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Download Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance Audiobook, by Mark Whitaker Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Whitaker Narrator: Prentice Onayemi Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2018 ISBN: 9781538512104
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Whitaker] 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…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…this is a story of strength, pride, and achievement.”

    Nicholas Lemann, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Mark Whitaker’s chronicle of the rise and fall of black Pittsburgh is a revelation on every page. Comprehensive in scope and skillfully written.”

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • “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

  • “Whitaker spotlights the city’s stunning feats of black achievement and resilience through the lens of his extensive cast of influencers and icons.”


  • “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

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About the Author

Mark Whitaker is the author of several books, includingthe critically acclaimed memoir My Long Trip Home. The former managing editor of CNN Worldwide, he was previously the Washington bureau chief for NBC News and a reporter and editor at Newsweek, where he rose to become the first African American leader of a national newsweekly.

About the Narrator

Prentice Onayemi is an Earphones Award–winning audiobook narrator and a voice and film actor who is known for his roles in The Steam-Room Crooner, AmeriQua, and as Joey in the Tony Award–winning play War Horse.