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The African American Century, by Gates & West

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): The African American Century How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country    1900-1909    1910-1919    1920-1929    1930-1939    1940-1949    1950-1959    1960-1969    1970-1979    1980-1989    empowerment    1990-1999   .

The African American Century

How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country

by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornel West, Simon & Schuster, $30, copyright 2000.

The African American century was the one "in which African American life was transformed--and the century in which African Americans changed America." When it began, only 35 years after the end of slavery, few could envision what the 20th century would hold for black Americans. The 100 men and women described in this compendium, written by two of the most prominent black scholars and social commentators in America, represent important moments in the struggle to deepen America's democratic roots against the overwhelming forces of racism and bigotry. By choosing 100 (10 per decade), Gates and West ensured that they would have to omit important black figures. Nevertheless, the profiles achieve their purpose: to demonstrate and celebrate the multifaceted and profound achievements of African Americans in fields as diverse as science, politics, the military, literature, entertainment, and academia.

From W.E.B. Du Bois, probably the greatest African American intellectual of the 20th century, to Tiger Woods, golf's first black superstar, the well-written, fact-filled profiles present those who have lived extraordinary lives and shown tremendous courage. The roster includes the well-known, such as Louis Armstrong, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Oprah Winfrey, as well as the more obscure but no less important. These include Carter G. Woodson, who pioneered the historical study of black America; Charles Richard Drew, who founded two of the world's largest blood banks and in so doing prevented millions of deaths; and Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop. Gates and West also embrace controversial figures such as Louis Farrakhan, Tupac Shakur, and Angela Davis, emphasizing their positive imprints while acknowledging their complexity. With this valuable addition to black history collections, the authors (both controversial in their own rights) continue their quest to fill the aching gaps in public awareness about African Americans and remind us that self-confidence, dignity, and excellence are the essential virtues in the great historical drama of American democracy. --Lesley Reed

The following African Americans are profiled in the book. (Thanks to Deborah Butler of Lighthouse Ministries for annotation following each name.)


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