Until fairly recently, scholars have not known very much about the everyday lives of enslaved African Americans. But in the past 20 years a wealth of historical studies has lent considerable insight into the worlds of the men, women and children held in bondage in North America. We now know a great deal about how they worked, worshiped, ate and attempted to keep their families together.
Seven years in the writing, this is a significant and comprehensive history of African Americans and their quest for recognition in the Episcopal Church. It completes a trilogy that began with George Freeman Bragg's History of the Afro-American Group (1922) and continued with Harold Lewis's Yet with a Steady Beat (1996).
This history of African Americans is a quintessentially American history. It presents the perspective of a people who have been among the most eloquent voices for and embodiments of America's cherished ideals of the essential liberty and equality of all people, the right to self-determination and the pursuit of happiness, the sanctity of individual life, and equality before the law.
When Washington Post writer Colbert King invited readers to respond to the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of African-American slaves, he got a mailbox full of opinions. “I’m all for reparations for blacks,” said one. “By the way, as a descendant of Anglo-Saxons, I’ve been deeply traumatized by what the Normans did to us in 1066. How about some for me too?”
In 1969, I dropped out of college, moved to Racine, Wisconsin, and worked for a community action program and then for a welfare rights organization. The focus of my work was tenants’ rights—helping tenants negotiate with landlords over things like rent and housing violations. Among my many indelible memories from that year was the situation of a family with six children.
For a brief moment in the early months of 2008, Americans cared about the connections between African-American religion and politics. Segments of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons were splashed all over television and computer screens.