Why this book?
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a renowned Harvard professor and author of a series of deeply insightful books on African American history. He has also become one of the most recognizable public figures in the nation, from the PBS series Finding Your Roots and Reconstruction to a cameo in Watchmen in which he played the United States Treasury Secretary. It can be easy to forget that “Skip” Gates was raised in the hills of West Virginia, part of a tight-knit, quirky, distinctly African American community. In Gates’ affectionate memoir detailing his growing up, a series of fascinating characters leap from the page—some Churchgoing, some anything but; some strait-laced; some definitely not; some ambitious, some content to do as little as possible to get by. Everyone we meet in Colored People is both recognizable and a revelation, and Gates has created a moving and nostalgic look at African American culture that is at once unique yet universal.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
A re-creation of what it was like to grow up in the hill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s. Recalling an age at which the town and people represented his known universe, Gates describes the clannish pride of the family and the sense of place that characterized Piedmont, with its beautiful countryside, its paper mill, whose sulphurous fumes permeated the air but brought the town its prosperity, and the social event of the year, the annual mill picnic. The young Gates's consciousness takes in "colored people" in a time when segregation was still influential. He tells…