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Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa Paperback – July 1, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

From 1991 to 1994, Keith Richburg was based in Nairobi as the Africa bureau chief for the Washington Post. He traveled throughout Africa, from Rwanda to Zaire, witnessing and reporting on wars, famines, mass murders, and the complexity and corruption of African politics. Unlike many black Americans who romanticize Africa, Richburg looks back on his time there and concludes that he is simply an American, not an African American. This is a powerful, hard-hitting book, filled with anguished soul-searching as Richburg makes his way toward that uncomfortable conclusion. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Striking in both its honesty and horror...A gripping memoir. Out of America is a passionate reminder to a multiethnic democracy that human dignity, not banal notions of cultural identity, is the source of enduring civic and personal esteem. (Wall Street Journal ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest/HBJ Book; Reprint edition (July 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156005832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005838
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,653,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Has anyone, besides me, actually read this book? I've looked at review after review and thought to myself "Did I read the same book?"

Take away the politically incorrect premise, that an African-American journalist was horrified by what he saw in Sub-Sahara Africa and is grateful to be an American, a premise which is merely in the controversial 5 1/2 page Prelude, and what you have in the remaining 259 pages is one of the most intriguing, exciting, and even breathtaking adventure stories told in modern times. This stuff makes war reporting from WWI and WWII seem like nursery rhymes. If Hemingway and Churchill wanted to see and write about battles up close, they needed to go where Richburg's been. The Spanish Civil War and Boer War were tame by comparison.

Want to know what it was like in Mogadishu during the American and United Nations occupation of Somalia? It's here.

Why were the corpses of American soldiers dragged through the streets? He'll tell you.

Want to know what it was like to stand on a bridge at Rusomo Falls and watch countless Tutsi bodies drift by after being massacred in Rwanda? It's here.

What's it like to be a Belgian soldier who is told to put down his weapons to avoid a Hutu riot in Rwanda, and then to die for following that order?

Want to know what its like to be in the middle of a cholera epidemic in Zaire? It's here too.

Are you interested in the "Whys"?

For instance, why do the Hutus hate the Tutsis? How does it relate to the black experience in America? It's discussed here in frank and clear terms.

If you've ever wanted to be a foreign correspondent, or a CIA case worker, or to travel to "hot spots" around the world this is the book to read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Out of America is a black man's journey back to Africa as a newspaper reporter. Within the book, a myiad of political and social issues are delved into and the answers - not THE answers, to be sure, but answers as good as any other - are disturbing.
While Mr. Richburgh makes clear towards the beginning of the book that he never felt his 'blackness' was his defining characteristic, his journey in the book sours him on Africa and wipes many preconceptions out of the window. Before anyone can help Africa, he concludes, Africans need to help Africa. The descriptions of tribalism, dictatorship, factionization, and senseless murder seemingly as a way of life, are disturbing and graphic. Richburgh pulls no puches. The irony is that in the process of reading a book where the author ultimately concludes that Africa may be less 'salvagable' than we thought, it is obvious that he is not callous about this judgment, that he remains all-the-while sympathetic, and that this conclusion is one of the hardest ones the author has ever had to make (he tells us THAT much).
Many who've read Out of America denounce Richburg as an out-and-out "uncle Tom". He is a black man who realizes that he is an "american" before he's an "african-american" (as if I'm 'european-american' instead of just plain 'white'). The irony is that those who are shocked that Richburg, a black man, would DARE criticize Africa seems to prove RIchburgs ancillary point. Black leaders, intellectuals, and arm-chair diplomats have pussyfooted around Africa, ignoring abuses of 'human rights', ignoring the deadly tribalism and murder, so as to keep the image of "Africa - the glorious motherland" alive.
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Format: Paperback
"Out of America' is a tough read.
Mr. Richburg's book has brought wails of protest from all over, in Africa certainly but from many other countries and nations as well and not the least America.
Mr. Richburg is a reporter; his book is a report of what he saw while on assignment in Africa. What he saw was appalling, the author does not sugar coat it and it rings with an awful truth. The truth is that today in Africa, black Africans are slaughtering other black Africans at a rate that is incalculable. An ongoing slaughter that is largely unreported in the mainstream media. What makes the book so controversial is Mr. Richburg's refusal to blame the past for Africa's murderous appetites of today. What makes the book so controversial is Mr. Richburg's courage in laying bloody Africa at the feet of today's African leaders. He makes no excuses for black leaders that treat their people like charnel.
It is this "no excuses" approach that infuriates Mr. Richburg's detractors. It is much easier to blame King Leopold, slavery, the colonialism of the British, or the Belgians than it is to look at the simple truth. What happened yesterday does not give license for the atrocities of today.
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Format: Paperback
As a white South African journalist reading Keith Richburg's book, I was completely overwhelmed that a mere three years in Africa could have produced a book of this nature. Hats off the Richburg for being honest - and for having the courage to know that on both sides of the moral spectrum - liberal African Americans to white neo-Nazi fascists, he would invoke responses to his book that he would probably find distasteful in the extreme. For Black Americans, I can only assume many viewed his book as a betrayal, while for white racists it was an opportunity to crow in glee, with that familiar, I-told-you-so approach. As a South African first and foremost, and white second, it is with sadness, not joy, that I concur with many of his findings, particularly regarding the recent developments in Zimbabwe. If only the liberal black community in America would realise that in that country, and others, it is not the whites that suffer, Most generally have sufficient money to shield them from the worst or leave if they have to. But, as Richburg so vividly portrays in his book, the half billion black people in southern Africa are forever confined to peasantry, disease, ignorance, and abuse by leaders who show scant interest in democracy. Richburg was right - and I applaud him for saying so - that the mere fact that many countries in Africa have overthrown their colonial masters does not and can never give them carte blanche to persecute their own people - nor does it excuse the black leadership in America and elsewhere from its primary responsibility - the preservation of human rights and the freedoms held so dear by the American consitution. There is nothing worse than those who perpetuate crimes on their own people.Read more ›
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