Major Impact! by Paul Fuller

Major Impact!

From a Minority Group: African American Contributions to American and World Civilizations
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An academic traces the contributions of African-Americans to the United States and the world.

Fuller (Black Methodists in America, 2012, etc.), a retired professor of sociology and African- American studies, tries to set the record straight about a group “dismissed as insignificant to a nation” that it “helped to create.” After endorsing theories about pre-Columbian African forays into America, he spells out blacks’ achievements chronologically and by category. These include Africans who accompanied early Spanish and Portuguese explorers as well as a colorful cast of black cowboys and others who helped open up the American West. His list of blacks in the military ranges from Crispus Attucks, the first patriot killed in the American Revolution, to Gen. Colin Powell. Contributions to the economy include not only the free labor extracted for centuries from slaves, but also the bright ideas of African-Americans who Fuller claims invented everything from pencil sharpeners to refrigerators. Outsized contributions by American blacks in the arts and sports include the obscure, such as the writer William Wells Brown and black jockeys in the 19th century, as well as the famous, such as Jackie Robinson and Alice Walker in the 20th. Fuller also catalogs blacks’ contributions to cooking, language, and other aspects of modern American culture. He chronicles efforts in education and addresses a long history of advancing civil rights, which, Fuller avers, benefited other groups, such as women, more than blacks. The author has written an important but uneven book. In tone and content, it seesaws from the magisterial to the dubious. Though he provides an encyclopedic account of blacks’ contributions, including many relatively unknown persons and events, Fuller undercuts his narrative with a labored writing style, weak sources, and pedantic asides, such as noting that New Orleans is “a southern U.S. city” and instructing readers about what’s “rather interesting.” Liberal use of passive verbs (“attention will be given,” for example) makes for flabby prose. Relying too often on debatable websites, including Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, and eHow, Fuller needs better sources to back his more contentious claims, especially in his chapters on inventions and pre-Columbian exploration of America. Given the huge cast of characters, events, and places, an index would be welcome.

Despite its flaws, this work delivers a well-deserved tribute to a group that’s been abused and overlooked; the volume should be useful for scholars and others seeking particular people, places, and themes for their research.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5186-8842-3
Page count: 460pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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