New Man Down South has been a passion project of mine for over a decade. The result is a 284-page, leather-bound hardcover book, designed to be a uniquely beautiful production of my grandfather, William Gordon, Sr.’s memoir.
This autobiography spans generations and contains a message just as timely today as when it was written. I describe it as a story deeply rooted in the South, and it contains wonderful details about African-American life in the South during the first half of the 20th century.
For anyone interested in the history of the American South, the Negro press and the world of newspaper journalism from the 1930s through the 1950s, this story is a fascinating journey. From a 1920s sharecropping community in rural Mississippi, to the streets of Memphis, to modern-day Atlanta, Georgia – New Man Down South is William Gordon, Sr.’s first-person account of growing up at the very beginnings of the civil rights era.
With the belief that he would rise to be someone special, he chose to leave home as a young boy. It was understood that the only way to escape his predestined sharecropping life was to get an education, so he ventured out on his own, headed to Memphis and worked whatever jobs he could find. Ambitiously pursuing his dream of becoming a college graduate, and a career as a newspaper journalist.
Through his work for Tuskegee Institute, newspapers in New York City and as Managing Editor of the Atlanta Daily World, one of the nation's oldest and foremost African-American newspapers, he interviewed and documented the lives of American icons such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks – as well as countless others.
I can remember as a kid watching my grandfather sit at our kitchen table - with a cup of coffee, a newspaper and his typewriter. At the time of his passing in 1998, he was in the process of writing this autobiography. It was shortly after his death our family was able to read the manuscript – painstakingly typed on an antique typewriter – and a shorter edited version, along with a letter, which described working with my grandfather over the past several months verifying and editing his memoir. The work was unfortunately incomplete, but what was there was something unique and precious.
My family held on to that incomplete manuscript for years. It wasn’t until the early 2000s while I was pursuing graduate studies that I had the idea of re-telling my grandfather’s story. As a GTA I had learned and taught how to perfect-bind a hardcover book, and discovered a newfound passion. To be able to write, design and bind my own books was an empowering feeling, and an exciting new creative outlet. As my thesis project I decided to research and pursue designing and marketing an experimental version of my grandfather’s memoir.
In his account my grandfather mentions different newspapers and publications he worked for and various stories and interviews he conducted. I was able to scan many examples of pages from the microfilm collections of the Memphis World, Tuskegee’s Service magazine, newspaper PM and the New York Star and finally, the Atlanta Daily World. Throughout the book, several pages and articles from these newspapers are recreated as a design concept, to give the reader added context, and to add an understanding of the importance of these mostly forgotten historical documents. You can see some examples of these publications on our website.
When these articles are placed alongside beautiful historical and family photographs, the book becomes a gateway to the South of the first half of the last century – guided by a man who tells his own inspirational story, along with the stories of many others along the way.
As part of the completion of my thesis – the first handmade edition of the book was created in 2008, since then I have revisited this project to add, remove, fine tune, and perfect the concept that was started years earlier. In 2017, this revised edition of New Man Down South was completed, and in 2018 with your help, I can make this work available to the public. On it’s own, it is a unique historical resource, ideal for use in the classroom or library, and an important perspective for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
The book itself is a beautiful saddle-stitched book, 7" x 9" with a leather and linen bound hardcover featuring the logo debossed. Printed on 80 lb. Rolland Opaque White paper, to give the look and feel of a high-quality newspaper stock – full color throughout, and complete with dust jacket. As part of my concept of narrative book design, each character is voiced in a unique typeface and each chapter is designed to enhance the narrative in a thought-provoking manner. The subject matter of a life in journalism provides the opportunity to create page spreads that mimic the content and design of the magazines and newspapers of the time. The result is a book that is truly a one-of-a-kind reading experience that educates and invites the reader to look deeper into the story, and the society it resurrects.
I'm doing this campaign merely to cover production costs, so if I raise more money than the base goal, as my way of showing thanks for your support in surpassing my original goals, I'm going to enhance the book itself. So with your support, everyone who orders one will get an even cooler version of the book. For example of a few stretch goals that I have in mind:
There are some amazing photographs of my grandfather that were published in various mid-1900s publications that I would like to obtain high-resolution reproductions.
I want to purchase this photograph from Getty Images (http://www.gettyimages.com/license/514957734); and these two from the archives of Look magazine (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lmc/item/2016718679/ and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lmc/item/2016720194/) to include them in the book before sending it to print.
I would also make enhancements to the hardcover, have the book jacket printed double-sided, use real leather instead of faux leather binding, maybe increase the weight of the text paper, add a custom bookmark - stuff like that. The aim is to get as close to the original vision I had to make this book an experimental narrative work of art – a movie in print.
I love book design. As a professional graphic designer, this project is not only in remembrance of my grandfather, but also a unique way to create a memoir. I have created several books as personal art projects - all crafted by hand over the past decade. This project is my first attempt at self-publishing and sharing my work with the public.
I can’t wait for you to see it. Thank you for your interest and support for this project. It was sincerely a labor of love…and may you find inspiration in this story of erudition, family, faith and resilience deeply rooted in the South.
Risks and challenges
As a backer, you don't have much to worry about for this project. The book is finished, it just needs to be printed and shipped to you once the goal is met. If there's a problem with your order, just let me know and I'll fix it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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