Tag Archives: History

Available Light: Louisville Through the Lens of Bud Dorsey

The Louisville Story Program recently released a fourth book, Available Light: Louisville Through the Lens of Bud Dorsey.  This time the book is set in the West End of Louisville, including the Shawnee and Chickasaw neighborhoods.

Bud Dorsey, lifelong photographer, has compiled a small collection of photos that focus on West Louisville, as well as the people that make up the community.  With an Introduction by Dorsey about his journey through multiple cameras, you feel that you are walking alongside him while capturing photos. They range from his childhood in Beecher Terrace, his service to our country in the naval forces, and on to photo shoots for Jet Magazine.

When America heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death on April 4, 1968, Louisville had rioting in the street.  Survival was not guaranteed on 28th & Greenwood Streets, Dorsey says, because it was the police who started the riots.  If you have lived in Louisville but haven’t been to the West End, you will see what Dorsey witnessed in this collection of his photographs.

Mr. Dorsey also includes photos of folks from around the country in the music industry, such as  James Brown and Michael Jackson, and political activists like Anne Braden and Dick Gregory.

A tour de force for local history and visual art, this book shows the compassion of West Louisville from its past to the present, with hope for the future.

[Editor’s Note:  An exhibit of Mr. Dorsey’s photographs from Available Light are on display at the the Muhammad Ali Center until January 5, 2018]

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Women and the Square Circle

Women’s wrestling appears to be garnering interest with the public again due, I surmise, in part to the rise in popularity of the Netflix show GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling).  Stepping into the square this year are two books which throw a spot light on the world of women in the ring.

The first is Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy. It offers short biographies of several athletes from around the globe and their journey into the world of female wrestlers. Two of the women are from Kentucky whose paths led them from an attraction at a freak show in a circus to a tag team matched up again male wrestling tag teams.  While some will see wrestling as a charade, which by in large it is, the performers/wrestlers display athletic prowess and drive to do whatever it takes to get ahead even if it results in broken bones or missing teeth, as displayed in the book.

Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy present a good mix of information, past and present, up to the latter half of 2016, as well as images of each female wrestler. There is still enough mystery in the field of women’s wrestling to keep the reader wondering what the future may hold for this rough and tumble sport.  If shows like GLOW are of interest or if wrestling draws your attention check out this latest non-fiction title.

My other selection is entitled Crazy is my Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules by AJ Mendez Brooks

As in many autobiographies/memoirs, there is a mixture of good, bad and ugly. Brooks’ book is no different. Memories of her early years show the hardships – being bullied as a child and being raised by her older siblings – while her parents worked just to keep food on the table.  As a child, Brooks was drawn to the world of wrestling as she watched the excitement in the ring and the fancy ring attire.  She also struggled with anorexia and depression but she always knew she wanted to be in the ring, at the center of attention.  

At one point in the book she talks of traveling to a plethora of different venues around the States and Mexico.  Each chapter builds Brooks’ story and brings the reader along on her journey to the ring. There are lists at the end of the chapters in which Brooks’ rates her experiences.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

History Nuggets – Gold

Three bite-size non-fiction reviews tied together with a delicious topical dipping sauce!

The theme: Mansa Musa, Sultan of Mali, was arguably the wealthiest person ever to live. No kidding. You know you’ve reached mythological levels of lucre when you show up on maps made by people living halfway across the known world with an annotation about how much gold you have. Mali was such a rich kingdom because the territory it controls – centered around the city Timbuktu – is situated on the Niger River and in a position to control trade across the Sahara to and from the European subcontinent.

Ivory Coast jewelry

By Papischou (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast are still known for the quality and quantity of their goldwork. A stupefying amount of trade flowed through Timbuktu, with most of it paid for in gold, mined out of ore-bearing seams just to the South. There’s a reason we call the ocean-border of Ghana the Gold Coast. Did I mention the gold?

I like to imagine Sultan Mansa Musa swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck. But that would probably understate how much gold he had. According to legend, Mansa Musa had so much gold, that when he went on the Hajj he took an enormous caravan including camels with sacks of pure gold dust on their backs, and crashed the unsuspecting economies of entire city states with inflation because their markets literally could not handle the influx of gold. Did this actually happen? Historical accounts disagree (with most saying it did happen). However, we do know that the Sultan bankrolled a massive building boom in Mali, with new mosques, libraries, and colleges sprouting up in cities all over the kingdom.

Great Mosque of Djenne

By BluesyPete (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Above is a prime example of Malian architecture, the Great Mosque of Djenne. These are not cheap to build. Here’s another one, financed by the Sultan himself.

Another massive public building paid for by the Sultan.

By KaTeznik (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

If the style of these buildings look weirdly familiar, like they belong to a desert planet orbiting twin suns in a galaxy far far away, it’s because Star Wars Episode IV: a New Hope was filmed on a relatively tiny budget, largely on location in Tunisia, which has some of the same classically Northwest African architecture. The Skywalker home was an actual house, which is now Hotel Sidi Driss. Bits of Star Wars set are strewn all over parts of the Tunisian desert. Understanding history is all about making connections, after all, so put on that John Williams soundtrack, and read on!

 

Salt, Kurlansky

Sodium Chloride makes for some seriously gripping reading. Doesn’t hurt that it’s really well written.

As for the big picture of what (aside from gold) the Kingdom of Mali was built on, and where Timbuktu fit in on the world stage of the international salt trade, Mark Kurlansky’s excellent overview Salt: A World History will put it nicely in context.  Salt was first published in 2002, but it’s every bit the excellent true world history it’s ever been.

 

Timbuktu book cover

I like my histories dense and well-seasoned with primary material. Bonus points for Ibn Battuta!

If, however, what you wanted was a history of the city of Timbuktu – the center, but not the capitol, of Mali – read Timbuktu: the Sahara’s Fabled City of Gold. This book gives a very thorough treatment of the history of the city, especially the establishment of the trade and the Kingdom of Mali, and the heyday of the city as a hub of trade for caravans across the Sahara.

 

Librarians of Timbuktu

I couldn’t resist.

For an even more focused view on the world of Sultan Mansa Musa and how it intersects with our own there’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of TimbuktuThe Kingdom’s wealth and economic connections meant a massive heap of documentation, making the medieval libraries and colleges of Timbuktu a treasure-trove of manuscripts. When Mali’s most recent rebellion broke out in 2012, the race was on to secure and hide the priceless documents before the historic buildings and the knowledge they housed were destroyed by Islamist forces. History is littered with tragic library-burnings – Alexandria, Hanlin Academy – but, this time, the books were saved, and our world is truly richer for it in wealth of knowledge, not gold.

Reviews by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch