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Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America

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"Before the Mayflower" traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey that ended in slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in an exploration of the complex realities of African-American life in the 1990s. Here is the most recent scholarship on the g "Before the Mayflower" traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey that ended in slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in an exploration of the complex realities of African-American life in the 1990s. Here is the most recent scholarship on the geographic, social, ethnic, economic, and cultural journey of "the other Americans, " together with vital portraits of black pioneers and seminal figures in the struggle for freedom, as well as additional material on historical developments in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton years.


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"Before the Mayflower" traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey that ended in slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in an exploration of the complex realities of African-American life in the 1990s. Here is the most recent scholarship on the g "Before the Mayflower" traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey that ended in slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in an exploration of the complex realities of African-American life in the 1990s. Here is the most recent scholarship on the geographic, social, ethnic, economic, and cultural journey of "the other Americans, " together with vital portraits of black pioneers and seminal figures in the struggle for freedom, as well as additional material on historical developments in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton years.

30 review for Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    When I was working on my MA with the goal to teach history in the upper grades, I expressed my frustration to my professor. I asked where I could find the actual history of Africa. Everywhere I looked (in conventional sources, such as the university library and trade journals) it said, "See Europe". I didn't WANT to read about the colonizers. But of course, when conquerors succeed in occupying another land militarily and politically, the next thing to be done is to eradicate the culture as it ex When I was working on my MA with the goal to teach history in the upper grades, I expressed my frustration to my professor. I asked where I could find the actual history of Africa. Everywhere I looked (in conventional sources, such as the university library and trade journals) it said, "See Europe". I didn't WANT to read about the colonizers. But of course, when conquerors succeed in occupying another land militarily and politically, the next thing to be done is to eradicate the culture as it exists, and to pretend there WAS no history before the conqueror arrived (aside, perhaps, from a brief reference to how bad it used to be). Mr. Bennett gives voice to Black Americans, and to the cultures they brought with them. Through impeccable research, he has uncovered history and culture that was not readily available those many years ago. This book was published and available at almost the same time I finished my degree. I found it later when I had the luxury of being able to read what I wanted, rather than that which was assigned, and have used it to some degree in home schooling my son (though it is too difficult for most high school students). Highly readable and enormously enlightening.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shila

    This is my favorite book of all time. That means that it influenced my actions. Also, I collect editions of it, so if you have one you want to let go, please send it to me. :) Thank you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    Read for one of my history courses while attending San Diego City College. This book is powerful. Spanning centuries of history, a great introduction and original text on African American History. 15 Chapters: 1. The African Past 2. Before the Mayflower 3. The Founding of Black America 4. Behind the Cotton Curtain 5. Blood on the Leaves: Revolts and Conspiracies 6. The Generation of Crises 7. Black, Blue and Gray: The Civil War Nobody Knows 8. Black Power in Dixie 9. The Life and Times of Jim Crow 10. Red Read for one of my history courses while attending San Diego City College. This book is powerful. Spanning centuries of history, a great introduction and original text on African American History. 15 Chapters: 1. The African Past 2. Before the Mayflower 3. The Founding of Black America 4. Behind the Cotton Curtain 5. Blood on the Leaves: Revolts and Conspiracies 6. The Generation of Crises 7. Black, Blue and Gray: The Civil War Nobody Knows 8. Black Power in Dixie 9. The Life and Times of Jim Crow 10. Red, White and Black: Race and Sex 11. From Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. 12. The Time of the Whale 13. The African-American Century 14. The Perseverance of the Black Spirit 15. Black America's Gifts to America and the World

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marrick

    If you are of African ancestry you have to know your history before you can put your eyes on the future, with success. This is also a very good read for anyone that is not African American but wants to explore the history of Africans in America.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This is a solid 3.5 on my scale of ratings, tipping to 4, as the mood changes. This book is a nice, solid primer for those who don't know anything about Black History ... or American History for that matter, for it is impossible to distinguish, and absurd to split hairs. It is to be noted that this book was first published in 1961, when it truly was a landmark for American culture. It has been revised at least 3 times since; and in this revision Lerone Bennett states he re-wrote many of the secti This is a solid 3.5 on my scale of ratings, tipping to 4, as the mood changes. This book is a nice, solid primer for those who don't know anything about Black History ... or American History for that matter, for it is impossible to distinguish, and absurd to split hairs. It is to be noted that this book was first published in 1961, when it truly was a landmark for American culture. It has been revised at least 3 times since; and in this revision Lerone Bennett states he re-wrote many of the sections to update it to encompass present knowledge (as opposed to the earlier editions that were 'revised' simply by making a few editorial changes.) The book is encyclopaedic: Bennett moves back in time in order to be able to deliver context, travelling as far back as history will allow and then takes it to 2007, when this last edition was printed. As one can imagine, needs must move this narrative by leaps and bounds: so one travels from 7th C BC Timbuktu to 15th century AD, in about 30 pages. A nice sweeping coverage for the uninitiated, but I was hoping for something more; something more scholarly perhaps. The other minor quibble I have with it is that Bennett relies mainly on secondary source material -- all fine and good for a survey for general consumption but leaves a mild disappointment for seeking the unadorned, unfiltered truth. It's a must-read and a fascinating overview. To be noted: the book is not quite as daunting as its 700+ pages might suggest. Only 430 or so pages of narrative, with lots of photographs to enhance the storyline; the next three hundred pages can be used as a quick reference chronology which begins in AD 1300 -- little snippets of important events that one can fly through with ease. (I think it might be quite a handy tool for high school teachers, for instance; and for those kids who prefer to get their information in Twitter-sized notes. Better to ingest it this way, than not at all, imho.) There is a nice section entitled Black Firsts -- giving voice to those moments in time when Black Americans were finally able to break through the various social and cultural prisons carved out for them. It's humbling to see life in that way: that one's merits had to be judged on the colour of the skin, and not the colours in their hearts and minds. In the end, a very quick (and informative) read from a hefty five pound book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Claude E Haywood El

