American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World

Christina Proenza-Coles. NewSouth, $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-58838-331-0
In this persuasive work, historian Proenza-Coles challenges what she calls “the simplest version of [American] popular history,” which “gives the impression that... black people stepped onto the stage of American history as plantation slaves in the 19th century and entered the political arena in the 1950s.” She shows that men and women of color “were central to the founding of the Americas, the establishment of New World nations, the dismantling of slavery, and the rise of freedom in the Americas.” She subdivides black inhabitants of the Americas into 16th-century “conquistadores,” 17th-century “colonials,” 18th-century “revolutionaries,” 19th-century “patriots and liberators,” and 20th-century “freedom fighters.” She emphasizes African-Americans’ role in shaping both their own lives and American life as a whole, and adds to the general understanding of such events as the founding of the English colony at Jamestown and the American Revolution. She presents succinct but engaging accounts of previously obscure individuals like Elizabeth Jennings Graham, who sued successfully for the desegregation of Manhattan’s streetcars in 1855, and banker and philanthropist Robert Reed Church, the first African-American millionaire in the American South. Lucid prose and straightforward structure make this easy to read, and the unearthing of so many lesser-known figures offers new perspectives to those with deeper knowledge of American history. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/25/2019
Release date: 03/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-60306-438-5
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