ALLEN B. BALLARD | professor, author and musician

My Works

Breaching Jericho's Walls
An award-winning African American historian and novelist takes the reader on an exciting journey from a segregated Philadelphia childhood in the 1930s to midcentury Paris, Moscow, Cambridge, and Manhattan.

A rich narrative recounting the life story of award-winning African American historian and novelist Allen B. Ballard, Breaching Jericho’s Walls takes its readers on an exciting journey from a segregated Philadelphia community in the 1930s to midcentury Paris, Moscow, Cambridge, and Manhattan. The author reflects on his own pioneering role as he expands his horizons as one of the first African American students attending Kenyon College in Ohio, studying abroad in France and sharing a café table with Richard Wright and James Baldwin, serving in the military in the American South, and attending graduate school at Harvard University.

As one of the nation’s first black Russian specialists, Ballard studied in post-Stalinist Russia for a year, where, among other adventures, he spent a month with Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, on a Soviet farm. Though he tells his own personal story within Breaching Jericho’s Walls, Ballard also portrays the experiences of those northern African Americans whose generations bridged the gap from the legacy of slavery to the breakdown of the segregated system in the 1950s and 1960s. Along the way, he reveals the crucial role that individuals like civil rights leader Paul Robeson, Olympic athletes Jesse Owens and “Long John” Woodruff, and scholar Alain Locke played in inspiring the hopes of an oppressed and downtrodden race. A memoir filled with entertaining anecdotes and insightful reflection, Breaching Jericho’s Walls offers Ballard’s compelling personal story and reveals how, brick by brick, African Americans built the road that led to the election of President Obama in 2008.

“Breaching Jericho’s Walls is a journey-through-life book that takes the reader to interesting and very different (surprisingly so) sites of memory where compelling experiences take place. I couldn’t stop reading.” — Gloria Wade-Gayles, editor of My Soul Is a Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality

“This is a rich memoir of African American middle-class life in the midcentury; it complexly considers the relationship between and amongst class aspiration, academic achievement, masculinity, and diverse African American cultural attitudes. It’s immediately relevant to contemporary debates about schooling, race, and differential achievement; it is rich in detail about segregation, civil rights, and African American achievement in the arts, athletics, scholarship, and business.” — James C. Hall, author of Mercy, Mercy Me: African-American Culture and the American Sixties

Allen B. Ballard is Professor of History and Africana Studies at the University at Albany–SUNY and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at City College of New York. His previously published works include two books of nonfiction, The Education of Black Folk: The Afro-American Struggle for Knowledge in White America and One More Day’s Journey: The Story of a Family and a People; and two novels, Where I’m Bound, a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year and Carried by Six, winner of the “Honor Book Prize” in Afro-American Literature from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Carried by Six
Obie Bullock, leader of a Philadelphia anti–violence group (the Mau-Mau), returns home from his janitor’s job early one morning and stumbles upon a crime scene—someone has just slit the throat of a police officer. Armed with the officer’s recovered revolver, Obie, an Iraq War vet, corners and kills the masked assassin, who turns out to be the youngest brother of Son Teagle, a powerful but imprisoned drug dealer.

Angered, Teagle vows revenge upon Obie, his beautiful wife, Dora Lee, and their two teenage children. Fearful of Teagle, many members of the Mau-Mau desert, and the pressures upon the crusading Bullock family become unbearable. Their marriage founders when Dora Lee takes the children and flees with them to the South to seek refuge with relatives. Then comes the word to Obie that Son Teagle has broken out of prison!

“In Carried By Six, Allen Ballard has created a memorable novel that is a fast-paced, page-turning story of a black community determined to rid itself of the drug-driven plague of crime and violence.... Ballard writes with passion and conviction of the power of ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things when family, friends, and community decide "enough is enough". It entertains, ennobles, and inspires. Bravo, Ballard!”
—Darlene Clark Hine, co-author, The African-American Odyssey

“Carried By Six is a very well-told story that celebrates the courage of those valiant folks in the inner city who, contrary to the no snitchin’ code, are determined to fight for neighborhoods where their children can grow up safe and secure from gunfire and random violence. Ballard keeps it real and writes with power and authority.
—John Herritage, staff inspector (ret.), New York State Police

Where I'm Bound
Where I’m Bound is the very first novel about African-American soldiers in the Civil War.

A former slave turned cavalry scout becomes a hero for an African-American cavalry regiment in the Civil War. But, as the war draws to an end, the soldier, Joe Duckett, embarks on his most dangerous mission yet—to return to the plantation from which he escaped to find his wife and daughter.

A Washington Post Notable Book. Also a winner of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

One More Day’s Journey: The Story
of a Family and a People

The very first modern work to center on the Great Migration of African-Americans from the fields of the South to the cities of the North. At the same time, the book is a history of Blacks in South Carolina and in Philadelphia. It is made vivid and real as the author centers also on the history of his own family and their journey from Greenwood, South Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here’s what some critics said:

“It is informative and emotionally moving, and I recommend it.”
--Alex Haley

“I recommend it highly to all who would add to their knowledge of American history. It is dramatic and revealing.”
--Ralph Ellison

--John A. Williams

“A vivid evocation of an important chapter in Afro-American history.”
--Nell Irvin Painter

The Education of Black Folk: The Afro-American Struggle for Knowledge in
White America

This book is a history of African-American education in the United States, from its beginnings in the bushes hidden away from the slave-masters to the development of black colleges in the South, and to the creation of African-American Studies programs and affirmative action programs in the 1960s. Written in the heat of the latter struggles, where Ballard was a participant, it brings home the mighty battles that were fought to bring about changes in college admission requirements so that they might more readily reflect the ethnic composition of this country. Absolutely indispensable reading for those who would know about where and when college affirmative action programs began.

Breaching Jericho's Walls

Carried by Six (2009)

Where I'm Bound (2000)