The Afropaedia

by | Mar 20, 1998

In 1909 W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1896), proposed the ambitious scheme for an Encyclopedia Africana. For more than eighty years, this has remained a dream. Now, at last, two important developments have made it possible to turn Du Bois’s dream into a reality. First, and most important, is the vast explosion of information about black culture that has occurred since the birth of Black Studies in the 1960s. Scholars are well on their way in the process of reassembling knowledge of the history, cultures, belief systems, and the political, economic, and social institutions created by persons of African descent in Africa and the New World. In the late twentieth-century it is finally possible to do for African and African-American cultures what the enlightenment encyclopedias (pre-eminently the Encyclopedia Britannica) began to do for Europe’s rich cultural heritage two centuries ago.

The second development is the new multimedia technology that the personal computer revolution has made possible. Scholars and students have, finally, a technology that can explore and explain the expressive features the music and dance, the art and movies, and the literature and oral traditions that are the heart of the cultural achievements of people of African descent.

The Afropedia is co-edited by Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In its final form, it will be a comprehensive digital and print collection of information about black history and culture in Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. The Afropaedia will appear both in print and CD-ROM form for publication in late 1998.

Spring 1998

 

Francisco Ortega, the subject editor of the Latin American and Caribbean section of the Afropaedia, seeks qualified academic writers to prepare articles on such subjects as Religious Syncretism in Latin America and the Caribbean, Food in Latin America and the Caribbean, Blacks and the Military, Sports in Latin America, Anti-Slavery Literature, and specific country topics. Contact: 491-2226 or e-mail, «fortega@fas.harvard. edu>.

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