cover image JUBILEE: The Emergence of African-American Culture

JUBILEE: The Emergence of African-American Culture

Howard Dodson, with Amiri Baraka, Gail Buckley, John Hope Franklin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Ann. National Geographic, $35 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-7922-6982-3

This is that rare title that effortlessly spans audience and age-group divides while it popularizes serious and compelling scholarship, in this case challenging widely held conceptions about modern culture in the Americas. In clean, almost terse prose Dodson presents a welter of facts showing the extent to which the colonization of North and South American depended on slave labor. A page-long foreword from Wynton Marsalis recalls the New Orleans culture of his youth. Next, Dodson (who has been director of Harlem's Schomberg Center for Research and Black Culture at the New York Public Library since 1984), along with his stellar team of scholars and poets, zeroes in on the Americas of the 17th and 18th centuries, when there were far more Black Americans than white. More than 200 photos and illustrations from the Schomberg's collection of more than five million work terrifically, selected specifically to counteract endlessly repeated images of victimization and document Black economies. They keep the story moving quickly and forcefully, and show concretely how black resistance resulted in cultural adaptations that now form the basis of cultures in the Americas: African and African-American carvings; portraits of prominent business and cultural figures; close-ups of irons and other implements of torture; marriage and other documents; contemporary press and poetry—there is an impressive amount of documentation here, culminating in the end of the Civil War. Never before have the economic and cultural histories of slavery come together so concisely and accessibly. This is an explosive, necessary book. (Feb.)

Forecast:With its all-star authors and Black History Month pub date, this book could hit bestseller lists, and will become a backlist mainstay, through school-based assignments at various levels. Look for glowing national reviews and extensive media coverage.