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Book Launch: Black Folk:The Roots of the Black Working Class with Blair Kelley and Melissa Harris-Perry

The launch of Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class which illuminates the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America. Please join us as author of Black Folk, Blair Kelley talks to Melissa Harris-Perry, media host, and author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America. 


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We are thrilled to host the launch of Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class which illuminates the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America. Please join us as author of Black Folk, Blair Kelley talks to Melissa Harris-Perry, media host, and author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America. This is an in-person event. 



We will offer seating for up to 40 in-person guests, with priority access given to those who purchase the book. To register for the in person in store event, click on "Save My Spot" and purchase your hardcover and ticket. Please select the "hardcover with ticket" option to reserve your seat. 

About Blair Kelley:

Blair Kelley Ph.D. is an award-winning author, historian, and scholar of the African American experience. A dedicated public historian, Kelley works to amplify the histories of Black people, chronicling the everyday impact of their activism. Kelley is the Joel R. Williamson Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the incoming director of the Center for the Study of the American South, the first Black woman to serve in that role in the center’s thirty-year history.

Kelley is the author of two books. The first, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship (UNC Press), awarded the 2010 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians, chronicles the little-known Black men and women who protested the passage of laws segregating trains and streetcars at the turn of the twentieth century. Kelley’s newest book, Black Folk: The Roots the Black Working Class (Liveright), draws on family histories and mines the archive to illuminate the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America in the past and present. Black Folk was awarded a 2020 Creative Nonfiction Grant by the Whiting Foundation, and the 2022-23 John Hope Franklin/NEH Fellowship by National Humanities Center.

Kelley received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in History and African and African American Studies. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in History, and graduate certificates in African and African American Studies and Women’s Studies at Duke University.


About Melissa Harris-Perry:

Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University in the Department of Politics and International Affairs, the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in Environment and Sustainability. Melissa is founder and president of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, an independent organization advancing justice through intersectional scholarship and action. Along with Dorian Warren, Melissa co-created and co-hosts System Check. She is currently serving as interim host of The Takeaway from WNYC public radio. Melissa is an award-winning author, sought after public speaker, and accomplished media professional.

From 2012-2016, she hosted the television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” on weekend mornings on MSNBC and was awarded the Hillman Prize for broadcast journalism. She has served as editor-at-large and for ZORA. She continues to serve as contributing editor for The Nation.

She is the author of the award-winning Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

Harris-Perry received her B.A. degree in English from Wake Forest University and her Ph.D. degree in political science from Duke University. She studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University. She serves on several boards and award committees and is a trustee of The Century Foundation, The Next 100 and The Markup.

Professor Harris-Perry has been awarded honorary degrees from many universities including Meadville Lombard Theological School, Winston-Salem State University, Eckerd College, New York University, and Ithaca College.


Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class

An award-winning historian illuminates the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America through a stunning narrative centered on her forebears.

There have been countless books, articles, and televised reports in recent years about the almost mythic “white working class,” a tide of commentary that has obscured the labor, and even the very existence, of entire groups of working people, including everyday Black workers. In this brilliant corrective, Black Folk, acclaimed historian Blair LM Kelley restores the Black working class to the center of the American story.

Spanning two hundred years―from one of Kelley’s earliest known ancestors, an enslaved blacksmith, to the essential workers of the Covid-19 pandemic―Black Folk highlights the lives of the laundresses, Pullman porters, domestic maids, and postal workers who established the Black working class as a force in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Taking jobs white people didn’t want and confined to segregated neighborhoods, Black workers found community in intimate spaces, from stoops on city streets to the backyards of washerwomen, where multiple generations labored from dawn to dusk, talking and laughing in a space free of white supervision and largely beyond white knowledge. As millions of Black people left the violence of the American South for the promise of a better life in the North and West, these networks of resistance and joy sustained early arrivals and newcomers alike and laid the groundwork for organizing for better jobs, better pay, and equal rights.

As her narrative moves from Georgia to Philadelphia, Florida to Chicago, Texas to Oakland, Kelley treats Black workers not just as laborers, or members of a class, or activists, but as people whose daily experiences mattered―to themselves, to their communities, and to a nation that denied that basic fact. Through affecting portraits of her great-grandfather, a sharecropper named Solicitor, and her grandmother, Brunell, who worked for more than a decade as a domestic maid, Kelley captures, in intimate detail, how generation after generation of labor was required to improve, and at times maintain, her family’s status. Yet her family, like so many others, was always animated by a vision of a better future. The church yards, factory floors, railcars, and postal sorting facilities where Black people worked were sites of possibility, and, as Kelley suggests, Amazon package processing centers, supermarkets, and nursing homes can be the same today. With the resurgence of labor activism in our own time, Black Folk presents a stirring history of our possible future.


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