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Books by Otis L Lee Jr

  • I Was Born in the Forest: A Traveler’s Guide to Quilombos, the Citadels of African Resistance to Slavery in Portuguese America, and a Story of Black Spartacus

    I Was Born in the Forest encapsulates the freedom struggle of Africans brought to the Americas in the bowels of slave ships from Congo, Angola, and other parts of Central Africa. In the seventeenth century, many defied the odds by escaping and establishing Afrocentric communities in the mountains in Brazil. Palmares, the most notable among them, existed from 1605 to 1694.


    Palmares was the forerunner of Black towns in America, and its mesmerizing leader, Zumbi, belongs among the pantheon of heroic African-descended leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Francois Dominique Toussaint Louverture, and many others. He and his people rose from nothing in a hostile, foreign land to create an enduring Black republic in colonial Brazil.

    Palmares and Zumbi have become transcendent icons of hope, perseverance, and the tenacity of African-descended people and all colonialized peoples who strive for and refuse to accept anything but unfettered freedom. Through a mix of travelogue and history, their story comes alive.

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  • The Last Train From Djibouti: Africa Beckons Me, But America Is My Home

    Otis Lee begins this story in the most innocuous of locations: a train from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Penn Station in New York City. But for Otis this journey brings to mind another train, from long ago and far away—representative of a past to which there can be no return. Based on the true experiences of Dr. Michelle Palmer Lee and her mentor, Dr. Harriett F. Karuhije, The Last Train From Djibouti follows two women on a life-changing adventure as they travel separately to the Motherland, determined to find Africa and themselves. What they find is nothing like what they expected. As these two women grapple with questions of identity and character, what emerges is a larger picture of what it means to undertake an “unrequited return.” Weaving entries from Michelle’s journal and Harriett’s observations together with his own research and experience, Otis depicts a microcosm of the African-American struggle to find roots in a culture that has been upended, shipped overseas, and become something new.


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Otis L. Lee, Jr., is a retired attorney, formerly a member of both the Pennsylvania and Virginia Bar. He formerly served on the faculties of several Midwestern and East Coast universities and as a former director, coordinator and contributing author to the Howard University School Of Business 1980 project to revise and edit the U.S. Department of Commerce manual entitled Local Economic Development Corporation, Legal and Financial Guidelines. Lee is also the author of the memoir From South Boston to Cambridge, The Making of One Philadelphia Lawyer. Lee's career has included assignments with the Harris Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago, Illinois as a trust new business solicitor, panel executive for the panel on product liability for the United States Chamber of Commerce and as an advanced underwriting consultant for the Mid-Atlantic Region for the New York Life Insurance Company.

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