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unless we tell it cover

Unless We Tell It…It Never Gets told!
Rodney L. Hurst Sr.
KiJas Press, Jacksonville, FL
ISBN 978-0-578-17453-2
320 pages
Genre: Civil Rights/Black History/Multicultural Nonfiction

A real eye-opener, Rodney Hurst’s 2015 book Unless We Tell It…It Never Gets Told!  is a version of American history that is very different than the one taught in schools. The author’s agenda is crystal clear: to face off “An Incomplete and Dishonest American History” [sic]; to tell the story of at least some of the “millions of Blacks, whose stories are often neither told nor heard, let alone published…” (Preface, ix); and to provide an explanation and analysis of the issues and manifestations of racism in America.

Section one is a chain of biographies woven skillfully together to create a strong tapestry of pride, integrity and world class achievements, spanning over centuries and connecting in a specific geographical location: Jacksonville, Florida.

For me, who spent the past ten years in Jacksonville, FL teaching school in Duval County, and encountered both shocking examples of racism and seemingly unfounded incidents of “playing the race card”, these mini biographies are individual gems. Hurst’s heroes represent a wide range of the highest national and, in several cases, international achievements, starting from the 19th century. Artists, educators, union leaders, senators, Olympic champion athletes, law and military men, and preachers share the first 195 pages. All of them are icons in Black history, yet most of them are unsung heroes.

The author’s research and documentation of the lives of these extraordinary players and shapers of history are beyond impressive. Even though the biographical details are at times overwhelming, the tone is infused with palpable respect and pride. The fact that many of the contemporary heroes are Hurst’s personal acquaintances or friends makes his voice even more authentic.  Anecdotes and interviews add an intimate touch to the portraits which balances out the potential dryness of the condensed biographical details.

Section two is a series of essays that create a chronological retake on US history from the beginnings of slavery to today, à la  Rodney L. Hurst Sr., civil rights activist, two-term councilman, TV personality and award winning author. Complete with notes, photography credits and index, Hurst’s book provides a well-supported perspective of Black history with convincing facts and academic analysis.

With Unless We Tell It…, Hurst delivered a powerful punch in the face of all who are trying to trivialize or deny the existence of racism in America. True to his words, “There is no learning curve to fighting racism. You recognize racism, and you fight it or you don’t fight it (pg. 107)”, he fights. Beyond pointing out the inaccuracy and bias of American history that is being handed over to the next generation, he actually stepped up to rewrite the chapters he felt were distorted or missing.

Rodney L. Hurst Sr. could easily claim a chapter in his own book. He is a fighter, a shaper and curator of Black history. His mission might be centuries old, but he chose 21st century weapons: educated intelligence, academic argument, and a dogged perseverance for unveiling the truth to move the world forward as, in his words, “The Struggle Continues”.

Hedi Harrington
For The Harrington Review
April 30, 2016