A wide-ranging synthesis of the history of African influence on the Americas.
In this kaleidoscopic narrative, Proenza-Coles (co-editor: Political Power and Social Theory, Volume 19, 2008), who has a dual doctorate in sociology and history, tackles the long history of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. “In an effort to convey how events and individuals connect to larger historical forces—colonialism, revolution, republicanism, and nation building—the chapters proceed chronologically and endeavor to provide a pan-American vantage point.” In that, she succeeds, and her argument is clear and cogent: Far from being mere victims or objects of historical change, Americans of African origin have been central to the country’s history and served as active agents in pushing for their freedom and the freedom of others. She is especially solid in her discussion of the era of slavery and its impact on not only the region, but the larger world, and she uses separate sections to provide the capsule biographies of a wide sample of important individuals who shaped American life. Drawn from a sizable range of secondary sources, the book is something of a mixture—not quite scholarly tome, not quite popular history, not quite reference work—but Proenza-Coles writes clearly, her mining of her sources is impressive, and her argument is lucid. She is much stronger on the centuries prior to the Civil War than on the 20th century and beyond. While the timelines that cap each chapter are helpful in keeping track of the many events and milestones she discusses, the endnotes at the end of the chapters would work better as either footnotes or endnotes at the back of the book. Nonetheless, this is a useful history to supplement existing works on the African experience in the Americas. Acclaimed Civil War historian Edward L. Ayers provides the foreword.
Passionate history with a clear point of view.