Amateurish historians often tell us that we must study the past to avoid repeating its mistakes. Such efforts rarely work out well. Consider the determination of the U.S. in the 1930s to avoid replicating the events of World War I or subsequent efforts to oppose communism in places like Vietnam to avoid repeating the appeasement of the 1930s.
Laurie Maffly-Kipp, by contrast, offers an unusual, complex and thoughtful approach to history. With remarkable erudition and careful analysis, she presents the lives and ideas of 19th-century African-American writers, preachers and missionaries who thought long and hard about their past.