- Octavo, dark gray cloth titled in gilt on the front cover & spine with a device in blind on the rear cover. The binding is lightly rubbed. The corners of the covers and the head & tail of the spine are lightly chipped & frayed. The gilt titling on the spine is partially rubbed away & there is some minor bubbling to the cloth of the front cover. x & 173 pages. Illustrated in black & white with a portrait frontispiece & 6 full-page portraits. The contents are clean & bright. Good.
African American Mercer Cook was a 30-year-old Sorbonne-educated Assistant Professor of Romance Languages at Howard University when this, his first book, was published. He noted that while he found no other text book for students of French in "colored" schools, there was "a wealth of material on the subject of the colored man in French literature". He therefore set about assembling this collection of writings about black people by Montesquieu, Voltaire, Robespierre, Lafayette, De Tocqueville, Balzac, Hugo, Dumas, Maupassant and others. The illustrations include portraits of Toussaint L'Ouverture and Ira Aldridge, the great African American Shakespearean actor of the mid-19th century. Cook's introduction is in English. The rest of the text is in French.
Mercer Cook [1903-1987] was an African American diplomat and professor. His father Will Marion Cook was a famous composer and his mother Abbie Mitchell Cook was a soprano singer, best known for playing Clara in the 1935 premier production of "Porgy and Bess". Cook had a remarkable career. He held positions as a professor of French and Romance Languages at Atlanta University and Howard University, he studied in Paris and the West Indies and from 1943 to 1945 taught English at the University of Haiti. In the late 1950s he became active in international relations. President Kennedy appointed him Ambassador to the newly independent French African colony of Niger in 1961 and President Johnson subsequently named him U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia and Senegal.
Rare in commerce. First Edition.