The African American National Biography: Eight-volume set

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The African American National Biography presents history through a mosaic of the lives of thousands of individuals, illuminating the abiding influence of persons of African descent on the life of this nation from the arrival of Esteban in Spanish Florida in 1529 through to notable black citizens of the present day.

Available initially as a handsome eight-volume set containing over 4,000 entries written and signed by distinguished scholars, the AANB continues to grow along with the field of African American biographical research, and continuous updates to the online edition will bring the total number of lives profiled to more than 5,000. This is a remarkable achievement, an eightfold increase over the number of biographies contained in 2004's award-winning and substantial African American Lives.

In addition to Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr., the AANB includes a wide range of African Americans from all time periods and all walks of life, both famous and nearly-forgotten. In the words of AANB editor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "These stories, long buried in the dusty archives of history, will never be lost again. And that is what scholarship in the field of African American Studies should be all about."

Prepublication Price $795.00 through February 29, 2008; $995.00 thereafter. 8 volumes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A powerful testament to our intelligence, integrity and commitment to excellence, traits often ignored by mainstream historians....This reference collection is a must-have for your library."

"Blows the dust off Black History Month."--Newsweek

"[A] Massive new biographical treasure chest." --Washington Post

"Impressive....a major new standard reference work that most libraries of any size will want to have."--Booklist, starred review

"Another major reference work that will add luster to Oxford University Press's reputation for serious scholarship. Given the set's obvious quality, the inclusiveness of its coverage, and the importance of African American Biography as a reflection of American history, libraries of all types would be wise to consider it."--Against the Grain


"I have always admired the great work of Editor-in-Chief, Henry Louis Gates. The volumes will remain among my treasured displays."--Linda Johnson Rice, President and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson Publishing Company

"This set, a monumental creation, is now the definitive black biographical database....Either the print or the online version should be a crucial purchase....Highly recommended. All levels."--CHOICE

School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up -Laying another cornerstone for studies of African-American history and culture, the prolific author fronts a host of scholarly contributors to present detailed profiles of more than 4000 people, past and present. Along with all of the "canonical figures" from Esteban to Frederick Douglass, readers are introduced to an array of Bakers ranging from Josephine and Frankie to renowned librarian Augusta; ex-slave Charlie Aarons; midwives Margaret Charles Smith and Onnie Lee Logan; Oprah Winfrey; and numerous other businesspeople, scientists, politicians, performers, athletes, laborers, artists, scholars, and soldiers. The alphabetically arranged articles open with a quick identifying phrase; close with recommended print and, often, archival resources; and in between present a dense but revealing mix of biography and analytical comments (even in grade school, Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin "displayed a precocious talent for dissent"). Access is an issue; aside from highlighting the names of fellow entrants, plus an occasional name-variant "see" note, there are no cross-references, and the indexes in the final volume are limited to long lists of names under birthplaces, awards, and broad occupational categories. The photographs and other black-and-white illustrations are scanty, small, and poorly reproduced. Nonetheless, conceived as a complement for The American National Biography (2002) and unique in its breadth, this monumental work supersedes the selective edition published as African American Lives (2004, both Oxford) and belongs in every substantial print reference collection. Future updates will be added to the online version in the publisher's AfricanAmerican Studies Center.-John Peters, New York Public Library

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195160192
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/18/2008
  • Pages: 5568
  • Product dimensions: 16.20 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 8.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is Professor of History and Afro-American Studies at Harvard University and editor of The Harvard Guide to African American History.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2008

    A must have for your home (and school) library!!!

    Today, while watching BOOK TV, I was introduced to these books by Gates (I love all his specials, usually aired on PBS) and Higginbotham. During the program they gave Harvard's African American Studies highest honor (a medal) to a married couple and another gentleman who helped fund this project, which was not cheap, as mentioned during the program. I will start saving now, because this is a must have (not only for me, but for my family), for purchase at the end of the year. It will be a Christmas present to myself and my family. I wish I could purchase one at a time. If so, Volume 1 would be ordered and rushed today! Way to go Gates (you've done it again!) and Higgenbotham! Thank you so much for making this available for me. When you were turned down for your grant, that didn't stop you, you went elsewhere for help. Great Job! I will always remember you for these great books!

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