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Manie Barron, 55, advocate for African-American books

Harlem native Manie Barron edited Velma Maia Thomas’s “Lest We Forget,’’ an interactive history of slavery. Harlem native Manie Barron edited Velma Maia Thomas’s “Lest We Forget,’’ an interactive history of slavery. (Don Hogan Charles/New York Times)
By Hillel Italie
Associated Press / January 19, 2011

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NEW YORK — Manie Barron, an editor and literary agent who worked on and advocated for African-American books through much of a 23-year publishing career, died Jan. 8 at 55. He was being treated for lung cancer.

A native of Harlem and a childhood friend of Freddie Prinze, Mr. Barron studied acting and accounting and applied performance and monetary savvy to the publishing industry.

After working as publishing manager at Amistad, an African-American imprint at Harper- Collins, Mr. Barron cofounded the Menza-Barron Literary Agency with Claudia Menza.

He worked with vampire novelist L.A. Banks, Harlem historian Sondra Kathryn Wilson, and fiction writer Guy Johnson. One of the projects he was most proud of was editing Velma Maia Thomas’s “Lest We Forget,’’ an interactive history of slavery that sold tens of thousands of copies despite receiving little publicity.

Mr. Barron was often one of the few African-Americans at his workplace. “Y’all just don’t get it,’’ was a favorite expression about executives who rejected a proposal for an African- American book, according to his widow, Wendalyn R. Nichols. He also leaves a daughter.