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The African Paperback – September, 1993

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (P) (September 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080503000X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805030006
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
People with long memories might remember that when Alex Haley's "Roots" was released, he was sued for plagiarism. Haley settled out of court when it was shown that entire passages in "Roots" seemed lifted almost verbatim from Harold Courlander's "The African." (Haley said that his research assistants had given him the material without citing the source.) In any case, "Roots" went on to make literary and television history while "The African" seems to have disappeared from the scene. Thanks to "Roots" and all the planatation novels that followed, the story line of "The African" is now familiar and somewhat predictable: Hweshuhunu, a twelve year old boy is caught in a slave raid, transported by ship in a horrific sea voyage to America, and sold to the Blair plantation. There are scenes of plantation life, white masters interacting both kindly and cruelly towards their slaves and so on.
But there are interesting vignettes in the book, such as the way the slaves try to hold on to their old African traditions even as they are forcibly being "Americanized" every day. There is a connection with these slaves and the modern day immigrants who also try to hold on to customs of their original country. In an unfamiliar country, the newcomer tries to construct the familiar, even if it is something as simple as placing in the new home a picture or knick-knacks that are a link to the past. For slaves whose "immigration" was forced and who had nothing (in some cases, not even their clothes), trying to hold on to the old ways is the only way to construct the familiar. The author is well-versed in African customs (see his other books like "The Cow Tail Switch," "The Fire on the Mountain," and "The Hat Shaking Dance") -- and the reminiscences and rituals in the slave cabins are a touching part of the narrative.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its true that Harold Courlander sued Alex Haley for plagiarizing "The African" when writing "Roots." Since then. many commentators who have clearly not read both books in their entirety have dismissed Haley as a fraud and have given the impression that "Roots" was a direct copy of "The African."

I read this book (after reading "Roots" earlier) over the summer on a bus coming from a family reunion in Washington DC to South Carolina. This is a great book, but the similarities with "Roots" ends with the basic subject matter and the slave ship scene, which was the source of the suit. Beynd that, the characters and stories of Wes and Kunta Kinte take on different dimensions altogether.

Wes, the title character in this novel, has some really interesting adventures. After being captured from Africa and brought to North America, he deals with slavery, encounters with American Indians, and some adventures with residents of a "free Negro" settlement. These episodes are told in a page turning fashion and for the rapid reader, its a good overnight or weekend read. Courlander's background in world folklore helps him with authentic details.

So both for its place in history and just for interesting reading, "The African" is a good way to spend some time. It's not "Roots," , but still a fine book.
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I purchased this book for a friend. He seems thrilled by it and recommends it to anyone who's interested in African American history in regards to the evolution of slavery.
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Format: Paperback
The book is most interesting as one recreate the experiences of Hwesuhunu and the degradation of slavery and its entrenchment in the Caribbean Islands. This should be included in the American History classes.
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THIS IS REALITY...NOT FICTION.SUCH A BLIGHT ON MOST OF THE WORLD.PEOPLE TODAY CANNOT IMAGINE SUCH AS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING...BUT IT DID
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I am still reading this very informative book. Sometimes reading about slavery for me asan African American, has been very painful but this book is leading towards further research.
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Unforgettable, not as memorable as the film version of Roots in my opinion, but a must read for those interested in the subject.
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Roots may be based on this book, but Roots is superior in story telling to this book.
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