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The New York Public Library African American Desk Reference
ISBN 0471239240 / 9780471239246 / 0-471-23924-0
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This is exactly the type of reference book you'd expect from the New York Public Library--it is packed with tables, charts, timelines, and summaries devoted, in this case, to the African American experience. Chapters cover a variety of topics, including the saga of African American history, politics and civil rights, science and technology, the military and the media. African American Desk Reference opens with a timeline of African American history beginning in 1200 B.C. when, according to a number of scholars, black Africans from Egypt and Nubia sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and had extensive contact with native peoples of the Americas. The timeline spans 22 pages and ends in 1998 with a description of the President's Commission on Race, which looked at issues affecting African Americans, and BET's announcement that it would produce films for the African American market. As readers would expect, slavery is given much attention throughout the nearly 600 pages. And this is where the book's depth of information shines. Not only are slavery's origins, key players, and ultimate demise discussed, there are also tables showing the gender and age of captives taken from Africa between 1600 and 1800; a record comparing occupations in Charleston in 1848 among slaves, "free Negroes," and whites; and a chart of the nationality of ships engaged in the Atlantic slave trade from 1701 to 1800. Lighter topics are also covered, including summaries of the origins of major holidays, as well as the traditions behind family and wedding celebrations. A variety of recipes are also included (Onions, Okra, Corn and Tomatoes; Nola's Cheesy Macaroni and Cheese; Creole Red Beans and Rice), as are explanations of children's games, including the jump-rope contest Double Dutch and the clapping rhyme game Mary Mack. Notable achievements of African Americans are also addressed, including inventors and innovators, recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and winners of major literary prizes. True to its librarian roots, each chapter in the book ends with a list of sources where readers can find additional information. It's hard to imagine, though, that much is left uncovered in this extensive book. --John Russell [via]