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Product Description

Inspired by the dream of the late African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and assisted by an eminent advisory board, Harvard scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kwame Anthony Appiah have created the first scholarly encyclopedia to take as its scope the entire history of Africa and the African Diaspora.Beautifully designed and richly illustrated with over a thousand images - maps, tables, charts, photographs, hundreds of them in full color - this single-volume reference includes more than three thousand articles and over two million words. The interplay between text and illustration conveys the richness and sweep of the African and African American experience as no other publication before it. Certain to prove invaluable to anyone interested in black history and the influence of African culture on the world today, Africana is a unique testament to the remarkable legacy of a great and varied people.With entries ranging from ”affirmative action” to ”zydeco,” from each of the most prominent ethnic groups in Africa to each member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Africana brings the entire black world into sharp focus. Every concise, informative article is referenced to others with the aim of guiding the reader through such wide-ranging topics as the history of slavery; the civil rights movement; African-American literature, music, and art; ancient African civilizations; and the black experience in countries such as France, India, and Russia.More than a book for library reference, Africana will give hours of reading pleasure through its longer, interpretive essays by such notable writers as Stanley Crouch, Gerald Early, Randall Kennedy, and Cornel West. These specially commissioned essays give the reader an engaging chronicle of the religion, arts, and cultural life of Africans and of black people in the Old World and the New.

Amazon.com Review

Legendary scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois labored to complete an "Encyclopedia Africana" before his death in 1963. Just over 35 years later, two Harvard educators, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Ghanaian-born Kwame Anthony Appiah, have brought Du Bois'' intellectual dream to life in Africana, the most complete and comprehensive record of the Pan-African diaspora compiled into one volume. With over two million words and 3,500 entries from more than 220 contributors, Appiah and Gates sought, as they put it, to "give a sense of the wide diversity of peoples, cultures, and traditions that we know about Africa in historical times, a feel for the environment in which that history was lived, and a broad outline of the contributions of people of African descent, especially in the Americas, but, more generally, around the world." To fulfill this aim, they consider biographical, political, artistic, economic, historical, and geographical data; a brief sampling of topics includes "Food in African-American Culture," "Creolized Musical Instruments of the Caribbean," and "Anthropology in Africa." The section on Africa fills about two thirds of the book, loaded with invaluable information--from the ethnic and colonial factors that contributed to violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Eritrea, and Sierra Leone to the educational, linguistic, and social advances in Tanzania, Gabon, and South Africa. The legacies of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe are also presented in great detail. The encyclopedia also contains documented evidence of African-derived peoples in Asia, including the exploits of Malik Ambar, who arrived in India from Ethiopia as a result of the East Indian slave trade.

Turning to the Western Hemisphere, Africana skillfully and succinctly synopsizes the lives and achievements of a multitude of African Americans, from 18th-century inventor-astronomer Benjamin Banneker to late-20th-century heroes like Colin Powell, Tiger Woods, and astronaut Mae Jemison. You''ll learn about the little-considered black presence in Canada; Africana also uncovers hidden pockets of black culture in surprising places like Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina (where the Negro population, we discover, was reduced by a process of miscegenation known as blanqueamiento, or whitening). The upper-crust veneer of the Argentine tango is peeled away, revealing the dance''s roots in the rhythmic innovations of 19th-century Afro-Argentines. With all of the aforementioned headings and topics, however, it''s the special essays that best detail the treasure chest of scholarship of Africana. Robin Kelley examines the volatile clash between "Malcolm X and the Black Bourgeoisie"; Thomas Skidmore deconstructs "Race and Class in Brazil" and the myth of "racial democracy"; Mahmood Mamdani, in "Ethnicity in Rwanda," brilliantly decodes the complex and maddening colonial manipulations that erupted in genocide and made the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups "more political than cultural identities ... one is power and the other is subject."

