To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans by Kelly and Lewis Essay

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Authors Robin. Kelley and Earl Lewis gathered nine scholars which includes Colin Palmer, Vincent Harding, Peter Wood, and Barbara Blair, in order to illustrate the 500-year African American experience, from the Middle Passage to the Million Man March. Kelley and Lewis posit that The history of African Americans is nothing less than the dramatic saga of a people attempting remake the world. They emphasize that Even when they did not succeed, the actions, thoughts, and dreams of Africans are responsible for some of the most profound economic, political, and cultural developments in the modern west.

To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans begins right off as Colin Palmer pens Without exception, the contemporary societies of North and South America and the Caribbean include people of African descent. They form the numerical majority in the Caribbean, are about one half of Brazils population and made up of a significant minority in the United States. Black Africans were bought as slaves into the Caribbean and the mainland colonies of Central and South America, first by the Spaniards and later by the Portuguese. (p.3). Palmer emphasizes that Africans gained the right to live as free people.

Soon, the pioneers were successful in throwing off the yoke of slavery through their own efforts, which set the stage for the liberation of the enslaved (p.3).

This sets the stage for the early beginnings of the African American experience such as slavery, slave rebellions, emancipation, segregation, lynchings, civil rights, and the post civil rights era. Emphasizing more on the late-20th century social issues, complete with an in-depth coverage of the attack on affirmative action and the impact of immigration, crack cocaine, and AIDS on the black community. This is indeed a good read for black American experience with eleven leading historians giving the most up-to-date and comprehensive account available of African American history

This is an insightful read on the history from the Middle Passage to the election of Maxine Waters to the House of Representatives and the death of Amadou Diallo due to the New York City police officers in 1999. To illustrate this, in a chapter on the Great Depression and WWII, William Trotter expounds on blacks who called the New Deal the raw deal and the National Recovery Act the Negro Run Around. In another light, Noralee Frankels Breaking the Chains notes that after the Civil War, numerous black farmers became landless sharecroppers under the federal programs which were created in order to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

Moreover, James R. Grossman  notes how documents on curriculum and school leadership during the early 1900s showed the different notions about black Americans and how they could attain full citizenship in a nation seemingly committed to their subordination. The different materials point not only to the what but also to the why, that is, the different reasons of the social, cultural and political events that shaped the present. It is good to note how the editors arranged a cohesive whole in order to give an intelligent introduction of the different intricacies of the history.

As African Americans coped with the challenge of equality, it should be noted that their role in American society has underscored several dramatic changes.  In meeting these challenges they had to be equipped with the right education and with that they were able to effectively articulate their concerns.

Equality in the full extent was difficult to achieve since there were highly diverse cultural groups that comprised American society, since conflicts were bound to happen.  Thus, there needed to be viable and sustainable channels where their interests were upheld based on the good of society in general. Indeed, the African slaves learned to cope well with the suffering of being someone elses property. It is good to note that they did not stop dreaming of the day when they would attain freedom.

Today, on a global perspective, one has to argue that concentrating on one specific construct to resolve the tension of the whole system is simplistic.  The transformation of the American society into a more humanistic and democratic body stresses the perspective of looking into all of the constructs involved.  With such an emphasis on totality, we note how Palmer states it in his essay that  it almost took three centuries to pass before this goal  (of freedom), would be accomplished everywhere in the Americas.

This book definitely presents the perspective of a group of persons who have been among the most eloquent voices for Americas cherished ideals of freedom and equality. Indeed, the pursuit of happiness, as well as the sanctity of individual life, and equality before the law is part of the themes that the editors want to emphasize. This makes the book To Make Our World Anew can be seen as a continuous narrative where the different time periods were written and examined. It does not stop there too. There is the emphasis on the international vision of many African-Americans. This is good to note because they have historically recognized their plight and their responsibilities in global terms.


Kelly, R and Lewis, E. To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans. Oxford University Press, 670.

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