Israel on the Appomattox
A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War
A moving story of hope and hardship, of black pride and achievement. Thomas Jefferson doubted that whites and liberated blacks could live together in harmony--but Jefferson's young cousin Richard Randolph and ninety African Americans set out to prove him wrong. When Randolph died, he left land to his formidable bondman Hercules White and dozens of other slaves. In that small corner of south-central Virginia, these Afro-Virginians created a free community called Israel Hill. Melvin Ely captures a series of remarkable personal and public dramas: free black and white people navigate the Appomattox River together, do business with one another, sue each other, work side by side for equal wages, join forces to found a Baptist congregation, move west together, and occasionally settle down as man and wife. Here is an Old South we hardly know, where ties of culture, faith, affection, and economic interest crossed racial barriers even as the long shadow of slavery darkened the landscape and disrupted black lives in any number of ways.More about Israel on the Appomattox.
The Adventures of Amos 'n' Andy
A Social History of an American Phenomenon
Melvin Ely unveils a fascinating tale of America's shifting color line. In the 1920s and 1930s, two professional directors of blackface minstrel shows create a radio drama-comedy about two southern black men building new lives in the northern city. The white performers manage to produce a series so rich and complex that it wins admirers ranging from ultra-racists to outspoken racial egalitarians and ignites a passionate debate among African Americans themselves. Eventually, the pair stir further controversy when they bring their show to television.
From the beginning, whites took comfort from Amos 'n' Andy's success in attracting black listeners; white commentators were quick to insist that America's favorite radio show--and, by implication, the nation as a whole--dealt kindly with blacks. Ely's Adventures of Amos 'n' Andy traces the history of a society less and less comfortable defending the most obvious flaw in our democratic order--the color line--yet still unwilling to erase it once and for all.More about The Adventures of Amos 'n' Andy.
The Handicap Principle
A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle
English translation: Melvin Patrick Ely and Naama Zahavi-Ely
Ever since Darwin, the extravagance in animal displays--elaborate mating rituals, lavish decorative displays, complex songs, calls, and dances--has fascinated and perplexed human observers. The Handicap Principle offers a unifying theory that brilliantly explains many previously baffling aspects of animal signaling and endows human behaviors with surprising new significance. This elegantly written English edition shows how the Handicap Principle works in human social life, touching on subjects as diverse as body features, the evolution of art, verbal language versus nonverbal communication, and the role of sex in testing the social bond. Homosexuality, human altruistic drives, and suicidal behavior are all explained within the framework of evolution. The Handicap Principle may well be the most important advance in the study of animal behavior to appear in the last several decades.More about The Handicap Principle.