Bibliographic Essay on African American History
In the essay “On the Evolution of Scholarship in Afro- American History” the eminent historian John Hope Franklin declared “Every generation has the opportunity to write its own history, and indeed it is obliged to do so.”1 The social and political revolutions of 1960s have made fulfilling such a responsibility less daunting than ever. Invaluable references, including Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Evelyn Brooks Higgingbotham, ed., Harvard Guide to African American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Arvarh E. Strickland and Robert E. Weems, Jr., eds., The African American Experience: An Historiographical and Bibliographical Guide (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001); and Randall M. Miller and John David Smith, eds., Dictionary of Afro- American Slavery (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988), provide informative narratives along with expansive bibliographies. General texts covering major historical events with
attention to chronology include John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African
Americans (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2000), considered a classic; along with Joe William Trotter, Jr., The African American
Experience (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001); and, Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Hine, and Stanley Harrold, The African American Odyssey (Upper Saddle River: Printice-Hall, Inc., 2000). Other general texts not to be overlooked are Colin A. Palmer’s Passageways: An Interpretive History of Black America Vol. I: 1619-1863 and Vol. II (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998), which emphasizes culture; and, Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson’s Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America (New York: Broadway Books, 1998), a work highlighting the presence of women. Juliet E. K. Walker’s The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998) is a general historical overview of blacks in business across time. Of a more limited scope is A’Lelia Bundles’ On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker (New York: Scribner, 2001), touted as a definitive biography of a black woman entrepreneur before 1919. Africans in North America
Between 1619 and 1808, less than one million Africans were transported involuntarily to North America. Documentation for 27,233 voyages is available in The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Data Base on CD-Rom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1999). Statistics alone tell little about the human conditions; but, the special issue “New Perspectives on the Transatlantic 2
Slave Trade,” William and Mary Quarterly 58 (January 2001), contains insightful essays that combine sheer numbers with
interpretative narratives. G. Ugo Nwokeji, “African Conceptions of Gender and the Slave Traffic,” (47-68); and, David Richardson, “Shipboard Revolts, African Authority, and the Atlantic Slave,” (69-93), are but two examples.
For a first-hand account by Middle Passage survivors, see Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself, edited by Robert J. Allison (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995). Questions regarding the veracity of Equiano’s richly detailed book, which is not at variance with others on the subject, surfaced soon after it
appeared in 1787. Vincent Carretta’s “Olaudah Equino or Gustavus Vassa? New Light on an Eighteenth-Century Question of Identity,” Slavery and Abolition 20 (December 1999): 96-103, delivers a succinct discussion of the matter.
An overview of other narratives appears in Jerome S.
Handler, “Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America,” Slavery and Abolition 23 (April 2002): 23-56. Several...
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