A splendidly packaged reference work that will adorn libraries and homes for years to come, Africana defines the black experience in the same sweeping way that the Encyclopedia Britannica defined Euro-American civilization. More importantly for young readers, the magnificent collection shows that Africans and the continent''s descendants are a truly global people who have made tremendous contributions to human civilization. --Eugene Holley Jr.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1909, W.E.B. Du Bois dreamed of editing an "Encyclopedia Africana" filled with all that scholars knew of the history, literature and art of the great continent and its diaspora. Such a tome, Du Bois hoped, would, like Diderot''s Encyclop?die, serve as a springboard for future scholarship and a bulwark against racist misconceptions. At the century''s close, editors Appiah and GatesAan African and African-American respectivelyAhave fulfilled Du Bois''s vision with aplomb. For this accessible, fascinating volume, the two Harvard professors have commissioned and condensed more than 3000 articles by more than 400 scholars. Though the bulk of the entries are devoted to the African continent and its descendant cultures in Latin America, the Caribbean and North America, the encyclopedia also addresses the African presence in Europe, Asia and the rest of the world (each article is color coded for easy reference). Entries range from a paragraph on Abaku s, "all-male secret societies created by African slaves living in Cuba during the mid-19th century," to Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham''s six-page essay on "Women and the Black Baptist Church." The selections, which run the gamut from the Middle Passage, Rastafarians, the Montgomery bus boycott, rap and every African country, are notable for their clear presentation of facts and their cogent, fair-minded analysis. Some entries, such as John Burdick''s "Myth of Racial Democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Interpretation," are really treatises on significant social issues. And the many minibiographies of accomplished artistsAsuch as actor Paul Robeson, singer Diana Ross and saxophonist Charlie ParkerAhighlight the tremendous impact African-Americans have had on North American culture. Bursting with information and enhanced by contributions from its illustrious advisory board, which includes Jamaica Kincaid, Nell Irvin Painter, Cornel West and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, this book belongs on every family''s reference shelf. Du Bois himself could not have done better. 1000 photographs, maps and illus. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. $500,000 national marketing campaign; featured selection of BOMC, the History Book Club and QPB; 10-city author tour; 22-city national radio and TV satellite tour. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Appiah and Gates, both eminent African American scholars at Harvard, have edited a massive encyclopedia covering virtually every facet of Africa and the African Diaspora, although the focus is on political, social, and cultural history. With more than 400 contributors and 3000 articles, the work includes 12 Featured Essays by internationally known scholars like Cornell West ("W.E.B. DuBois") and David L. Lewis ("Harlem Renaissance"). These well-developed analyses are ten to 15 pages in length. Shorter entries, usually from half a column to five pages in length, run the gamut of topics from Nelson Mandela to Tupac Shakur. The contributors include major figures like Gates as well as junior scholars from a number of countries. While obviously focusing on Africana, the compilation avoids extreme ideological stands. The entry on "Afrocentrism," for example, is a model of balance and clarity. The editors have admirably fulfilled the dream of African American scholar and leader W.E.B. DuBois, who worked for much of his life to create such a monument. Highly recommended for all but the smallest libraries.AAnthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ninety years after Harvard-educated W. E. B. DuBois first articulated the need for "the equivalent of a black Encyclopxbe dia Britannica," Harvard faculty Appiah and Gates have realized his vision. Many other reference books on African Americans provide information on the transatlantic slave trade and some provide information on selected cultural practices and folkways that Africans infused into American culture, but Africana holds a unique place among reference works by bridging the Atlantic in numerous ways.

Its 3,000 articles cover prominent individuals, events, trends, places, political movements, art forms, business and trade, religions, ethnic groups, organizations, and countries on both sides of the ocean. African American history and culture in the present-day U.S. receive the strongest emphasis, but African American history and culture through the rest of the Americas and in its places of origin in Africa itself also have a strong presence. There are articles on contemporary nations of sub-Saharan Africa, ethnic groups from various regions of Africa, African American Academy Award winners, Caribbean musical styles, African religions in Brazil, and European colonial powers. Other examples include Blues, Civil Rights Movement, Congo River, Gay and lesbian movements in the United States, Ivory trade, Mau Mau rebellion, Pastoralism, and Television and African Americans. A regional tag line and a color-coded horizontal rule introduce each article and indicate the part of the world an article is linked to.

The signed articles vary somewhat in tone. Articles on human rights in Africa and in Latin America are models of reportorial objectivity. Powerful currents of black-white racial tension and strife inevitably run through the encyclopedia, but nearly all articles fit the objective spirit expected of encyclopedias. Well-chosen maps and captioned color and black-and-white illustrations amplify the text and are integrated well with their companion articles. Most articles conclude with multiple see also references, but the absence of an index limits access to the rich contents.

The strength of Africana''s unique linkage of the African and the African American worlds becomes evident in comparison to other reference works treating one or the other half of that whole. For example, along with considerable topical overlap, Africana includes unique entries not found in the African-American Almanac (7th ed., Gale, 1997), An African Biographical Dictionary (ABC-CLIO, 1994), Dictionary of Black African Civilization (Amiel, 1974), and Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Macmillan, 1996), to cite but a few prominent examples.

Michael Jordan (himself the subject of an article) exaggerates in his encomium that this is a "reference work that every family should own." Every family, however, should be able to consult it at high-school, public, and academic libraries. Even libraries that have already acquired the CD-ROM version may want to add this book to their reference shelves, because the two can be had for under $200.


" Africana''s very existence shows how far African Americans have come since W.E.B. Du Bois first dreamed of an Encyclopaedia Africana at the start of this century. It''s great to have one volume that shines light on the rich truth of black life, which our society has too long left in the shadows." -- Jesse Jackson, Founder, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition

"For more than two centuries, European and North American scholars have sought to encompass the knowledge and achievements of the West in encyclopedias in which black people have spent most of their time in the wings. Now, with Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, we have an encyclopedia where Africa and her descendents stand at center stage." -- Maya Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies, Wake Forest University

"What a wonderful thing for the young people of this country to have, at last, within a single source, a chronicle of the history and achievements, the suffering and the triumphs, of African Americans and their cousins in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the rest of the world." -- Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children''s Defense Fund

... Africana will be a very useful tool, and may even set new standards and change attitudes about the African and African-American experience. -- The New York Times Book Review, John Thornton

About the Author

Kwame Anthony Appiah is the Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities, chair of the Afro-American Studies Department, and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University.

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