March 18, 2007

African American History for Dummies

I noticed that CBS shared the major for basketball players in the Florida v. Ohio State championship game. One of the seniors on Ohio State is graduating with a degree in African American Studies. It turns out that there are more than 250 colleges offering undergraduate degrees in African American studies. It is nice to see that the discipline of a college curriculum is available for those students with an interest in African American history and culture.

For the rest of us a new book is coming out this month simply entitled, African American History for Dummies (Wiley; April 2007; 432 pages).

The history covered in this book spans from Africa before the transatlantic slave trade, slavery, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and Hurricane Katrina to historical figures, pivotal events, momentous court cases and key cultural contributions. African American History For Dummies is a plain-English guide that helps people get a handle on the African American experience over the last four centuries. The book was put together by Ronda Racha Penrice, a freelance writer and African American history enthusiast living in Chicago, IL.

All villagers are invited to share some unknown aspect of their history here under the baobob tree if you have the inclination to do so. For example, I'll share that my maternal grandfather is renowned for his work in the legal system as an attorney, judge, city counsel and congressman. However, my paternal grandfather is a hero as well. He put eight kids (including my Dad) through college while working as a hotel bellman.

Each of us creates history every day with our action, deeds and words. Most of us simply don't have OURstory documented anywhere. What piece of undocumented history in your life or times would you like to share with your fellow villagers? What say u?


Paris David said...

That would be really cool to read.

I wonder what kind of jobs these folks go on to get who obtain degrees in African-American studies...


credo said...

great post and comment

Dangerfield said...

Yo Villager good post also I enjoyed your post with the Clip from Sean Hannity featuring Eric Rush (What a Jack Ass), anyway I will check out this book the next time I go to the book store.

I am currently working on a black history audio web site. Please check it out at it is rough presently but I am working on that you will be able to see a difference in the quality on a weekly bases thank you enjoyed your post.

Von Doane said...

Villager, I thank you for the invitation to the Electronic Village and to participate in this lively discussion. I believe, this is an excellent awareness post. Because it gives people of African American descent and culture an opportunity to acknowledge our history and document the oral stories and untold history of members in our African American families.

However, I am not keen on the tittle of the book "African American History for Dummies". I consider myself to be a highly intelligent African Native American. I have had a natural curiosity about my family's history... both my African and Native cultural my entire life.

The tittle of this book disturbs me because it makes an untrue assumption that I or others interested in African American History know nothing...

Before I can even open the book the tittle speaks DOWN to me... it insults me. The tittle totally negates that I have any African American history or cultural knowledge as a reader... & / or about "Who I Am". I would never buy this book... because it blatantly insults me.

Anonymous said...

I won't knock the dummies book (though I too cringe at the title), but I think everyone enrolled in college should take an African-American History course- even if it's as an elective. The class discussions and engagement is priceless. No single book can compare. One of the reasons I'll never regret going to an HBCU...

Onto my personal father lives the true American dream- raised in one Chicago housing project bedroom with 10 brothers and sisters, found his way to Nashville and pushed down the door into college and med school. Success summed up in one sentence...

Unknown said...

Paula - I figure that the brother that I saw in the NCAA championship game will have a career in sports [smile]. My grandfather majored in history and he took that degree to law school. Perhaps that is what many of the African Studies majors are doing as well.

Credo - Asante sana!

Mark - I appreciate you making the voyage to our village for the first time. I hope that you find reason to come back again in the future. Your Black History Audio Journal has a wealth of information. Very well done!

Vondoane - Thank you for visiting the Electronic Village. I wouldn't sweat the title. There are dozens of "...for Dummies" books. It is like Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew ... it is the hook that the publishers have used for many years to present primers on a particular subject. The author is a sister and hopefully the content is relevant.

Kimberly - Thank you for the personal OURstory illumination! 10 in one bedroom?!? Coming out of that situation is indeed success!

Happy Easter all!

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting info about my book. I wanted to address some folks' concern. For Dummies is a series, with everything from Guitar For Dummies and Windows For Dummies to Debt Management For Dummies and Sex For Dummies. The books don't assume that the reader is dumb at all but rather that the reader is seeking to find out more information on a subject. Therefore, the books break down huge chunks of history into smaller more digestable pieces of information that are written in a down-to-earth tone. The book comes out April 30 and spans from Africa before the slave trade to Hurricane Katrina in the first 10 chapters and then breaks off into specific areas such as religion, music, sports, literature, etc for chapters 11-18. The book has 21 chapters in all. I am indeed Black, from Chicago's South Side with strong roots in Mississippi where I also lived. Currently I live in Atlanta but have lived in New York and Los Angeles as well. I don't want to go on forever but again I thank Wayne Hicks for posting my book cover and appreciate people taking time to comment. Peace & Love!!

