Smoketown (audiobook)

The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

13.5 hrs • 11 CDs• 1 MP3 CD • Unabridged
Target Audience: Adult
Release Date: 01/30/18
This title will be available on January 30, 2018
Library CD Library Edition CD titles are packaged in an attractive, full-sized, durable vinyl case with full color art. Cloth Sleeves keep compact discs protected and in numerical order. 
- 01/30/18 9781538512074
MP3 CD MP3-CDs: Come in a durable vinyl case similar to a dvd case. An index of contents and tracking information are included within the Mp3-CD format. MP3's can be played on any compatible CD player 
- 01/30/18 9781538512098

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The other great Renaissance of black culture, influence, and glamour burst forth joyfully in what may seem an unlikely place—Pittsburgh, PA—from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Today black Pittsburgh is known as the setting for August Wilson’s famed plays about noble but doomed working-class strivers. But this community once had an impact on American history that rivaled the far larger black worlds of Harlem and Chicago. It published the most widely read black newspaper in the country, urging black voters to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party and then rallying black support for World War II. It fielded two of the greatest baseball teams of the Negro Leagues and introduced Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pittsburgh was the childhood home of jazz pioneers Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner; Hall of Fame slugger Josh Gibson—and August Wilson himself. Some of the most glittering figures of the era were changed forever by the time they spent in the city, from Joe Louis and Satchel Paige to Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.

Mark Whitaker’s Smoketown is a captivating portrait of this unsung community and a vital addition to the story of black America. It depicts how ambitious Southern migrants were drawn to a steel-making city on a strategic river junction; how they were shaped by its schools and a spirit of commerce with roots in the Gilded Age; and how their world was eventually destroyed by industrial decline and urban renewal. Whitaker takes listeners on a rousing, revelatory journey—and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.

Review Quotes

“Mark Whitaker says his remarkable mid-twentieth century Pittsburgh ‘was a black version of the story of early twentieth-century Vienna.’ Mr. Whitaker is so riveting a storyteller that the reader even wonders if Belle Epoque Vienna had the equivalent of a Billy Eckstine, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, Joe Louis, or an August Wilson.”

David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

“Who knew that Pittsburgh had an African American renaissance as vibrant as Harlem’s and arguably more consequential? Mark Whitaker knew, and he rescues from unjust obscurity an American episode that continues to reverberate.”

George F. Will, New York Times bestselling author

“Whitaker has given Pittsburgh’s wondrously rich black culture its due at long last. Smoketown is illuminating history and an absolute delight to read.”

David Maraniss, New York Times bestselling author

“In vividly recreating the mid-twentieth-century heyday of black Pittsburgh, an almost magical locale for journalism, sports, music, politics, and business, Whitaker is also offering an alternate version of African-American history. This is a story of strength, pride, and achievement, where racism is never absent but also never more powerful than the strong will of his large, fascinating cast of characters.”

Nicholas Lemann, New York Times bestselling author

“An expansive, prodigiously researched, and masterfully told history.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Informative and illuminating…Whitaker shines a well-deserved and long-overdue spotlight on this city within a city.”

Publishers Weekly

“Proof that [Pittsburgh] had a thriving African American community rivaling those of Harlem and Chicago.”

Library Journal