    This book is a M U S T read for all! yes, it is a lil strong in its content but it all truth to how life was for a race of people whom is still classed as 2nd class! it has a real WOW factor to it but i really feel if read but our young sisters & brother today would clearly feel a lot better about themself than they do now!

  7. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Byers

    PLEASE read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Desiree

    I don't believe I haven't reviwed this book yet! Read it about 20+ years ago and Loved it!! It's basically a Black version of the history books we're given in school. My daughter's too young to read it now, but in another 10 years or so, she's definitely reading this gem. I don't believe I haven't reviwed this book yet! Read it about 20+ years ago and Loved it!! It's basically a Black version of the history books we're given in school. My daughter's too young to read it now, but in another 10 years or so, she's definitely reading this gem.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Terrance

    A must read. The chapter on Lincoln puts a lot of things into perspective and casts a new light on "The Great Emancipator" A must read. The chapter on Lincoln puts a lot of things into perspective and casts a new light on "The Great Emancipator"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    As an African American, I found this book not only very educational but also an interesting read. I expect that anyone interested in black history would enjoy it too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marion Hill

    There are some books you have known about for most of your life. However, you will finally read that book when it has determined you are ready for it. This is the case for Before The Mayflower by Lerone Bennett Jr. I have known about this book for over thirty years but had never decided to read it until now. Bennett covers the black experience in America from when the first slaves arrived in 1619 to Virginia until the Clinton presidency. My version is the 6th edition and I could tell that Bennett There are some books you have known about for most of your life. However, you will finally read that book when it has determined you are ready for it. This is the case for Before The Mayflower by Lerone Bennett Jr. I have known about this book for over thirty years but had never decided to read it until now. Bennett covers the black experience in America from when the first slaves arrived in 1619 to Virginia until the Clinton presidency. My version is the 6th edition and I could tell that Bennett added more information in each edition since the book was first published in 1962. Bennett laid out the American black experience in full detail and it took me awhile to get through this book. I had to read it in 20-30 page chunks just to get absorb all the information provided. This book revealed to me that the black experience in America is multi-dimensional and complex. I had preconceived notions about what I was going to read in the book. I was completely wrong and learned how much black people contributed to our country despite our predicament under the shackles of racism. Before The Mayflower should be taught in all high schools and colleges throughout America. It is a great and basic primer to understanding a history that does not get shared in popular culture.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    Chronicles the cohabitation of Europeans and Africans in North America and corrects misconceptions and bold face fabrications that have been perpetuated by scholars throughout american history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karthik Ramkumar

    I rarely write reviews, but this book deserves one. Given it has been more than half a century since it's writing, it is amazing to me how timeless ideas are. Also, as unfortunate as it is, how long a gap there is between ideas and progress. The book also highlights the sheer number of individuals who contribute to progress versus the simplistic hero-worship that is conventional history. It is absolutely impossible to summarize this tome, so I will share some anecdotes that particularly resonate I rarely write reviews, but this book deserves one. Given it has been more than half a century since it's writing, it is amazing to me how timeless ideas are. Also, as unfortunate as it is, how long a gap there is between ideas and progress. The book also highlights the sheer number of individuals who contribute to progress versus the simplistic hero-worship that is conventional history. It is absolutely impossible to summarize this tome, so I will share some anecdotes that particularly resonated with me (in no particular order), and the timeless ideas that stuck with me. - This line from the author - “Historians and history books are historical….. They bind time and express time and their times… “ - I thought the passing of batons and the "binding of time" across historians from different times was a very cool concept - A timeless idea that unfortunately persists. Slavery existed before European slave trade. Africans enslaved Africans and they just happened to now sell them to the Europeans. - While that did happen, it was far from the norm, and actively discouraged. Quote from a letter the King of the Congo state sent to European royalty - “we need priests and people to teach in schools, and wine and flour for the holy sacrament…. beg of you to help stop the trade in slaves or markets for slave” - The idea of connections across powerless groups - Whether it was Frederick Douglas and his connections between womens’ suffrage and Black rights or MLK and his connections across Poor people irrespective of race, the concept of allyship is a timeless one - Harriet Tubman - everything about her is incredible - Tons of data about lack of social mobility existed in 1963 and the Civil Rights argument was incredibly data-backed. It is amazing to me, that these ideas which have been proven for so long, still need to be re-proven - While there has been tremendous progress in Black contributions to Sports, Politics, Entertainment, Religion, I learned a lot about how Black America has been blocked out of business - Black-owned banks and how they have reduced over the years - In 1900, there were 200 Black-owned hospitals, in 2000, there were 3 - In 1900, 15M acres of farmland was controlled by African Americans, in 2000 that was down to 3M acres - The broad number of intellectuals who built the scaffolding that Martin Luther King helped erect. This book really talked about the broader intellectual history versus talking about one individual

