The two volumes of Kelley and Lewis's To Make Our World Anew integrate the work of eleven leading historians into the most up-to-date and comprehensive account available of African American history, from the first Africans brought as slaves into the Americas, right up to today's black filmmakers and politicians. This second volume covers the crucial post-Reconstruction years and traces the migration of blacks to the major cities. It describes the remarkable birth of the Harlem Renaissance, the hardships of the Great Depression, and the service of African Americans in World War II. Readers witness the struggle for Civil Rights in the 1950s and '60s and finally, the emergence of today's black middle class. Here is a panoramic view of African-American life, rich in gripping first-person accounts and short character sketches that invite readers to relive history as African Americans have experienced it.
Since nearly any history of African Americans is bound to be compared to John Hope Franklin's masterwork From Slavery to Freedom, perhaps it's best to state straightaway that To Make Our World Anew does indeed measure up to, and on some levels surpass, Franklin's epochal work. In this impressive multidisciplinary book, professors Robin D.G. Kelley and Earl Lewis bring together nine scholars, including Colin Palmer, Vincent Harding, Peter Wood, and Barbara Blair, to outline the 500-year African American experience, from the Middle Passage to the Million Man March. "The history of African Americans is nothing less than the dramatic saga of a people attempting to remake the world," Kelley and Lewis write. "Even when they did not succeed, the actions, thoughts, and dreams of Africans are responsible for some of the most profound economic, political, and cultural developments in the modern west." Every aspect of the African American experience is explored: slavery, slave rebellions, emancipation, segregation, lynchings, civil rights, and the post civil rights era. Major figures like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Harriet Tubman are highlighted, as are the lesser-known exploits of Esteban, the Afro-Moorish slave who "discovered" New Mexico and Arizona, and Henry "Box" Brown, the Virginia slave who escaped to freedom by putting himself in a coffin-like box that was shipped to Philadelphia. The book is particularly strong on late-20th-century social issues, with insightful coverage of the attack on affirmative action and the impact of immigration, crack cocaine, and AIDS on the black community. To Make Our World Anew is essential reading for anyone interested in the black American experience. --Eugene Holley Jr.