Gates brings his one-man crusade to a bookstore near you with his new book, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro. Part Encyclopedia Africana, part advanced black studies course, the book unearths little known, often surprising truths about the complex history of the worldwide black diaspora, serving up a sweeping concept in bite-sized chapters … The overarching theme of 100 Amazing Facts is America’s original sin — slavery — and its not-so-silent partners, rape, rebellion and bloodshed. Gates unflinchingly tells bitter, warts-and-all tales.
It’s a fun book that, in no particular order, asks and answers questions about ancient history, Afro-European history and Afro-Latin history. Indeed, this book is global time travel, looking at history through the lens of African American lives … The book brims with conversation pieces but also with the pain that is all too evident when discussing the ways enslaved people of African descent lived here in the United States and around the world … I would have liked to see more information about women, the working class (what about African Americans in unions?) and the marginalized in this volume.
A series of 100 questions with short answers, the book is a freewheeling exploration of black history. Gates takes on questions such as ‘Who was the first black saint?’ as well as ‘Who was the first black person to see the baby Jesus?’ and ‘What happened to Argentina’s black population?’ An essay about the first black fighter pilot is followed by a question about slave ownership. Topics range from sports to civil rights and the slave trade, the Civil War, piracy and even the Salem witch trials. Gates is a historian, but he is also a consummate teacher. And one of the charms of the volume is that the essays appear in no particular order, making it ideal for dipping into at will or keeping on a bedside table to pick up before bed.
Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, draws its inspiration and title from these popular takes on African-American history ...like taking a tour of black history with a very erudite and accessible guide ...is organized as a series of short (two-to-four page) essays, in which Gates answers questions... The chapters are not organized thematically or chronologically, so readers go from learning about Basil Biggs, who buried war dead at Gettysburg in 1863, to Malcolm X’s debate at Oxford University a century later ...more playful than ironic. He has long been interested in black language rituals and verbal play, and the entries here are meant to be talked about and shared not just via social media, but the old fashioned way...offers seeds that may grow among readers into a deeper appreciation of African-American history, one that may render another homage to Rogers unnecessary.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. has had his finger on the pulse of African Americana in print and the media for decades, and he has done it again in his fascinating new book, 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro ...an easy read and an excellent conversation piece; it’s also useful for games and competitive intellectual exercises ... Unquestionably, 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro will get people talking about the global contributions of people of African descent and black Americans. It is much more than a work of trivia; it is a storehouse of important historical data that illuminates the role of black people in the world beyond slavery ...Henry Louis Gates Jr. brings additional astonishing facts to the attention of people in the 21st century.
Now, renowned historian Gates picks up the baton, updating the book’s 100 'amazing facts' with recent research, including, in a nod to his PBS documentary series, Finding Your Roots, for which he wrote the companion volume, genealogical and DNA studies and conclusions ...fresh investigation relays centuries of events in the lives of numerous historical figures of African descent not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, Central America, and the Middle East ... By setting this new standard, Gates paves the way for future editions exploring achievements in science and technology and the visual and performing arts.
The pieces range widely in chronology, theme, and geography, and his facts about the ‘Negro’ (the anachronism is intentional, part of the tribute to Rogers) most heavily emphasize the African-American experience but also explore Africa and the diaspora across the Americas and in Europe. The pieces are generally well-written and engage with secondary sources and occasional primary documents on his topics … It will not be necessary for readers to tackle this book from front to back; it rewards dipping into occasionally, as Gates sometimes surprises, sometimes intrigues, and rarely disappoints.
The work is particularly rich in 19th-century American history, with entries on Richard Potter, the first American ventriloquist; Henry ‘Box’ Brown, who escaped slavery in Virginia in 1849 by shipping himself to Philadelphia in a cargo box; and on the raid on Harpers Ferry and the Colfax Massacre. Gates’s book is aimed at readers with limited knowledge of African-American history rather than scholars, and its tendencies toward exaggeration, titillation, irony, and debunking make for an easy romp, with enough obscure tidbits to entertain and inform specialists as well.