The first edition of Joel Augustus Rogers's now legendary 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, published in 1934, was billed as "A Negro 'Believe It or Not.'" Rogers's little book was priceless because he was delivering enlightenment and pride, steeped in historical research, to a people too long starved on the lie that they were worth nothing. For African Americans of the Jim Crow era, Rogers's was their first black history teacher. But Rogers was not always shy about embellishing the "facts" and minimizing ambiguity; neither was he above shock journalism now and then.With lan and erudition--and with winning enthusiasm--Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives us a corrective yet loving homage to Roger's work. Relying on the latest scholarship, Gates leads us on a romp through African, diasporic, and African-American history in question-and-answer format. Among the one hundred questions: Who were Africa's first ambassadors to Europe? Who was the first black president in North America? Did Lincoln really free the slaves? Who was history's wealthiest person? What percentage of white Americans have recent African ancestry? Why did free black people living in the South before the end of the Civil War stay there? Who was the first black head of state in modern Western history? Where was the first Underground Railroad? Who was the first black American woman to be a self-made millionaire? Which black man made many of our favorite household products better? Here is a surprising, inspiring, sometimes boldly mischievous--all the while highly instructive and entertaining--compendium of historical curiosities intended to illuminate the sheer complexity and diversity of being "Negro" in the world.
(With full-color illustrations throughout.)
- ISBN-13: 9780307908711
- ISBN-10: 0307908712
- Publisher: Pantheon Books
- Publish Date: October 2017
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
- Page Count: 496
A charming, fascinating exploration
If you only know Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. as the engaging host of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” you might at first be perplexed by what he calls “the retro title” of his new work. It was, in fact, chosen in homage to a 1957 book by Joel Augustus Rogers entitled 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, which was billed at the time as a sort of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! about black history.
If Rogers was a black history teacher for the 20th century, Gates is certainly one for ours. Like Rogers, Gates aspires “to be ever curious, open, and alive,” and his writing here showcases those qualities. Rogers based his book on his newspaper columns. Likewise, Gates’ selections first appeared as essays in his online magazine The Root.
A series of 100 questions with short answers, the book is a freewheeling exploration of black history. Gates takes on questions such as “Who was the first black saint?” as well as “Who was the first black person to see the baby Jesus?” and “What happened to Argentina’s black population?” An essay about the first black fighter pilot is followed by a question about slave ownership. Topics range from sports to civil rights and the slave trade, the Civil War, piracy and even the Salem witch trials.
Gates is a historian, but he is also a consummate teacher. And one of the charms of the volume is that the essays appear in no particular order, making it ideal for dipping into at will or keeping on a bedside table to pick up before bed. But be forewarned: In the hands of a skilled storyteller like Gates, this fascinating history will definitely not put you to sleep.