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Author:Smikle, Ken

Seven years ago, William E. Cox had more than just a new idea, he had an epiphany. He and his business partner, Frank Matthews, had already built a successful business in magazine publishing with Black Issues in Higher Education. It was one of the few successful black-owned trade publications in the country, and Bill was certain that he could use that know-how in launching a new review of African American books.

"Books are one of my greatest passions," wrote Bill in his first message as the magazine's editor-in-chief. "So it is with great pride that Cox, Matthews & Associates, Inc. presents the first issue of a magazine passionately devoted to books by and about the people of the great African Diaspora?"

Like thousands of others, I greeted the arrival of Black Issues Book Review with anxious enthusiasm. It was the latest in a long line of publishing ventures that chronicled the African American cultural experience. Black World, the monthly from Johnson Publishing Co. that evolved from Negro Digest, was among the first to capture black cultural expression in the pages of a national publication. Black Creation, a quarterly introduced in the 1970s by a future BIBR contributor, Fred Beauford, continued to raise the standard for black arts and culture journalism.

As a budding editor and publisher, I was guided and challenged by these publications throughout my own career. In 1977, I, along with my brother and photographer, Dawoud Bey, and future Doubleday book editor Gerald Gladney, started Easy The Black Arts Magazine. Later, I served as arts editor for the New York Amsterdam News, where writers like Robert Fleming, Nelson George and David Jackson brought new vitality to the paper.

With the success that Bill Cox and BIBR achieved, the dreams of all those who had dedicated themselves to a serious, sustainable cultural publication were taken to the next level.

This past...

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