Review by Choice Review
Much of this masterful study is an expansion of Stuckey's dissertation. New is the first chapter, which alone is worth the price of the book for its insights into the emergence of African culture in North America, but also for the new light it casts on the revolutionary events surrounding Denmark Vesey's slave conspiracy in South Carolina during the 1820s. Studies of David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet, W.E.B. DuBois, and Paul Robeson (also part of the author's dissertation) have been further developed and deepened. Throughout the book, Stuckey reveals an impressive range of historical sources, published and unpublished. Yet despite its contributions, Stuckey's account is somewhat disappointing. Again and again, he resorts to argument by innuendo and reaches conclusions largely on suppositions. He admits that there is no evidence for recognition of and appreciation for African cultural values by a number of antebellum black leaders, but he insists nonetheless that they were influenced immensely by this background. Arguing on the basis of flimsy evidence of African traditional values in the black community of Princeton, New Jersey, Stuckey contends that this inheritance explains nearly every aspect of Paul Robeson's cultural outlook. Stuckey's emphasis on the dimensions of the slave culture is indeed welcome, but he often strains his evidence past the breaking point to prove his thesis. Nevertheless, the work is a unique study whose impact will long be felt. Recommended for college and university libraries.-P.S. Foner, emeritus, Lincoln University, Penn.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Thoughtful tracing of the roots of black nationalist feelings in America over several centuries. Stuckey's thesis is that African culture among black Americans from the earliest times was much higher than is generally estimated. Using anthropological evidence, he cites certain rituals, such as the Ring Shout and Circle Dance, popular in the New World, which have African antecedents. While these instances may not be as overwhelmingly conclusive as Stuckey postulates, nevertheless his book has an additional value as a historical analysis: clear portraits of the careers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson synopsize biographical material in the light of the author's reading on the subjects of black history and nationalism. Moreover, there are chapters devoted to less familiar characters in the nationalism struggle, such as David Walker and Henry Highland Garnet. Yet, perhaps predictably, Du Bois and Robeson steal the show. Robeson so revered Du Bois that when the great educator stayed briefly in his London apartment, he hung a sign on the door, W.E.B. DU BOIS SLEPT HERE. As for Robeson, his own memorable singing voice was deliberately untrained, Stuckey relates, in order to retain its special character apart from the European traditions of vocalism. If there is a flaw in Stuckey's presentation, it is that the geniality in the portraits of Robeson and Du Bois does not match up with these two men's often prickly personalities. Even their closest allies were often in argument with them. The combative element in the stories of all these ardent nationalists is an important one in evoking the atmosphere of the times. But by presenting a calm, approving portrait, Stuckey may have created an entirely too relaxed retrospective of an issue whose questions are still very much undecided. In short, an ably researched and explicated historical text, which benefits also from anthropological readings. Perhaps it's too good-natured for the argumentative figures at its center. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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