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From Barnes & NobleA History of Struggle, a History of Triumph
Africana is a vision realized: a one-volume masterwork chronicling the histories, personalities, events, issues, and mass movements of Africans around the world. As articulated by W.E.B. Du Bois, the long-held dream of an Encyclopedia Africana represents a global unification of shared experiences. And now—thanks to the stalwart efforts of Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr. (chairman of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute), Kwame Anthony Appiah (a professor of philosophy), and their august assemblage of experts, academics, and scholars—Africana is a reality, a stellar touchstone and intimate reference for future generations.
This well-researched and informative history of Africa and its diaspora is exhaustively presented within four geographic histories and areas—Africa; North America; Europe; and Latin America and the Caribbean. Events and histories that hold cross-cultural significance are offered as further, and connecting, entries. The range of subject matter is wide: the proverbial Aardvark to Zydeco, and all in between related to the African contribution to world societies.
Most impressive is the African scope of influence on the modern world. Whether in politics, literature, art, or music, African and African-American contributions to modern society have been substantial. However, the editors acknowledge that no single work, no matter how grand, can encompass every detail: "An encyclopedia cannot include everything that is known about its subject matter, even everything that is important. But we have sought to provide a broad range of information and so to represent the full range of Africa and her diaspora." That said, African and African-American successes in the disciplines of science and finance are lamentably still underrepresented.
Comprehensive critical essays further buttress lucidly written and informative text. Contributions by activist Cornel West ("W.E.B. Du Bois: An Interpretation"), Harvard professor Evelyn Brooks Higgenbotham ("Women and the Black Baptist Church"), art historian Deborah Willis ("Photography, African American"), and scholar Darien J. Davis ("Pan-Africanism and Afro-Latin America") reflect the wide cast of information found within this cultural magnum opus.
Africana is supported by full-color charts, geopolitical and thematic maps, and information tables. Through various entries and biographies, the encyclopedia weaves the rich, complex history of a continent and its many peoples, near and far. The details are compelling, as is the larger mosaic: the developed and resource-rich early African societies; the appearance and welcoming of Islamic and European protagonists of plunder; the ensuing enslavement and Maafa (the term for the transatlantic Middle Passage in current use and coined by scholar Marimba Ani); the resistance and accommodation; and the triumph and turmoil of surmounting an institutionalized global racism.
Of particular interest are the entries on Afro-Latin American influences, an area often overlooked by recorders of Africana history. With the exception of No Longer Visible: Afro-Latin Americans Today, few books on this topic are available. The encyclopedia visits this and a myriad number of globally related areas of interest.
In Africana, the reader finds not only the history of the African triumph but finds, too, a book to be used as a family guidepost to intellectual maturity. The encyclopedia offers any number of coming-of-age milestones: those times when the curious young gaze for answers through pictures (Africana is replete with images throughout), and again when the young student adds serious research to measured, matured reasoning.
Africana achieves many aims and serves its multiple constituencies in various ways, always giving life to its subtitle: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. For the African-American community, the book signifies the culmination of a dream, a holy quest completed; for the global Africana community, it represents the unification of shared experiences, a prodigal return; for the global society-at-large on the verge a new millennium, it presents an unassailable truth.