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Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University. He is editor of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, co-editor of Transition magazine, and the author of several essays, reviews and articles.

Editorial Reviews

Africana : The Encyclopedia of the...
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.

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

Jesse Jackson, Founder, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
"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."

Maya Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies, Wake Forest University
"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."

See all 7 editorial reviews...

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