In the fall of 1983 a group of scholars met at Purdue University for the American Historical Association Conference on the Study and Teaching of Afro-American history. This group included some of the most prominent historians and educators in their professions, and at this landmark meeting they assessed and evaluated the entire field of Afro-American history—its past, present, and future. The sponsorship of the American Historical Association officially acknowledged the coming of age of black history as a vital and respected part of American history.
The contributions of many outstanding scholars and educators make The State of Afro-American History, the proceedings of that conference, an authoritative and provocative examination of the Afro-American experience during slavery and since emancipation. Individual essays cover the ways in which black slaves shaped their environment, the forces that influenced the black urban experience in the United States, the evolution of scholarship in Afro-American history, and the merger of American and Afro-American histories. The need for movement beyond the mere integration of blacks into existing textbooks and courses and the responsibility of the Afro-American scholar to the community are treated at length, as are media representation of black history and black women’s history. The scholars are concerned with both the creation of histories and their dissemination through classrooms, texts, museums, and the popular media. Afro-American history is a relatively recent field of study, and the scholars represented in this book are only the fourth generation to pursue it. Earlier scholars have just recently gained wide recognition for their efforts. The contributors to this volume are very aware that they are living, reacting to, and shaping a history, as well as studying and teaching it. The effect of this dynamic on The State of Afro-American History is furthered by the essays’ interactive structure: various pieces build on and critique other essays.
This unique and remarkable volume will interest not only professional historians but students and secondary school teachers, school administrators, and librarians. It offers comprehensive and concise evaluations of where Afro-American history has been and is now, and suggestions for where it can go in the future.
Darlene Clark Hine is professor of history and vice-provost at Purdue University. She is the author of Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas and When the Truth is Told: A History of Black Women's Culture and Community in Indiana.
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