry into life and politics and the parallel emergence of an apartheid-free South Africa. Sachs writes of his years spent working for justice in South Africa, as well as expressing his euphoria at finding himself alive day after day. Was it worth it? he asks. His unforgettable and inspiring answer is a resounding yes . The soft vengeance he has achieved is not to inflict pain and injustice on those who attacked him but to help in the creation of a society where humanity and justice triumph over cruelty and racist division.