cover image Black in Latin America

Black in Latin America

Henry Louis Gates Jr.. New York Univ., $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8147-3298-4

Of the 11 million enslaved Africans who survived the Middle Passage between 1502 and 1866, 450,000 were brought to the U.S., and the rest%E2%80%94more than 10.5 million%E2%80%94were sent to the Caribbean and Latin America. Harvard professor Gates (How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts) continues to plumb the roots of the descendants of Africans in the New World, and in this companion volume to his PBS special of the same name, he tells the stories of Africans shipped to Brazil, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba. It's a rare history that reads like a travelogue: Gates records his visits to the countries, his pleasure in a cool evening in Mexico, his investigations into the issues of the cultural encounters between the indigenous, colonizing, and enslaved populations %E2%80%94the hybrid forms of song and dance, the virulent racism and brutality%E2%80%94with a personal touch. He takes the contemporary pulse of each country, lists its racial categorizations, and interviews common folk and celebrated activists and historians alike. His chapter in Haiti is especially wrenching and inspiring; in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, Gates discovers in Port au Prince both the worst living conditions he has ever seen and the only "bold, public recognition of a nation's black founding fathers." (July)