African American Lives

Title: African American Lives
Published by: Oxford University Press
ISBN13: 0-19-516024-X
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBoundOdyssey Bookshop


African American Lives offers a breathtaking range of African-American history through hundreds of poignant biographies. Drawing from the immediacy of individual experience, each uniquely stirring account reaffirms the significance of a familiar hero or restores the luster to a life long forgotten. Inspiring, enchanting, and provocative, African American Lives is peerless in its ambition.

From Esteban, the earliest known African to set foot in North America in 1528 right up to the continuing careers of Venus and Serena Williams, these stories of the renowned and the unsung give us a new view of American history. Selected from over five thousand entries in the forthcoming eight-volume African American National Biography, the subjects include slaves and abolitionists, writers, politicians, and business people, musicians and dancers, artists and athletes, victims of injustice, and the lawyers, journalists, and civil rights leaders who gave them voice. Their experiences and accomplishments combine to expose the powerful and complex role of race in America’s past and present.

The first book of its kind since 1982 Dictionary of American Negro Biography, African American Lives leads us into a new era of African American biographical scholarship. In collaboration with Oxford University Press and the American Council of Learned Societies, and with contributions from over four hundred scholars and experts in many fields, the editors and their staff at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University have collected in this single volume the lives of many of the most important and most interesting names in African American history.

In African American Lives, Martha Ackmann profiles astronaut Mae Jemison and baseball pioneer Toni Stone. The book is edited by Henry Louis Gates, JR, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities, Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies, and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

Critical Acclaim

“This substantial compilation offers thorough, accessible biographies of 611 African-Americans over more than four centuries, beginning with Esteban, the first African known to have set foot in North America, up through writers, academics, artists, activists and more of today. The 1,000 entries are generally well-written, even lyrical, and balanced. . .This documenting of major power and achievement will undoubtedly be a standard reference work.”
Publishers Weekly

“This sampler profiles more than 600 men and women, from Esteban to Tupac Shakur…. As relatively few of the subjects here are still living, this resource has a distinctly historical bent–but the scholarship is current, the approach is incisively analytical, and the writing is anything but dry: an exciting, and affordable, new resource.”
John Peters, New York Public Library



Cambridge Forum