From the Publisher
"...there's no doubt that African American Lives has the definitive list of black contributions in a new reference book that's thoroughly researched and well written....the book is a treasury of entertaining and informative glimpses into American and world history....The research that went into each biography pays off handsomely. Each story is told with depth and detail. No reader should leave this book without having learned the significance of each profiled individual and his or her contribution to society....Such vivid details set African American Lives apart from other reference materials. The book is a must for anyone who loves history. Don't be deterred by the price. It's worth every penny, and given the book's research and writing, shouldn't sit idly on any shelf to gather dust."Sun-Sentinel
"The alphabetically arranged biographical entries are well written and focus on the subject's contributions to both the subculture and history of black Americans as well as the person's impact on the general history and culture of the US....Relatively inexpensive, African American Lives offers accessible and authoritative biographical and critical information on a well-selected representative group of influential black Americans. It also offers a glimpse into what promises to be a major publishing event of 2006-the publication of a multivolume biographical encyclopedia on African Americans. African American Lives is highly recommended for most academic and public libraries."Booklist STARRED Review
"When is a reference book vastly more than just a reference book? One plausible answer: when it's this one."Buffalo News
"If there is no history, only biography, then this work opens multiple fresh vistas on proper African American history.... This work easily supplants Rayford Logan and Michael Winston's Dictionary of American Negro Biography (1982) while also serving as a tantalizing appetizer to the feast promised in 2006 with the release of a 6000-entry, eight-volume African American National Biography. Essential for any serious African American collection."Library Journal STARRED REVIEW
"This substantial compilation offers thorough, accessible biographies of 611 African-Americans over more than four centuries....The 1,000-3,000 word entries are generally well-written, even lyrical, and balanced...this documenting of a major power and achievement will undoubtedly be a standard reference work."Publishers Weekly
"Browsing through a copy of the encyclopedia-style volume, African American Lives, is an exercise that never fails to inform and entertain. Turn to the "M" section, for example, and the two-page biography of Malcolm X is followed by an entry on a lesser known figure, Annie Turnbo Malone, a determined Illinois businesswoman who made a multimillion-dollar fortune in the 1920s with a hair-care products company. These two subjects are among 600 profiled herefrom slaves to contemporary sports heroesin a volume that was meticulously researched and compiled. Each entry contains fascinating bits of information that add to our understanding of the importance of race and class in America. Edited by scholars Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Higginbotham and distilled from a forthcoming eight-volume set intended primarily for libraries, this readable collection is a mosaic that offers a unique portrait of the African-American experience."Bookpage
This substantial compilation offers thorough, accessible biographies of 611 African-Americans over more than four centuries, beginning with Esteban, the first African known to have set foot in North America, up through writers, academics, artists, activists and more of today. A few of these profiles have been written by notable names-Gerald Early on Muhammad Ali, Clayborne Carson on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, John Szwed on Miles Davis-though most are by lesser-known contributors. Usefully, the biographies contain multiple cross-references to others in the book and list sources at the end. The 1,000-3,000-word entries are generally well-written, even lyrical, and balanced, for example assessing controversies regarding O.J. Simpson or preacher Daddy Grace. This achievement has flaws. Some biographies include unnecessary lists of awards and cheerleading: why tell us of Condoleezza Rice being honored by the NAACP but not of her role in the Iraq war? Wasn't Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. a tyrant as well as a genius? Former energy secretary Hazel O'Leary is described as "strikingly attractive and warm" while academic Cornel West embodies a "profound love for and faith in humanity." Some 257 of the entries have been reprinted from American National Biography (Oxford, 1999); Gates and Higginbotham's volume is part of the African-American National Biography project, which will include 6,000 profiles. While this book has resurrected numerous figures-Onesimus, slave and medical pioneer; Daniel Coker, a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; etc.-it undoubtedly will inspire debate about more contemporary choices. Why Tupac Shakur but not Russell Simmons (or anyone else from the rap world)? Why Suzan-Lori Parks but not George C. Wolfe? Why Sharon Pratt Kelly, the first African-American female mayor of a major city, but not her more controversial predecessor, Marion Barry? Oh, and if his former colleague West is included, where's editor Gates himself? Despite such quibbles, this documenting of major power and achievement will undoubtedly be a standard reference work. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
If there is no history, only biography, then this work opens multiple fresh vistas on proper African American history. Ranging from black explorer Esteban, who arrived on these shores in 1528, to the Rev. Al Sharpton and his 2004 Democratic presidential campaign, the 600-plus mini-biographies presented here offer content and context for both the prominent and the lost-and-found. Brief bibliographies accompany the 1000- to 3000-word entries, and multiple cross references relate them. Chronological and topical indexes connect individuals by categories such as occupation or accomplishment (e.g., Nobel or Pulitzer prize winners). For cramming so much into so little space, the team from Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, led by Gates and Higginbotham, merits applause. This work easily supplants Rayford Logan and Michael Winston's Dictionary of American Negro Biography (1982) while also serving as a tantalizing appetizer to the feast promised in 2006 with the release of a 6000-entry, eight-volume African American National Biography. Essential for any serious African American collection. Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Published two years in advance of the 10-times-more-massive African American National Biography (Oxford, scheduled for 2006), this sampler profiles more than 600 men and women, from Esteban to Tupac Shakur. The signed entries, about 250 of which are reprinted from The American National Biography (Oxford, 1999), are ordered alphabetically; range from one to five triple-columned pages in length; include cross-references as well as, when feasible, small, muddy black-and-white portraits; and close with short but rich reading lists, heavy on primary sources. Back matter includes a list by general category or occupation (e.g., "Science," "Slaves," "Sports"), complete lists of prize winners (with entrants in this volume indicated in boldface), and an admirably detailed index. As relatively few of the subjects here are still living, this resource has a distinctly historical bent-but the scholarship is current, the approach is incisively analytical, and the writing is anything but dry: the entry on expatriate pygmy Otabenga, for instance, opens by describing him as an "elephant hunter, Bronx Zoo exhibit, and tobacco worker." World-class collections that already own this volume's monumental predecessor should be able to hold out for its full version. For the rest of us, though (despite editorial assertions to the contrary), there are alternatives, such as R. Kent Rasmussen's African American Encyclopedia (Marshall Cavendish, 2001) or, at least for the women's side of the story, Darlene Clark Hine's Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (Carlson, 1993; o.p.). Still, it's an exciting, and affordable, new resource.-John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.