Black AF history The un-whitewashed story of America

Michael Harriot

Book - 2023

"From acclaimed columnist and political commentator Michael Harriot, a searingly smart and bitingly hilarious retelling of American history that corrects the record and showcases the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans. America's backstory is a whitewashed mythology implanted in our collective memory. It is the story of the pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington's cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln's log cabin. It is the fantastic tale of slaves that spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and negro spirituals. It is a sugarcoated legend based on an almost true story. It should come as no surprise that the dominant narrative of American history is ...blighted with errors and oversights--after all, history books were written by white men with their perspectives at the forefront. It could even be said that the devaluation and erasure of the Black experience is as American as apple pie. In Black AF History, Michael Harriot presents a more accurate version of American history. Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story, placing Black people squarely at the center. With incisive wit, Harriot speaks hilarious truth to oppressive power, subverting conventional historical narratives with little-known stories about the experiences of Black Americans. From the African Americans who arrived before 1619 to the unenslavable bandit who inspired America's first police force, this long overdue corrective provides a revealing look into our past that is as urgent as it is necessary. For too long, we have refused to acknowledge that American history is white history. Not this one. This history is Black AF"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor New Shelf 973.00496/Harriot (NEW SHELF) Due Dec 18, 2023
New York, NY : DeySt., an imprint of William Morrow [2023]
Main Author
Michael Harriot (author)
First edition
Physical Description
426 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 386-415) and index.
  • Introduction
  • 1. Earth, Wind, and America
  • 2. The Church Fight That Started Slavery
  • 3. The World, Recentered
  • 4. Survival And Resistance: The Black American Revolution
  • 5. Drapetomaniacs: Get Free Dr Die Trying
  • 6. The Negro, Spiritual
  • 7. The Black Emancipation Proclamation: A Poem
  • 8. Construction
  • 9. Something Else
  • 10. Whites Gone Wild: Uncle Rob Explains "Separate But Equal"
  • 11. So Devilish A Fire: The Black Women Who Started The Civil Rights Movement
  • 12. The Race War III: The Conspiracy Theory That Was True
  • 13. Thug Life: The Other Civil Rights Movement
  • 14. The Great White Heist
  • 15. The Race Of Politics: Uncle Rob Explains The Two-Party System
  • 16. Homework
  • Acknowledgments
  • Works Not Cited: Black Af History Hacks
  • Endnotes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Harriot (The Situation in South Carolina), a columnist at TheGrio, offers a razor-sharp reassessment of American history. In a textbook format (including end-of-chapter quizzes and sidebars) meant to counter the "whitewashed" version of U.S. history often taught in schools, Harriot examines well-known events--including the founding of Jamestown and the growth of the Atlantic slave trade--with a focus on the experiences and contributions of Indigenous and Black people, such as enslaved West Africans' introduction of rice ("America's first edible cash crop") to South Carolina. He also resurfaces lesser-known figures, including Mustafa Azemmouri, who "explore more of the North American continent than Lewis or Clark." An enslaved African, Azemmouri survived the arduous Narváez expedition of 1527, which included a trek on foot from Florida to Mexico, and was subsequently commissioned by the king of Spain to lead his own expedition into what is now the American Southwest. Also profiled are Jemmy, the West African leader of the 1739 Stono Rebellion in Charleston, S.C., and Rosetta Tharpe, the pioneering musician and "godmother" of rock and roll. Both entertainingly colloquial and impressively erudite, this meticulous survey of the American past is an invaluable resource. Educators should take note. (Sept.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Political commentator Herriot mixes family and personal stories with street-savvy commentary into a stirring correction of U.S. history. This work mocks long-standing fabrications that have embedded traditions of white supremacy. Beginning in the 1400s with the Age of Discovery of European exploration, this book flips perspectives on standard historical details that shift the focus from Eurocentrism to the views of exploited and exterminated people of color. The book describes the United States' true origin story as a settlement on lands wrenched from Indigenous peoples. The author stresses that the U.S. became wealthy from a race-based human trafficking system that enshrined the laws of property and white supremacy, which reduced people to chattel through violence. Emphasizing Black survival and resistance, Herriot simplifies complex issues into easily understandable, digestible bites. At the end of every chapter, there are "Three Little Questions," "Key Terms," and "Activity" sections that extend teachable moments. VERDICT With blunt, entertaining, irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes laugh-out-loud statements, Herriot provocatively explains how the United States came to be and how money-focused, self-serving intentions made it what it is today. Contains important, noteworthy lessons for teen and adult readers.--Thomas J. Davis

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A vibrant retelling of American history that explodes "the whitewashed mythology enshrined in our collective memory." In his simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking debut book, journalist and cultural critic Harriot offers an impressively researched and thoughtful exploration of the African diaspora over the past 500 years. The author weaves humor and wit with history and advocacy, and he takes readers on countless edifying twists and turns that debunk myths or clarify accepted terms and conditions. Harriot is adept at reframing conventional history, showing us how the slave trade was human trafficking, plantations were "forced labor enterprises," Jim Crow was American apartheid, and lynch mobsters were serial killers and ethnic cleansers. Though pertinent historical names and events come to the forefront, forgotten players and details receive equal attention. "The Emancipation Proclamation couldn't free the slaves," he writes. "Black people freed themselves. And in doing so, they defeated the Confederacy and freed America from its most undemocratic institution." Harriot also injects appropriate modern analogies--e.g., regarding W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, "this beef was bigger than Jay-Z vs. Nas; shadier than Michael Jackson vs. Prince; more contentious than sugar vs. salt in grits." After noting Ida B. Wells' "allergy to white nonsense and patriarchy," the author later devotes an entire chapter to the women who started and contributed to the Civil Rights Movement. In a nod to family, the book is also seasoned with stories from Harriot's own life and family history, including the "Top-Secret Recipe for Aunt Phyllis's Fried Chicken." An uncle even steps in to share some of the narrating duties. Each chapter concludes with an amusing yet informative quiz, and the text includes a wide variety of digressive asides and illuminating sidebar passages--e.g., "The Difference Between Soul Food and Southern Cuisine," "The Real Wakanda." Fagbamiye's illustrations complement the text well. Fresh eyes and bold, entertaining language combine in this authoritative, essential work of U.S. history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.