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Encyclopedia Of African American Culture And History: The Black Experience In The Americas (Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History) (Volumes 1-6) Hardcover – December 16, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

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*Starred Review* The first edition of this work was published in 1996 under the editorship of Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, and Cornel West. A supplement appeared in 2001. Now we have a new edition edited by Palmer, a history professor at Princeton University, and published in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.

As outlined in the preface, the encyclopedia now contains nearly 1,300 entries, as opposed to 2,500 entries in the first edition and supplement. Original authors (or, in some cases, the publisher) took the opportunity to revise or update around half of the approximately 800 articles that were carried over from the first edition. Examples of the nearly 400 new articles are Anthropology and anthropologists; Astronauts; Berry, Halle; Black-Indian relations; Hip-hop; Slave religions; Urban cinema; and Williams, Venus and Serena. Also new are entries such as Haitian Creole language, Obeah, Pele, Samba, and West Indies Federation, reflecting a crucial difference between this edition and the first--as its new subtitle indicates, the scope has been expanded beyond North America. Numerous entries have been expanded to fit this new "diasporic approach." Literature, for example, now consists of seven articles that cover the literatures of French Guiana, Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe, Suriname, the English-speaking Caribbean, and the Netherlands Antilles as well as the U.S. (Baseball, on the other hand, is still focused on the U.S.). Gone are many articles that represented the U.S.-centered approach of the first edition, among them entries for major cities and all 50 states.

Entries range in length from around half a page to more than 10 pages. Most have bibliographies attached, and the bibliographies that have been updated are indicated as such. Approximately 450 black-and-white photographs (down from roughly 1,000) enhance the text, as do occasional sidebars. Volume 1 contains an alphabetical list of entries and a directory of more than 700 contributors. In volume 6 are a thematic list of entries; a collection of around 35 primary documents; a section of "Statistics and Lists" in business, education, entertainment, and other areas; and a very good index.

In the foreword, Howard Dodson, the Schomburg Center's director, explains that the way the field of African American studies has evolved and "the pace at which new knowledge is being produced" justify a second edition only 10 years after the first. Does this mean libraries should buy it? The answer is yes, because of the new edition's dramatically expanded focus. Another question is to what extent Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas duplicates Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, the five-volume set published by Oxford in June 2005. Though the two sets have much in common, there are important differences. For example, Africana has three times more entries and a broader geographical scope, covering the African presence around the world as well as providing extensive coverage of the African continent. High-school and small to medium-sized public libraries can't go wrong with either one. Large collections, especially those supporting African American studies programs, will need both. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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