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African American Lives 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195160246
ISBN-10: 019516024X
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African American Lives + The New York Public Library African American Desk Reference + Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 namesâ€"Gerald Early on Muhammad Ali, Clayborne Carson on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, John Szwed on Miles Davisâ€"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 1,000â€"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 figuresâ€"Onesimus, slave and medical pioneer; Daniel Coker, a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; etc.â€"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.
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From School Library Journal

Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1056 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019516024X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195160246
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Wentzell on September 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my husband's birthday and he loved it. Though I haven't read it from cover to cover, I am constantly referencing it. Need facts on any prominent (and some not so prominent) African Americans, this book has everyone from Sojourner Truth to Malcolm X.

I actually called Harvard University and was able to get my copy signed and Prof Gates was extremely gracious.

I think every house with encyclopedias should include this in there library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dana on August 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first came upon this book at a friends house. I thought it was amazing! It profiled the great works and positive influencesof many beautiful black Americans past and present! It made me proud!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John L. Graves on December 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In previous books, Prof. Gates have provided us with much more scholarly works. This book is not up to the standard of being a serious history of the African-American experience. It is poorly organized and replete with errors and omissions. In the past, he has given students and general readers a serious study, such as Africana .... In the past, he has fought against intellectual racism by revealing the facts in serious research. This book does not meet that standard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book. There is a lot of information presented that young people do not know about or see in the newspspers or on TV.
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