Benin said...


Great post. I find it uplifting than someone took the time to do this. With all that Americans of African descent face here in America, it makes me feel good to know that someone is putting in the work to help us understand our history a little bit better.

As far as my family tree, I don't know much about my mother's side of the family beyond her mother. This was the turbulent side of my family, you know.

But on my father's side I know a wealth of information..Like that our first ancestor from Africa came from Ghana and her name was Tutta. And she had a daugther named Essie who had children by the plantation owner, whose last name was Woods. My father did the nitty gritty researh on it when most of our family elders were still alive to tell the stories and then he put it on paper and also on a family tree. Besides him getting the 411 from the older ones in the family, we were fortunate that from Tutta on down almost all of our ancestors, even my grandmother were all buried on the same plot in S. Carolina.
So when my Dad saw those African sounding names with late 1700's and early 1800's dates he asked the elders what they knew about them. And then when we went to Ghana he was able to do the other half of the research.

Our family is really fortunate to have this knowledge. It inspires me almost every single day.

Thanks Villager for the invitation to do this on your blog. You're ahead of your time. By the way, I am not sure whether you have made the trek to Africa yet, but if you havent I kknow that you will. If you ever have questions about where to go, you can always ask me, anytime!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I may have to look into getting the book. Any book that highlights Black History is cool with me.

Unknown said...

Theo - Meda wo ase

Benin - Meda wo ase. I have not been to Africa yet. I do wish to go at some point in my life. We have traced my mother's side of the family to arrival in the Delaware area of United States. No idea which in Africa we may be from originally. In any case, Meda wo ase ... for sharing your story. You have every reason to be proud of your roots.

Ronda - Meda wo ase. I'm learning different ways to say 'thank you'. I am very excited to see the author of the book here online. Perhaps one day I will be able to meet you when you go on your book tour! I hope that you will consider coming back to our Electronic Village in the future. Have you thought of writing a blog yourself?

Tisha! said...

Sorry I'm a curious creature, what does "Meda wo ase" mean?

I much enjoyed reading this post and great idea to share stories!

My great great grandfather a protestant fled France as his family was persecuted by Catholics and settled in Puerto Rico.


Unknown said...

Tisha - Moving from France to Puerto Rico seems unusual. I can't imagine many people in Puerto Rico speaking french! Do you still have family on those islands?

Meda wo ase is the Asante phrase for 'thank you'. This is language spoken in Ghana. I looked it up in honor of Benin.

peace, Villager

Benin said...


Thanks for that.. I hadn't heard that in a long time!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for informing us about African American History for Dummies. I will use this book for my mentoring program

Unknown said...

Benin - What book are you reading at the moment?

Native Son - What age protegee's are you mentoring?


Unknown said...

Forgive me for not posting before now. Unfortunately Dummies doesn't typically tour its authors but I am being approached by various folks so you never know when I will hit a city near you. I've personally lived in about six to seven different cities, including Chicago, New York, L.A. and Atlanta. Drop into my myspace page from time to time, to get updates. Thanks again for your support. It really does mean a lot.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the title. All the books in the series are labeled 'for Dummies'. I would actually like something like this, even as a gift for someone else. I never had African history in school and I would like to have just a general overview of everything so that atleast I know the basics. I went to the library and either books are on specific time periods (e.g., civil rights, ancient Egypt, etc.) or they are huge multiple book encylopedias that can not be removed from the library. It would be good to have a general textbook about everything. It really bothers me that I don't know many African leaders, the history of the Carribbean, and so many people and events in African diaspora history. It makes me feel so ignorant so I want to know more. What I have read so far makes me feel so much more confident because now I know the truth about things that happened and that we did have great civilizations, leaders, and histories.

Anonymous said...

Oh as for the personal history...I don't know any of it. I don't even know who my great grandparents were. No one talked about history in my family.

Unknown said...

Ronda - Have you decided on whether or not to have the book tour to promote this book?

Bronze Trinity - You are great with computers ... you may want to consider being the one to document the genealogy of your family. Talk with your parents, aunts, uncles. I stayed overnight with my great-aunt once on a trip from LA-to-Detroit. We stayed up all night listening to her tell stories of her family from way back in the day. I took notes and that began my journey into documenting my family history.

Unknown said...

Anyone want to share a Black history fact with us today?