Africana (1999)

I received the first edition of this book as a high school graduation prize and the word “Africana” has followed me ever since. As an Africana Studies major in university and a migration scholar thereafter, I have relied on and referred to this book many times over the last 25 years. This encyclopedia was the brainchild of historian and Pan-Africanist W.E.B. Dubois, but it came into being from the plume of his fellow Harvard-trained historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the Ghanaian-British philosopher Kenneth Anthony Appiah. Wole Soyinka of Nigeria was a significant contributor to the work. The over 2000 page volume begins with Aardvark (Afrikaans for “earth pig”)  on page 1 and ends with Zydeco (“the music of black Creoles in southwest Louisiana”) on page 2056. The book has expansive entries on Africa and the Americas, in particular Brazil, the Caribbean, and the U.S.A. Where this first volume leaves gaps, it principally does so in its minimal interrogation of other regions of the world, like Asia and Australia, where Black and African descendent people also require critical inquiry. The heavy reference book is a constant companion for Anglophone African diaspora historians and a hearty read for a true lover of Black histories.