American founders How people of African descent established freedom in the new world

Christina Proenza-Coles

Book - 2019

"American Founders reveals men and women of African descent as key protagonists in the story of American democracy. It chronicles how black people developed and defended New World settlements, undermined slavery, and championed freedom throughout the hemisphere from the sixteenth thorough the twentieth centuries. While conventional history tends to reduce the roles of African Americans to antebellum slavery and the civil rights movement, in reality African residents preceded the English by a century and arrived in the Americas in numbers that far exceeded European migrants up until 1820. Afro-Americans were omnipresent in the founding and advancement of the Americas, and recurrently outnumbered Europeans at many times and places, from ...colonial Peru to antebellum Virginia. African-descended people contributed to every facet of American history as explorers, conquistadores, settlers, soldiers, sailors, servants, slaves, rebels, leaders, lawyers, litigants, laborers, artisans, artists, activists, translators, teachers, doctors, nurses, inventors, investors, merchants, mathematicians, scientists, scholars, engineers, entrepreneurs, generals, cowboys, pirates, professors, politicians, priests, poets, and presidents. The multitude of events and mixed-race individuals included in the book underscores that black and white Americans share the same history, and in many cases, the same ancestry. American Founders is meant to celebrate this shared heritage and strengthen these bonds."

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Montgomery, AL : NewSouth Books [2019]
Main Author
Christina Proenza-Coles (author)
Other Authors
Edward L. Ayers, 1953- (writer of foreword)
Physical Description
xxxiii, 362 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 301-329) and index.
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Rise of Atlantic Slavery in a World Historical Context
  • 2. Sixteenth-Century Afro-American Conquistadores
  • 3. Seventeenth-Century Afro-American Colonials
  • 4. Eighteenth-Century Afro-American Revolutionaries
  • 5. Nineteenth-Century Afro-American Patriots and Liberators
  • 6. Nineteenth-Century Afro-American Nationals
  • 7. Twentieth-Century Afro-American Freedom Fighters
  • Conclusion: New World History
  • Appendix: Eighteenth-Century Uprisings for Freedom
  • Bibliography
  • Sources of Illustrations
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Proenza-Coles, an academic with a dual doctorate in sociology and history, takes a deep look at the many roles filled by people of African descent in North American life from the sixteenth century to the present. Africans in the New World and African Americans were not a separate population but rather people thoroughly enmeshed and active in society and essential to the growth of America on all fronts. Furthermore, as Proenza-Coles so eloquently discusses, races have long intermixed throughout the hemisphere, so that people share genealogies as well has history. She pinpoints these rich commonalities by telling the stories of dozens of individuals of color who contributed to American life as farmers, domestic workers, builders, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, bankers, business owners, inventors, artists, writers, activists, politicians, and many more occupations. She argues that rather than discuss American history in terms of racial divisions, we must define the U.S. as a land of multiculturalism in which, nonetheless, generations have had to fight to secure the equality this heritage demands. Well-researched, welcoming, and highly recommended.--Jennifer Johnson Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this persuasive work, historian Proenza-Coles challenges what she calls "the simplest version of [American] popular history," which "gives the impression that... black people stepped onto the stage of American history as plantation slaves in the 19th century and entered the political arena in the 1950s." She shows that men and women of color "were central to the founding of the Americas, the establishment of New World nations, the dismantling of slavery, and the rise of freedom in the Americas." She subdivides black inhabitants of the Americas into 16th-century "conquistadores," 17th-century "colonials," 18th-century "revolutionaries," 19th-century "patriots and liberators," and 20th-century "freedom fighters." She emphasizes African-Americans' role in shaping both their own lives and American life as a whole, and adds to the general understanding of such events as the founding of the English colony at Jamestown and the American Revolution. She presents succinct but engaging accounts of previously obscure individuals like Elizabeth Jennings Graham, who sued successfully for the desegregation of Manhattan's streetcars in 1855, and banker and philanthropist Robert Reed Church, the first African-American millionaire in the American South. Lucid prose and straightforward structure make this easy to read, and the unearthing of so many lesser-known figures offers new perspectives to those with deeper knowledge of American history. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A wide-ranging synthesis of the history of African influence on the Americas.In this kaleidoscopic narrative, Proenza-Coles (co-editor: Political Power and Social Theory, Volume 19, 2008), who has a dual doctorate in sociology and history, tackles the long history of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. "In an effort to convey how events and individuals connect to larger historical forcescolonialism, revolution, republicanism, and nation buildingthe chapters proceed chronologically and endeavor to provide a pan-American vantage point." In that, she succeeds, and her argument is clear and cogent: Far from being mere victims or objects of historical change, Americans of African origin have been central to the country's history and served as active agents in pushing for their freedom and the freedom of others. She is especially solid in her discussion of the era of slavery and its impact on not only the region, but the larger world, and she uses separate sections to provide the capsule biographies of a wide sample of important individuals who shaped American life. Drawn from a sizable range of secondary sources, the book is something of a mixturenot quite scholarly tome, not quite popular history, not quite reference workbut Proenza-Coles writes clearly, her mining of her sources is impressive, and her argument is lucid. She is much stronger on the centuries prior to the Civil War than on the 20th century and beyond. While the timelines that cap each chapter are helpful in keeping track of the many events and milestones she discusses, the endnotes at the end of the chapters would work better as either footnotes or endnotes at the back of the book. Nonetheless, this is a useful history to supplement existing works on the African experience in the Americas. Acclaimed Civil War historian Edward L. Ayers provides the foreword.Passionate history with a clear point of view. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Christina Proenza-Coles has written a remarkable book. It combines one of the oldest traditions in histories of people of African descent with the newest advances in scholarship. The combination is powerful. American Founders, in the older tradition, establishes people in places where they have been excluded from our understanding. We are introduced to African conquistadores and gentlemen painted in striking portraits in Ecuador in 1599, to black landowners and settlers in Manhattan and Virginia, to African American scientists, writers, and political leaders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The portrayals exert a powerful cumulative effect, giving faces and names and histories to people too often reduced to generalizations and abstractions, to passive roles in other people's histories. In this way, Proenza-Coles sustains a proud and useful legacy.Even as it draws on that older tradition, American Founders mines the last several decades of scholarship, in which the geographic and chronological range of history has expanded exponentially. By building on histories of the ancient world and the modern Atlantic world, Proenza-Coles shows that Africa and Africans helped shape global history at every turn. The continent and its peoples appear in the great dramas of world history, from war and conquest to music and literature. The two perspectives in American Founders intersect with particular power in the history of United States. Proenza-Coles's hemispheric vision reveals surprises for North American history, as when she points out that maroons established the first settlement on the continent in Georgia eighty years before Jamestown and that in Virginia the first legal case contesting the legal boundaries of permanent servitude was waged between an owner and an enslaved man, both of African ancestry. Proenza-Coles focuses ever more intently on the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the cumulative force of her story lays a historical understanding for the black freedom struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. That moral revolution of the United States becomes comprehensible in a new way after reading American Founders, for we understand just how deep the roots extend into the history of the nation, the continent, the hemisphere, and the world. Thanks to this book, we can see the largest patterns of history embodied in the lives of individuals with accomplishments born of their particular time in history. We see that American genealogies weave together, that the conventional divisions of history into racial and regional categories artificially separate our story. That perspective, at once broad and humane, is a rare gift. Excerpted from American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World by Christina Proenza-Coles All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.