These essays contribute to the debate between those who believe that the African origin of blacks in western society is central to their identity and outlook and those who deny that proposition. The contributors ponder the key questions underlying that controversy. Their 33 essays are divided into five main parts: The Diaspora: Orientation and Determinations; Addressing the Constraints; Race, Gender, and Image; Creativity, Spirituality, and Identity; and Reconnecting with Africa.
Contributors include Niyi Afolabi, Adetayo Alabi, Celia M. Azevedo, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Eliana Guerreiro Ramos Bennett, LeGrace Benson, Ira Kincade Blake, Jack S. Blocker, Jr., Sharon Aneta Bryant, Michael J. C. Echeruo, Peter P. Ekeh, Patience Elabor-Idemudia, David Evans, Robert Elliot Fox, Andrea Frohne, Joseph E. Inikori, Joyce Ann Joyce, Joseph McLaren, Charles Martin, Ali A. Mazrui, Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure, Nkiru Nzegwu, Isidore Okpewho, Oyekan Owomoyela, Laura J. Pires-Hester, Richard Price, Sally Price, Jean Rahier, Sandra L. Richards, Elliott P. Skinner, Alvin B. Tillery, Jr., Keith Q. Warner, Maureen Warner-Lewis, and Kimberly Welch.
The editorial goal of this collection, gathered from papers of a 1996 conference, is to deepen understanding of how transplanted African populations (and their descendants) interacted with the physical, cultural, and intellectual environment of the New World. This goal mandates an assessment of the survival of African origins—an ongoing debate between the Essentialist school (a strong and continuous African presence) and those advocating a more syncretic viewpoint (an African presence more mutable and interactive with the new environment).
The papers present both views and draw their evidence from a variety of disciplines: art, music, literature, linguistics, history, and sociology. The thematic grouping of the papers (e.g., Race, Gender, and Image), coupled with an introduction that succeeds in the difficult task of connecting most of the presentations, makes intelligible the variety of approaches and views. Undergraduate instructors in African American history and sociology can assign selected papers to illustrate methodology and stimulate discussion. History students, for example, will profit from Joseph E. Inikori’s comments on the dangers inherent in applying the word slavery to the subject peoples of Africa. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
—R. T. Ingoglia, Felician College, Choice, February 2000