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Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present

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Here is a magnificent account of a past rich in beauty and creativity, but also in tragedy and trauma. Eminent historian Nell Irvin Painter blends a vivid narrative based on the latest research with a wonderful array of artwork by African American artists, works which add a new depth to our understanding of black history.

Painter offers a history written for a new generation of African Americans, stretching from life in Africa before slavery to today's hip-hop culture. The book describes the staggering number of Africans—over ten million—forcibly transported to the New World, most doomed to brutal servitude in Brazil and the Caribbean. Painter looks at the free black population, numbering close to half a million by 1860 (compared to almost four million slaves), and provides a gripping account of the horrible conditions of slavery itself. The book examines the Civil War, revealing that it only slowly became a war to end slavery, and shows how Reconstruction, after a promising start, was shut down by terrorism by white supremacists. Painter traces how through the long Jim Crow decades, blacks succeeded against enormous odds, creating schools and businesses and laying the foundations of our popular culture. We read about the glorious outburst of artistic creativity of the Harlem Renaissance, the courageous struggles for Civil Rights in the 1960s, the rise and fall of Black Power, the modern hip-hop movement, and two black Secretaries of State. Painter concludes that African Americans today are wealthier and better educated, but the disadvantaged are as vulnerable as ever.

Painter deeply enriches her narrative with a series of striking works of art—more than 150 in total, most in full color—works that profoundly engage with black history and that add a vital dimension to the story, a new form of witness that testifies to the passion and creativity of the African-American experience.

• Among the dozens of artists featured are Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, and Kara Walker

• Filled with sharp portraits of important African Americans, from Olaudah Equiano (one of the first African slaves to leave a record of his captivity) and Toussaint L'Ouverture (who led the Haitian revolution), to Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nell Irvin Painter's Creating Black Americans is destined to become one of the most beautiful history textbooks in recent memory, with roughly 150 creative representations of the African-American experience ranging from painting and sculpture to graffiti art and quilts. Most of the images are in stunning color, some of them filling an entire page."—Ron Hogan,

Read the entire interview here.

"...incorporates a sweeping, historic narrative with the emotional expression of more than 150 works of African-American art."—Ebony, February 2006

"Nell Irvin Painter brings her considerable skills and insight to Creating Black Americans. Her excellent introduction to the black American experience will serve any interested reader well....History, the author notes, exists in both the past and present. And Painter's compelling use of black art...emphasizes this point to great effect....Through word and image, [she] has produced a narrative of African-American history that will profit its readers."—Kenneth R. Janken, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the New York Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195137569
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/9/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 284,822
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 7.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nell Irvin Painter is the Edward Professor of American History at Princeton. A former Director of Princeton's Program in African-American Studies, she is the author of Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol and Standing at Armageddon: The United States 1877-1919.

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Table of Contents

1. Africa and Black Americans
2. Captives Transported, 1619-ca. 1850
3. A Diasporic People, 1630-ca. 1850
4. Those Who Were Free, ca. 1770-1859
5. Those Who Were Enslaved, ca.
6. Civil War and Emancipation, 1859-1865
7. The Larger Reconstruction, 1864-1896
8. Hard-Working People in the Depths of Segregation, 1896-ca. 1919
9. The New Negro, 1915-1932
10. Radicals and Democrats, 1930-1940
11. The Second World War and the Promise of
Internationalism, 1940-1948
12. Cold War Civil Rights: 1948-1960
13. Protest Makes a Civil Rights Revolution: 1960-1967
14. Black Power, 1966-1980
15. Authenticity and Diversity in the Era of Hip-Hop, 1980-2004
Epilogue: A Snapshot of African Americans at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 2, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Readable and Informative Look at U.S. History through the Experience of African Americans

    I read this book slowly, a few pages here and there, as a way of soaking in this incredible history. Dr. Painter has done a service for us in telling the broad history of Afro-Americans in the United States.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2007

    Engaging and highly readable

    The past isnâ¿¿t what it used to be. Thatâ¿¿s one of the threads which runs throughout this engaging narrative of African American history from 1619 to the present. Too often students misconstrue history as being carved in stone but as this book illustrates - literally, for it includes nearly 150 works of art which provide comment upon on historical events - interpretations of the past change as new facts come to light, or are viewed through a more diverse lens and connected to current events. For example, Painter frequently uses the word â¿¿terroristâ¿ when referring to white supremacists who have used violence to limit the rights and economic development of black Americans for centuries. Itâ¿¿s a word which is not only appropriate, but more meaningful to contemporary students. Though not an art history book per se 'it does not provide analysis of the art, only descriptions which place it in historical context' there is biographical information about each artist at the end of the book. Engaging and highly readable, I recommend this book to anyone seeking a general overview of African American history and culture. I think it would be particularly useful as a text for high school Advanced Placement courses.

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