Ninety years after W.E.B. Du Bois first articulated the need for "the equivalent of a black Encyclopedia Britannica," Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., realized his vision by publishing Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience in 1999.
This new, greatly expanded edition of the original work broadens the foundation provided by Africana. Including more than one million new words, Africana has been completely updated and revised. New entries on African kingdoms have been added, bibliographies now accompany most articles, and the encyclopedia's coverage of the African diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean has been expanded, transforming the set into the most authoritative research and scholarly reference set on the African experience ever created.
More than 4,000 articles cover prominent individuals, events, trends, places, political movements, art forms, business and trade, religion, ethnic groups, organizations and countries on both sides of the Atlantic. African American history and culture in the present-day United States receive a strong emphasis, but African American history and culture throughout the rest of the Americas and their origins in African itself have an equally strong presence. The articles that make up Africana cover subjects ranging from affirmative action to zydeco and span over four million years from the earlies-known hominids , to Sean "Diddy" Combs. With entries ranging from the African ethnic groups to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Africana, Second Edition, conveys the history and scope of cultural expression of people of African descent with unprecedented depth.
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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies, and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University. Professor Gates is well known as an innovator in the field of African American studies and as the author of numerous works, including America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans, The Trials of Phillis Wheatly, and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man. Gates also co-edited African American Lives, a one-volume collection of biographies that precedes the upcoming, eight-volume African American National Biography.
Kwame Anthony Appiah is the Lawrence S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He is the author of Assertion and Conditionals, For Truth in Semantics, and In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (OUP 1992). Appiah is also a novelist and poet and he recently collaborated with his mother to compile a collection of proverbs from his homeland, Asante, Ghana.
The second edition of Africana is updated and greatly expanded from the one-volume 1999 edition to encompass five volumes (at five times the price). Described as "the first encyclopedia of Africa and her diaspora," Africana chronicles the history and culture of people of African descent in an objective manner, actualizing W. E. B. DuBois' original intention of "a black Encyclopaedia Britannica." Included are more than 4,000 entries, 1,200 more than in the previous volume. Entries new to this edition include African oral literature; Board games; Classicism, black, in the United States; Rethinking Palmares: Slave resistance in colonial Brazil; and Transatlantic slave trade database. Coverage of the African diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean has been expanded. Coverage of literature has also been expanded, with substantial new entries for Literature, black, in 18th-century Britain and the U.S.; Literature, black, in Senegal; and Literature, English-language, in the Caribbean, to name just a few. Many of the entries have been revised for living people and places, and there are updated photographs, maps, and tables throughout. Also new to this edition are a much-needed comprehensive index, a topical index, a chronology, a bibliography arranged by broad subject, and, for country essays, a summary "At a Glance" table that provides data on population, religion, climate, economic activity, government, and more.
Entries vary in length from a few sentences to several pages, usually with a brief definition or overview in bold. Longer entries are signed by their scholar contributors and have a brief bibliography; examples of longer essay entries include DuBois, W. E. B. and Harlem Renaissance. Cross-references to other entries are sprinkled throughout the encyclopedia. Among the categories of topics that are discussed are individuals (Fidel Castro, Cab Calloway); events (Attica uprising, Nat Turner's rebellion); places (Jamaica, Kenya); politics and government (African National Congress, Black Power); the arts (Bebop, Graffiti art, Uncle Tom's Cabin); religion (Islam, Slave religion); and ethnic groups (Lobi, Venda). Coverage is heaviest in the areas of literature and journalism, music, and politics.
While other reference sources generally focus on either Africa or the U.S, Africana is notable for its global coverage beyond just the Western perspective. It remains to be seen how it will compare with the forthcoming revised Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Macmillan), which has reportedly expanded its scope dramatically. The second edition of Africana is recommended for college and university libraries or any library needing to update its old edition. Susan Gardner
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