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Kigel, Richard

RICHARD KIGEL brings the practical skills of a veteran educator to his work. “My aim as a teacher was always to support and encourage my students and inspire them to become eager and hungry learners,” he says. During the thirty years Mr. Kigel taught in Brooklyn schools with mostly African-American students, he immersed himself in the richness of Black History. “My first introduction came during my college days,” Kigel says. “What opened my eyes was the 1968 TV special Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed. It was one of the first programs on Black History and it intrigued me so much I went out and bought the book.”

As the social upheavals of the 1960s heated up, he turned to The Autobiography of Malcom X, Richard Wright’s devastating novel Native Son, and Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man to gain some perspective on the racial issues raging through the country. When the groundbreaking TV series Roots captivated the nation in 1977, Kigel saw how Black History could inform and inspire his teaching and his writing. “We can’t begin to understand the American character unless we take full account of Black History,” he says. “Black History is American History.”

Kigel’s novel, On the Wings of the Wind: The Untold Story of History’s First Flight is a fictional narrative by a young slave who escaped to freedom on a homemade flying machine, a story of courage, ingenuity, and perseverance in the face of the most oppressive conditions, a triumph of human spirit. His latest biography, Becoming Abraham Lincoln, is a vivid authentic account of Lincoln’s most formative years in the actual words of those who knew him.

Mr. Kigel fell in love with Phillis Wheatley and her poetry and realized that this obscure eighteenth-century poet is so disconnected from our cultural awareness that hardly anybody knows anything about her. Who can cite even the title of one of her poems? Says Kigel, “When I tell people I wrote a biography of Phillis Wheatley, I get a quizzical look, the raised eyebrow, and then, ‘Who?’”

That is why need this biography of Phillis Wheatley. Heav’nly Tidings from the Afric Muse: The Grace and Genius of Phillis Wheatley is the story of a unique young woman who began her life in America as a lowly slave and managed to launch two literary traditions at once, African-American literature and women’s literature. Now Phillis Wheatley can take her place among the nation’s Founding Mothers as “Poet Laureate” of the American Revolution. For the author’s website, visit www.philliswheatleybio.com.

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Heav'nly Tidings From the Afric Muse: The Grace and Genius of Phillis Wheatley

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