No. of Recommendations: 8
Wow, Ed. I mean, wow.

First off, forget textbooks. History textbooks suck, are filled with inaccuracies, are blatantly Eurocentric -- even textbooks on black history tend to omit humongous portions of African history prior to European exploration of the continent -- and don't tell a fraction of the story when they do get it right. The best use for history textbooks is stoking up the old woodstove on a cold winter evening, and this is coming from someone who gets paid to read history, research history, rewrite historical articles and is seriously considering a doctorate in American History (I can hear War yelling, "No! Don't do it!").

History is not fragmented. To study the history of black people from the beginning of time is to study the entire human race, and how far do you want to go back? I'm not busting your balls here, just trying to put things in perspective. If you go all the way back, start with Pangea. What do you want to learn? Ancient Egypt is fascinating and, contrary to the Fruity Pebbles commercial (Where's Fred? Is he in Egypt? Africa?) was an African empire. So was Numidia. There were universities and hospitals in Timbuctu, the Moors influenced the cultures of Spain and Italy. Getting away from large cities, the African continent is as ethnically and culturally diverse as Europe, with an estimated 2,500 different languages and dialects. The Ibo are different from the Kikuyu, who are different from the Ashanti, who are different from the Zulu, who are different from the Masai... you get the picture.

My advice would be to pick an era and location and study it, not just from books written by historians but from primary sources. By that I mean autobiographies, diaries, newspaper articles, etc. The public library at Copley Square is a great resource, the old section, not the new one. If you have the time, take a class at your local community college. Just remember that unless you study the events happening at the same time, not just in that one area but nationally and even globally, you won't get the full picture. One warning, you are going to learn things you don't want to know. Because history is about human beings, it is messy and sometimes ugly. Our leaders were not demigods. They were not marble heroes. They made mistakes, they were products of their times, they succeeded despite their imperfections, not because they were flawless. Our ancestors did things that will make you cringe as much as they will make you proud. Read more than one source. Most importantly, keep and open mind and come to your own conclusions, and don't take it personally. I think that's a mistake a lot of people make.

One more thing, historical fiction is not fact. The author has a definite point of view and a perception of who the good guys were. Gone With The Wind gets it wrong as much as it gets it right, but untold numbers of people get their impression of Reconstruction through this book. Stories of the Wild West get it wrong more than they get it right. I guess I'm saying enjoy the story, just don't take it seriously.

I hope this helps, Ed.

Uhura :o)
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