The African-American Century : How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country

West, Cornel, Gates, Henry Louis Jr.

Published by Free Press, 2002
ISBN 10: 0684864150 / ISBN 13: 9780684864150
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Synopsis: One hundred original profiles of the most influential African-Americans of the twentieth century.

Without Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis, we would not have jazz. Without Toni Morrison or Ralph Ellison, we would miss some of our greatest novels. Without Dr. King or Thurgood Marshall, we would be deprived of political breakthroughs that affirm and strengthen our democracy. Here, two of the leading African-American scholars of our day, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Cornel West, show us why the twentieth century was the African-American century, as they offer their personal picks of the African-American figures who did the most to shape our world.

This colorful collection of personalities includes much-loved figures such as scientist George Washington Carver, contemporary favorites such as comedian Richard Pryor and novelist Alice Walker, and even less-well-known people such as aviator Bessie Coleman. Gates and West also recognize the achievements of controversial figures such as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and rap artist Tupac Shakur. Lively, accessible, and illustrated throughout, The African-American Century is a celebration of black achievement and a tribute to the black struggle for freedom in America that will inspire readers for years to come.

Review: The African American century was the one "in which African American life was transformed--and the century in which African Americans changed America." When it began, only 35 years after the end of slavery, few could envision what the 20th century would hold for black Americans. The 100 men and women described in this compendium, written by two of the most prominent black scholars and social commentators in America, represent important moments in the struggle to deepen America's democratic roots against the overwhelming forces of racism and bigotry. By choosing 100 (10 per decade), Gates and West ensured that they would have to omit important black figures. Nevertheless, the profiles achieve their purpose: to demonstrate and celebrate the multifaceted and profound achievements of African Americans in fields as diverse as science, politics, the military, literature, entertainment, and academia.

From W.E.B. Du Bois, probably the greatest African American intellectual of the 20th century, to Tiger Woods, golf's first black superstar, the well-written, fact-filled profiles present those who have lived extraordinary lives and shown tremendous courage. The roster includes the well-known, such as Louis Armstrong, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Oprah Winfrey, as well as the more obscure but no less important. These include Carter G. Woodson, who pioneered the historical study of black America; Charles Richard Drew, who founded two of the world's largest blood banks and in so doing prevented millions of deaths; and Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop. Gates and West also embrace controversial figures such as Louis Farrakhan, Tupac Shakur, and Angela Davis, emphasizing their positive imprints while acknowledging their complexity. With this valuable addition to black history collections, the authors (both controversial in their own rights) continue their quest to fill the aching gaps in public awareness about African Americans and remind us that self-confidence, dignity, and excellence are the essential virtues in the great historical drama of American democracy. --Lesley Reed

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Title: The African-American Century : How Black ...
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Good

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