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The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside Africa Hardcover – August 31, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374113963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374113964
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,706,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is quite an interesting book, and contains a great deal of good information about the Black communities outside Africa.

Having said that, I'm taken aback by the complete dearth of honesty about the origins of the slave trade within Africa, and the Islamic traditions concerning Slavery. The book does mention that some slaves taken to Brazil were converts to Islam, and led a slave rebellion.

Fine. But Segal completely omits the facts that Islam practiced slavery throughout the African continent, especially within the Sudan --- beginning centuries earlier than colonial slave trading over the Atlantic --- and that forced conversion was and remains part and parcel of that Islamic slave tradition.

Nor does Segal make any mention of the Arab Muslims' abhorrence of black African men. Indeed, in Arabic, the word abd, which means slave, is synonymous with black.

This is a surprising deficit, since Segal does quote from V.S. Naipaul, the great Trinidad writer who has expounded prolifically on the effects both of Islam and Islamic conversion. Concerning Naipaul's expert points on that subject, Segal cites not a single word.

Rather, Segal erroneously portrays a more benevolent Islamic attitude towards slaves than found in Christianity, and insists that Islam considers freeing slaves a good deed. This is based on a single quotation.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Terlouw on September 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
Ronald Segal's book "The Black Diaspora" is an excellent historical and cultural account of African descendents living outside of Africa. This book is so smoothly written that it is impossible not to enjoy and learn a great deal from its pages. The format and flow are so well put together that Segal's many topics of discussion are beautifully linked with easy transitions. I loved this book and learned a huge amount about the black diaspora despite having read many, many other books on this same topic.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a must for those who want an account of Black History in North America and the Caribbean. It really provides a foundation for you to view the Caribbean in different light and to understand why we are now where we are today. It is both informative and disturbing. This should be part of the National Curriculum in so many countries. The account Mr Segal gives on each Island is rewarding. I has a 'sense' of what I saw when I went to Martinique and the book provides firm facts which have enabled me to reflect on my journey and forthcoming journeys. If only more people from Europe and within the Islands read a book like this!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thomas O'Toole on March 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A dated, subjective and rather banal book but then I ordered it so no one else is to blame anyhow.
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