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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross Hardcover – October 1, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: SmileyBooks (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401935141
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401935146
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS is an eye-opener. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Donald Yacovone brilliantly recount the story of people of African descent in mainland North America across some five centuries with deep knowledge of the evolution of the African American experience and great sensitivity to its complexity. Few accounts better capture the changing texture of black life, as black men and women remade their society on new ground.”
Ira Berlin, professor, University of Maryland, and the author of Making African America: Four Great Migrations
“THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS is an ambitious and original book and the companion to the documentary film that demonstrates how thoroughly North America, and what became the United States, has been shaped by four centuries of African American experience on these shores, in our fields and cities, and in our legislative halls. Gates and Yacovone provide a distinctive vision and voice that carries a huge and complex story. Our language, our migrations, our music, our art and poetry, the ways we walk and talk, our dreams and nightmares, our social movements, the great pivots and changes in our political and constitutional history, our very imaginations as Americans are forever products of the African American stories flowing through our bloodstreams and moving across our landscapes. We are all the products of the slavery and the freedom that this film series presents. This is everyone’s American and African American history, whether they know it or not.”
David W. Blight, professor of American History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery and Abolition, Yale University; and the author of a forthcoming new biography of Frederick Douglass
“Vibrant, immersive, and irresistible—abounding in rich scholarship and throbbing with the energy of a story waiting too long to be told—this priceless volume fills a gaping void in the literature: a comprehensive yet compact history of the African American experience. Told with urgency and authority by major scholars who also happen to be gifted craftsmen, here is popular history writing at its best. With no disrespect to its genesis via another of Gates’s essential television documentaries, this is no more a ‘companion’ volume than black history is a ‘companion’ to American history.”
Harold Holzer, chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and the author of Emancipating Lincoln
“Everyone who cares about Black History needs this book in their library! The authors’ deep love of the African American experience has led to a detailed, nuanced, important, and fresh examination of our history.”
Touré, MSNBC host and the author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness and I Would Die 4 U

About 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 American Research at Harvard University. He is the author of 16 books, including Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513–2008 and Tradition and the Black Atlantic, and has made 12 documentaries, including Finding Your Roots, Black in Latin America, and Looking for Lincoln. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root, a daily online magazine. He is the recipient of 51 honorary degrees and numerous awards. In 1981, he was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation, and in 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He was named to Time’s 25 Most Influential Americans list in 1997, to Ebony’s Power 150 list in 2009, and to Ebony’s Power 100 list in 2010 and 2012. The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of Professor Gates’s essays, was published in 2012.
        Donald Yacovone, the research manager at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, earned his Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate School and has taught at Pitzer College, the University of Arizona, and Millersville University of Pennsylvania. He was an editor at the Black Abolitionist Papers project before becoming the senior associate editor at the Massachusetts Historical Society, where he founded and edited The Massachusetts Historical Review and organized many public history programs in the Boston area. An expert in Victorian manhood, the antislavery movement, and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, he has published six books, including Samuel Joseph May and the Dilemmas of the Liberal Persuasion; A Voice of Thunder: The Civil War Letters of George E. Stephens; and most recently, Lincoln on Race and Slavery, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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Customer Reviews

I bought both the book & the DVD of the documentary.
Amazon Customer
I highly recommend this book be read by history buffs and people who want to know the real story.
Ski-Wee's Book Corner
Dr. Gates' book will be added to my library of African American history.
Lelia V. Hall-Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received the book The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross by co-authors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Donald Yacovone, free from Hay House Publishing for review. The book seems to be formatted in the fashion of a school textbook, and is divided into nine chapters. Each chapter covers a pivotal stage in the journey of the enslaved Africans, and later their descendents, and includes little-known facts about the history of their more than 500 years in America.

There are many stories that are recounted about the courageous struggles and triumphs of this group of immigrants--very often against unimaginable odds. In the end, the descendents of the Africans not only managed to survive, but eventually thrive in their newfound homeland. There are also recorded accounts of the successes of these descendents through the establishment of prosperous towns, institutions of higher learning, and even banking institutions. The irony was that while these prosperous and thriving (segregated) towns were created out of necessity, as African-Americans were violently forced out of mainstream society, envious white citizens somehow felt threatened by this economic progress. Many of these African-American havens across the country were ultimately burned to the ground by mobs of jealous and angry whites, never to recover.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Head on November 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The African Americans is more than a history lesson in paperback. It was written not only for Africans and African Americans, but for anyone who wishes to minimize their own ignorances and cultural stigmas of a people that were once looked upon like savage beasts; stripped of their own homeland and thrusted into unfamiliar territory to serve as slaves for hundreds and hundreds of years.

The authors do more than just address slavery; this book is much deeper than that. This isn't a book meant to be skimmed and closed shut. No, this is a book that serves to shift our perspective and brings us into a world that enjoyed their own riches long before racial slavery reared its ugly head, long before millions of Africans were snatched from their homeland and taken across the shore ways. How often do we hear about black conquistadors who stood beside the Spaniards and helped them to conquer new lands? Who ever knew of the first black man who stepped foot on the soil of Tampa Bay and Tallahassee? Who even knew of the mulatto who set sail with Christopher Columbus and his fleet? The traditional history books we've learned from in the school systems across America, never focused on the important and rich historical details of Africans and African Americans to this extent. This book is the missing link to not only African/African American history but also to the history of America as a whole. I think it only fair that this part of history shares a seat along with our famed American Presidents, War Heroes, Inventors, Physicians, Scientists etc. We have too many people in America, uneducated and unaware of the rich history of the Africans and African Americans.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Susan Drees on February 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The African Americans is the companion piece to the documentary aired on PBS during the fall of 2013 over 6 hourly episodes, covering the 500 year history of blacks on this continent. There is so much information here that it is difficult to summarize what I've read. One aspect of the book that I must mention and compliment is the wide use of cited references even for some of the early years covered. While the reference may not have initially been from the African immigrants themselves, there were diaries of others for documentation.

As the story of the exploration of this continent moves toward colonization, eventually there are freed men of color who are able to provide reports of their own lives. These diaries and photos are wonderful (or sometimes horrific) to experience. The history of this country is a history of promises made and broken, of holding a group of people down to serve the needs of others, financial needs, of identifying an entire population of people as sub-human because of their skin color. While I knew this on some level, reading all of these mounting details makes it even more real.

I had highlighted so many sections to quote but--too many. I think I will end with Gates' parting comments.

While no one could argue that we still have a very
long way to go in terms of the full recognition of
African American history and culture, it would be difficult
to argue that American society has not made dramatic
progress in this direction since the assassination of the
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And of course the
election---and maybe more important, the re-election---of
a black president speaks volumes about the growth of
(lower case) black power.
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