Penguin announces a prestigious new series under presiding editor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Many works of history deal with the journeys of blacks in bondage from Africa to the United States along the "middle passage," but there is also a rich and little examined history of African Americans traveling in the opposite direction. In Middle Passages, award-winning historian James T. Campbell vividly recounts more than two centuries of African American journeys to Africa, including the experiences of such extraordinary figures as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou. A truly groundbreaking work, Middle Passages offers a unique perspective on African Americans' ever-evolving relationship with their ancestral homeland, as well as their complex, often painful relationship with the United States.
Historian Campbell, whose Songs of Zion (1995) traced African Methodist Episcopal Church's history and garnered multiple awards, here traces the travels and travails of diverse African-Americans-missionary, settler, journalist, tourist, immigrant-who journeyed to Africa over 200-plus years. Campbell's prologue recalls the 18th century adventures of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (a literate, Wolof-speaking Muslim brought to the U.S. as a slave, whose letter to his father eventually resulted in his return to West Africa); his book ends with the experiences of black journalists covering strife in present day Sierra Leone and Liberia. Relying heavily on traveler's journals and memoirs, Campbell revisits Africa through the eyes of such lesser-known 19th century figures as freeman and abolitionist Paul Cuffe, A.M.E. reverend Daniel Coker, and back-to-Africa nationalist Martin Delany. He also brings to life turn-of-the-20th-century figures like Charles Spencer Smith and William Sheppard. Accounts of Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, George Schuyler, Richard Wright, and Era Bell Thompson all offer lesser known details of famous lives. A bibliographic essay is particularly valuable for its breadth and judgment. Cambell uses an unexpected conceit to deliver a wealth of history.