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This comment is only to add corrections to the editions shown on GoodReads. My copy is the (Revised Edition) A Pelican book published by Penguin Books (14 020856 9) from 1970, with the Cover Design by Janet Halverson. (435 pages - including reference pages). I selected this one since it came closes in year in publishing date and format.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Keith Wagner

    This a great introduction, if not then the best introduction, to African American History. If you are wanting to know more about the story of African Americans this book is very readable and accurate. When I taught our school African American History class this was my text. My students liked it so much most of them went out and bought their own copies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Velicia Tillman

    Excellent resource book to have. It provides a detailed history of Black America before coming over on the Mayflower. There are many that have tried to lift up the defeats and successes of the African American. Great historical book to maintain in your home library.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elgin

    I had to read this book, since I was named after the author.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Warner

    A great Black history book

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Great Book! I have read previous versions. There are some new updates in this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

    Very detailed, and very informative. Content, in some areas, may promote anger while reading.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Thompson Burns, PhD

    A Classic! This should be on every historian's bookshelf. A Classic! This should be on every historian's bookshelf.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Reginald

    Very thorough, this book can easily be used as a sort of encyclopedia

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    This is a great resource of history. I have not read it cover to cover, but turn to it often.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dianna P.

    an incredibly influential book for me. changed my perspective on a lot. transformational.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    great read on african american history. the history of africans in america is the history of america.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    Learned some things I didn't know. Learned some things I didn't know.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adam Hall

    An engagingly written survey book of African American history. There are some sources cited in the early book that seem dubious, and some statements made that strike me as false in ways that should be especially relevant to a black history textbook. For example, Rosa Parks did not sit down in the white section of the bus on an "impulse," but rather as part of a calculated civil disobedience strategy. But overall the breadth of the book's focus and the liveliness of its prose counterbalance these An engagingly written survey book of African American history. There are some sources cited in the early book that seem dubious, and some statements made that strike me as false in ways that should be especially relevant to a black history textbook. For example, Rosa Parks did not sit down in the white section of the bus on an "impulse," but rather as part of a calculated civil disobedience strategy. But overall the breadth of the book's focus and the liveliness of its prose counterbalance these flaws.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jazalyn

    The title was a bit deceiving for me. I thought i would get a history of Africans in this land before the colonies, kind of like they came before columbus. This book is more of an overarching history of Africans in this country, contributions made in the early days and founding, ending with Martin Luther King Jr era. It had some interesting tidbits, and also stories that made you drop your jaw. Also, an interesting history of "race mixing" in this country, how white women were not an insignifica The title was a bit deceiving for me. I thought i would get a history of Africans in this land before the colonies, kind of like they came before columbus. This book is more of an overarching history of Africans in this country, contributions made in the early days and founding, ending with Martin Luther King Jr era. It had some interesting tidbits, and also stories that made you drop your jaw. Also, an interesting history of "race mixing" in this country, how white women were not an insignificant part in the matter, and how laws just couldn't keep the races apart 😏 This would be a good book to have a physical copy to refer to for specific eras in the nation's history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Izzadorable Hall

    I can’t give due justice to this very impactful epic...Read it!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Amazing book. This is truly important reading for everyone. It is not just that African American history is important because black people were around and doing things that are often ignored in the study of mainstream history; there was a constant influence on society and history, and without understanding that our comprehension of history is complete. I had worried about bias, but the start of the chapter on Lincoln and Jefferson is gracious, and there is a poetry that comes out there. This is n Amazing book. This is truly important reading for everyone. It is not just that African American history is important because black people were around and doing things that are often ignored in the study of mainstream history; there was a constant influence on society and history, and without understanding that our comprehension of history is complete. I had worried about bias, but the start of the chapter on Lincoln and Jefferson is gracious, and there is a poetry that comes out there. This is not a dry history book. Other especially beautiful segments of writing include the beginning of the chapter on Reconstruction and Bennett's writings about jazz. Not only do various jazz terms make more sense now, but it makes me want to learn more about jazz, because I can see how much more there is to it now. Showing that there is more to learn is a key function of this book. In addition to the various chapters there are handy chronological and categorical sections which allow you to see the trends in a year or time period, or pick a field of achievement. This is a great book for giving ideas on topics to study and school reports to write. Highly recommended.

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