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The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrationsby Ira Berlin
Synopses & Reviews
A leading historian offers a sweeping new account of the African American experience over four centuries
Four great migrations defined the history of black people in America: the violent removal of Africans to the east coast of North America known as the Middle Passage; the relocation of one million slaves to the interior of the antebellum South; the movement of more than six million blacks to the industrial cities of the north and west a century later; and since the late 1960s, the arrival of black immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Europe. These epic migra­tions have made and remade African American life.
Ira Berlin's magisterial new account of these passages evokes both the terrible price and the moving triumphs of a people forcibly and then willingly migrating to America. In effect, Berlin rewrites the master narrative of African America, challenging the traditional presentation of a linear path of progress. He finds instead a dynamic of change in which eras of deep rootedness alternate with eras of massive move­ment, tradition giving way to innovation. The culture of black America is constantly evolving, affected by (and affecting) places as far away from one another as Biloxi, Chicago, Kingston, and Lagos. Certain to gar­ner widespread media attention, The Making of African America is a bold new account of a long and crucial chapter of American history.
"Berlin (Many Thousands Gone) offers a fresh reading of American history through the prism of the 'great migrations that made and remade African and African American life.' The first was 'the forcible deportation' of Africans to North America' in the 17th and 18th centuries, followed by their 'forced transfer' into the American interior during the 19th century. Then came the migration of the mid-20th century as African-Americans fled the South for the urban North, and the arrival of continental Africans and people of African descent from the Caribbean during the latter part of the 20th century. Berlin sees migration and the reshaping of communities to their new environments as central to the African-American experience. Movement is a matter of numbers, and Berlin provides them in detail kept fully readable by his attention to the cultural products of the shifts. In particular, he follows the church as it moves, the music as it takes on new themes, and kinship as it broadens. Berlin's careful scholarship is evidenced in his rich notes; the ordinary reader will be pleased by the fluidity and clarity of his prose." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Four great migrations defined the history of black people in America. Berlin's magisterial new account of these passages evokes both the terrible price and the moving triumphs of a people forcibly and then willingly migrating to America over four centuries.
An award-winning historian's sweeping new interpretation of the African American experience.
In this masterful account, Ira Berlin, one of the nation's most distinguished historians, offers a revolutionary-and sure to be controversial-new view of African American history. In The Making of African America, Berlin challenges the traditional presentation of a linear, progressive history from slavery to freedom. Instead, he puts forth the idea that four great migrations, between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries, lie at the heart of black American culture and its development. With an engrossing, accessible narrative, Berlin traces the transit from Africa to America, Virginia to Alabama, Biloxi to Chicago, Lagos to the Bronx, and in the process finds the essence of black American life.
About the Author
Ira Berlin is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Maryland. His many books include Slaves Without Masters, Generation of Captivity, and Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and winner of the Bancroft Prize for the best book in American history and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
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