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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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The black American

All he knows is what he has seen on television

and what he wants to see in African people.




Books by Peter Erice Adotley Addo

How the Spider Became Bald: Folktales and Legends from West Africa  /  Talking Drums An Anthology of Poetry

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How a Black African Views 

His American Black Brothers

Cornish Rogers Interviews Peter Eric Adotley Addo


During the past decade, thousands of black Americans have become aware of, and deeply interested in, their ancestral land of Africa. With great expectations, they have sought out their separated African "brothers," only to discover that in some instances the African response was not one of unrestrained glee. Obviously, the centuries of separation have had an effect upon the relationship between American and African blacks, except among the most sensitive and militant of the "brothers."

Recently (via letter), Century Associate Editor Cornish Rogers asked Ghanaian Peter Eric Adotey Addo about this ruptured relationship and what is needed to restore it. Mr. Addo has been living in the United States more than ten years and received much of his higher education here; he presently is director of religious activities at Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina. the following is his taped response to questions put to him by Mr. Rogers.

Addo: I will not attempt here to speak for the whole of Africa or, for that matter for all Africans, for there are as many answers to the questions you have asked as there are Africans. Yet I believe that what I have to say is in many ways representative of the views of large numbers of enlightened Africans. I want to make it clear that I have not come to these conclusions overnight, but rather from years of observations and of trying to understand both Africans and their way of life and Americans and their way of life. But I am also very much aware that if someone else were to answer these questions his answers would probably be different.

Rogers: Why do Africans invariably treat black Americans more as Americans than as brothers?

Addo: This is a very interesting question indeed. it goes back to the basic differences in the sociological background and the lifestyle of the African and the American. Before the African gets to the American continent he is practically in love with his black American brothers; he wants to identify with them to the point that he evens calls them his "overseas cousins."

But I think this question presents a problem. Let me put it this way. The black American who plans to visit Africa must first of all have a proper understanding of the African way of life. Unless he prepares himself, he will come to Africa thinking that because he looks black he will be automatically accepted as a brother. What the visiting American black is not aware of is that all his actionsthe way he looks at things and the way he reacts to Africa and the African peopleare very American.

He cannot help itit comes naturally. He has internalized certain lifestyles which are completely different from those of the black African. thus you can see why the two will misunderstand each other; they are two different people brought up in two different countries, even though they may both be black. An African may see an American who looks like an African he knows, or an American may see an African who looks like a black American back home. But in reality they are total strangers to each other.

True, they are in sympathy with each other, but their images of each other are distorted by time, history, and circumstances.

There is, for instance, the simple problems of food and language. To the black American, African food will be unfamiliar and so will African language and behavior. All he knows is what he has seen on television and what he wants to see in African people. Usually he will react to an African dish just as a European will. On his part, the black African looks at his black American brother and says, "Well, he may look black, but he is something different: "He is European," or "He is American." 

Again, the black American generally expects to find in Africa the same conveniences that he has been accustomed to at home, and when he does not find them he complains. His African host does not understand such complaints. I have seen visiting black Americans going to European barber shops in Africa, rather than to black shops. Such incidents served to reinforce his host's distorted  image of the black American. generally, anyone who comes to Africa, whether he is black or white, should try to understand the culture of the people whose guest he is.

Most black Americans, being in many respects typical Americans, speak only one language, while the average African speaks his own language plus English or French. Nor will the visiting black American normally want to stay with the the African in the latter's own habitat but will rather go to the areas of the city that have been Westernized. the rank-and-file African will not understand, and you can see how this may become a problem. Also, the black American, like his white counterpart, usually sees the U.S.A. as the center of the universe, while the African is usually more international minded.

For the black Americans to be accepted, they must understand the people they are visiting. on the other hand, the host people need to understand them too.


Then there is this problem: recently I helped some 50 black American students to prepare for a summer visit to Africa. On their return I was shocked to find that most of them were much more fascinated with what they called "primitive Africa" than with the big cities and towns, the industrial part of Africa. This is understandable, but the African does not really want American blacks to return home full of ideas and impressions of "primitive people" running around naked in the rude villages. Not all Africans live in villages and not all Africans walk around naked or barefoot. What I am saying is that the black American who goes to Africa tends to find there the things and places that affirm his own subconscious negative impression of Africa. Perhaps this is due to brainwashing.

The African is a well mannered person, and there are certain things he will not do in public. Let us name just one thing that created a problem for a group of visiting students. The Africans were shocked to see them holding hands and even kissing in public may be all right in the United States, but it is wholly unacceptable in Africa, especially if students do it. The African student tends to be a little more secretive about displaying his affections. Education is a great privilege in Africa, and it is taken seriously.

I could cite many more reasons why the black American is not embraced as a brother immediately. I do believe, however, that when the two get to know each other and understand the problems inherent in each culture, they will finally appreciate each other and be able to live together.


I think it is unfair on the part on the part of the black American to expect the African to welcome him with open arms as soon as he sets foot on African soil just because he is black. The white American whose ancestors came from England or Ireland does not expect the English or the Irish to treat him as a fellow tribesman when he arrives among them; even a John Kennedy is an American visiting the land of his forbears. So it should be with the black American who goes to Africa. He is first of all an American. The only difference between him and white Americans is that his ancestors came from Africa. Let me say here, however, that I find that, usually, black Americans are able to explain democracy much more eloquently than white Americans. Africans usually find this very interesting.

