From Publishers Weekly
South African-born Segal, founding editor of the Penguin African Library, states he could never get an author to tackle the daunting task of chronicling the path of Africans to the New World and the contrasts and links between their cultures. His own effort, which he acknowledges is "in no way definitive," begins with an account of the slave trade and moves on to exploring life in the colonies, the path to emancipation and his own brief visits to countries in the Caribbean and the Americas. Sacrificing depth for breadth, this report is no source for insight on the U.S. (one paragraph for Brown v. Board of Education; another on rap music). The book's strength is its sensitivity in tracking the varieties of the black experience, from the "colonial conservatory" of Barbados to the cosmopolitan life of Trinidad to the black loss of identity in vast Brazil. Segal's concluding section selectively delves into the black legacy, including varieties of music, art, creole languages, sport and religion. Segal's book should stimulate future explorations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Segal was the first white South African to join the African National Congress; in political exile in Britain he edited the prestigious Penguin African Library. Now he draws on all the best sources to give us a sweeping, eloquent history that integrates the black experience outside Africa over five centuries. Instead of the usual collection of individual scholarly essays on this subject, his strong narrative connects the U.S., Britain, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Canada. He looks at where the people came from; how they were torn away by the Atlantic slave trade; their experience of slavery, emancipation, and continuing racism; their courage, defiance, culture, and creativity. From Haiti to Detroit, from Brazil to Jamaica, his discussion is both universal and focused on particulars of place and culture. Some of the best sections are based on his own observations of various countries and his personal delight in black literature, music, and painting. Segal writes with clarity and with considerable subtlety, never overidealizing the past, candid about both the oppression and the vision of freedom; he combines the objectivity of the outsider with the passion of the committed. A natural choice for college courses, this book will also attract a wide general audience. Selection of the History Book Club, Book-of-the-Month Club, and Quality Paperback Book Club. Hazel Rochman
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