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Praise for American Founders

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American Founders offers an extraordinary, compelling new narrative of the African role in creating the Americas of the Western Hemisphere. From hundreds of sources Christina Proenza-Coles has gathered the stories of people of African descent -- politicians, soldiers, poets, journalists, doctors, teachers, and entrepreneurs -- who laid the foundations of the New World. Briskly and vividly told, this important work illuminates both the past and the present.
In lucid and accessible prose, Proenza-Coles easily debunks the mythological thinking that imagines African descended people as voluntary participants in their own enslavement. Instead, she offers a sweeping history of African-descended people in the Americas that not only centers them in the fight for their own freedom, but also positions them as the intellectual progenitors and central actors in freedom struggles throughout the Americas.
Erudite and balanced, Christina Proenza-Coles traces a complicated and arresting history with scholarly skill and finesse. Emerging from her story is a hopeful vision of a common past that links us more than it divides. The dignity she traces builds the framework for a new understanding of freedom, and expands the pantheon of freedomís founders and its defenders in the articulation of the idea of America. Her book is a feat of synthesis and hemispheric understanding, one that refreshingly unites broad reaches of space and time.
This narrative history illuminates the myriad ways by which individuals of African descent fought for their freedom in the Americas -- through maroon communities and military service, journalism and political organization, court petitions and club movements. It can stand as a model of a new kind of hemispheric history, as defined by the slave trade and European contact, a counternarrative to help guide historical change.
To say that any work reminds us of the grand contributions to rethinking the past and the present of the late Vincent Harding risks seeming like hyperbole. But American Founders does just that, with an added hemispheric and global dimension and array of student-friendly features making it ideal for classroom use. Proenza-Coles gives us a stirring and sweeping history that shows how appreciation of the freedom struggles of African-descended people changes the whole story of national histories.
American Founders is a much needed, well researched, original contribution to studies of Africans in the Americas. The book's breadth of time and place reveals the largely unknown, indomitable, and courageous struggles for freedom of African-descended peoples and their enormous contributions to the arts and sciences and the wealth of the Americas. Most important, this book convincingly argues that we are all one, both biologically and culturally.
In this kaleidoscopic narrative, American Founders tackles the long history of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. The book shows how Americans of African origin have been central to our country's history and served as active agents in pushing for their freedom and the freedom of others. Proenza-Coles writes clearly, her mining of her sources is impressive, her argument cogent. A passionate work of history with a clear point of view.
In this persuasive work, historian Proenza-Coles challenges what she calls 'the simplest version of [American] popular history.' She emphasizes African-Americansí role in shaping both their own lives and American life as a whole and presents succinct but engaging accounts of previously obscure individuals like Elizabeth Jennings Graham, who sued successfully for the desegregation of Manhattanís streetcars in 1855. Lucid prose and straightforward structure make this easy to read, and the unearthing of so many lesser-known figures offers new perspectives to those with deeper knowledge of American history.
Expertly researched, yet thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, American Founders is a welcome and highly recommended contribution to both public and college library American History collections.