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Holt (Chicago) offers a superb history of black people, from their experiences in Africa before the arrival of Europeans in the 1400s to their sojourn in the US up to the present. Telling the story of "African Americans" is always a daunting task, because one is challenged to avoid the twin pitfalls of overstating damage, victimology, and oppression, on the one hand, and saccharine, romanticized narratives of triumphal overcoming on the other hand. Holt's account is a magisterial, nuanced synthesis that explores a complex story from many angles. He navigates brilliantly through the baroque and cosmopolitan worlds of the pre-colonial and colonial period, the bitterly disappointed hopes of black people in the so-called American Revolution, the nightmares of slavery and family disruption, the betrayals of Reconstruction, and the intergenerational black freedom struggle. Through it all, readers receive a wealth of information and a balanced perspective. Olaudah Equiano, Richard Allen, Ida B. Wells, and Rosa Parks come alive on his pages, and always the author reminds readers that "one is more than the sum of one's treatment and condition.. An impressive achievement; a must read. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. W. Glasker Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden
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Holt (James Westfall Thompson Professor of American & African American History, Univ. of Chicago; The Problem of Race in the 21st Century) eschews the traditional topically driven historical narrative here in favor of a more human attempt to relate history as it was lived chronologically. He chronicles the major events, as well as the unexplored tragedies and triumphs of ordinary and extraordinary African Americans through the successive eras of the last 400 years, beginning with the first recorded slaves to arrive at Jamestown in 1621 and ending with the election of Barack Obama as President. Holt's thoroughly researched material and scholarly tone make this work well suited for use as a college text, comparing favorably with standards like Darlene Clark Hine and others' African Americans: A Concise History and John Hope Franklin's seminal From Slavery to Freedom. VERDICT Academics and educational institutions, along with all interested readers, will want to add this to their African American history collections.-April Younglove, Rochester Regional Lib. Council, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Holt (Black over White), professor of American and African-American history at the University of Chicago, constructs an interlocking historical chain of the lives of Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), Richard Allen (1761-1831), Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), and W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), whose trajectories reveal a more complex history of African-Americans than the one that simply moves in a linear fashion from slavery to the civil rights movement. Holt connects these men through their corresponding but still unique lives; for example, Equiano, Allen, and Douglass had been slaves, but in different times and places, and in different global contexts. Though moored by these extraordinary figures, Holt's history, replete with vignettes of the lesser known, is inspired by a sense "that ordinary people don't live history as it is taught by historians." A work of historiography as well as history, this book provides a fluid synthesis of the growing body of research in African-American history and letters as well as a thoughtful reconsideration of the work of previous historians. Provocative and bound to spur debate, Holt's study is readable, passionate, and partisan at moments, but balanced, resting upon rigorous scholarship. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.