Until recently most black Americans were not much interested in Africa because of what they had been told about that continenthow primitive it is, how poor and undeveloped. Now, all of a sudden, they want to go to Africa and identify with its black people. Since this is their initial attempt to get together with Africans, we must expect problems; it's not going to be just ice cream and cookies from the beginning.

As time goes by an we get to know each other, maybe both of us will change and become true friends. The important thing is for black Americans to learn the truth about Africa so that they can feel secure when they are there. They still have reservationsreservations that have been put there by years of brainwashingand these show, even when they meet friendly Africans. So often I hear people ask, "Is it safe to go?" I have heard many black American women remark that, when they have the money, they will go to Europe rather than to Africa.

It seems to me that the more they travel outside the U.S. the better will black Americans learn to understand not only themselves but their African brothers. It is only when both of us are aware of our self-identity that we will be savedwhen we both know who we are and where we stand, without having anything to hide or any reservations about the ability or the "primitiveness" of the other. 


Rogers: Do Africans feel a sense of guilt about their ancestors' complicity in the slave trade?

Addo: Emphatically no! I did not enslave anybody, and slavery was practiced by a very small minority. The role of slavery in African society was minimal. We did not have slaves in the Western sense. Our ancient processes of apprenticeship have often incorrectly been called slavery. Slavery was an institution was a method of dealing with war captives and criminals. However, as the trade became profitable in the 18th century there were Africans who exploited the masses and, for example, attacked their neighbors for the sole purpose of capturing persons who could be sold to the Europeans. But no group was permanently marked as inferior and thus destined to be slaves.

So you see why I do not personally feel any sense of guilt about the possibility that somewhere along the line my ancestors or my friends' ancestors were instrumental in providing slaves for America. Let me put it this way: in every society there will be some who exploit the masses. I'm not saying that they did the right thing. I'm not commending them. But the system of slavery in Africa was different from that practiced in the West. For example, when the Ashantis overcame another people, they would take into Ashanti territory all the skilled laborers and craftsmen among the vanquishednot as slaves, but as conquered people. 

True, these victims had to live in exile in the land of the Ashantis and work for the Ashanti empire. But in this sort of slavery there was no inferiority complex. Being a slave did not make you an inferior human being, nor did it make you and your offspring slaves forever. If you were carried off into another country, you became part of that country. The only inconvenience was that you lived in a different country; but you were free, and nobody pointed a finger at you and said, "There goes a slave." You see, slavery in the West became something bad, something dehumanizing, and it marked you for life. It was only in the U.S.A. that this sort of dehumanizing process developed. 

Rogers: What do Africans visiting the United States think of American blacks and the black power movement?

Addo: This is indeed the most difficult of your questions, because, as I said before, I cannot speak for all Africans. There are as many reactions to the movement as there are Africans. But we can narrow it down by stating that their opinions about the black power movement will depend on their own background and on where they are living in the United States.

If a black African visitor lives on the West Coast, or in or near Atlanta or Detroit or Cleveland, he'll probably be very close to the movement; but if he is in an Ivy League college he will probably be isolated from it and will know only what he reads in the papers. If the African is in a predominantly white university in the South, he will have one impression; but if he is in a predominantly black university he will have quite another. Naturally, in the predominantly black university he can mix easily. He may have his own ideas of what black power means, but circumstances will force him to go long with the students on the campus. 

On the other hand, if he is in a predominantly white university, he may be thrown into a situation where he has to make a choice. Still, when the black power flag is raised you might find him neutral, because he doesn't want to jeopardize the nice things he gets from whites. On the other hand, if he has come face to face with hatred and discrimination, if he has come close to being molested or dehumanized, he will definitely support the black power movement.

Another problem is that there is no one definition of the black power movement. To the black student on the predominantly white campus, black power may mean making sure that he gets his way or that he can stand up like a man among the whites on campus. To the student in the predominantly black university, the situation is a little different, though it may mean essentially the same thing: making sure that his school stays the way it is. Usually the demands of black power advocates relate to what is happening in the big cities. So the African visitor's attitude toward black power depends on where he is.

If by black power you mean the power of the nonwhite worldthe world that has been exploited, colonized and dehumanizedto unite in asserting its dignity and selfhood, then it is linked with the Pan-African struggle for unity on the African continent.

Source: Christian Century (September 6, 1972)

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"You do not know what it means to be black in this country," an American-born son told his African father. He was right. White America differentiates between Africans and African Americans, and Africans in the United States have generally accepted this differentiation. This differentiation, in turn, creates a divide between Africans and African Americans, with Africans acting as a buffer between black and white America.

It is with relief that some whites meet an African. And it is with equal relief that some Africans shake the hand proffered in a patronising friendship. Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian former UN secretary general, while a student in the United States, visited the South at the height of the civil rights movement. He was in need of a haircut, but this being the Jim Crow era, a white barber told him "I do not cut nigger hair." To which Kofi Annan promptly replied "I am not a nigger, I am an African." The anecdote, as narrated in Stanley Meisler's Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War, ends with him getting his hair cut.Guardian

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For July 1st through August 31st 2011


#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 14 February 2009 




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