Black Lives: Essays in African American Biography

Article excerpt

These biographical profiles of well-known and not so well-known African Americans are presented from an Afrocentric perspective. At least one essay is about a South African Black, "Bessie Head: The Idealist" by Owen G. Mordaunt. Drawing from the writings of Maulana Karenga, Conyers sets forth the Afrocentric framework as presented in this anthology:

The Afro-American national community is in fact a unity-in-itself, a community of people with a common and distinguishing history (kinship in time and space; a common and distinguishing culture (kinship in life changes and activities); and a common and distinguishing collective self-consciousness...(10).

The African Diaspora is at the same time a complex cultural mix drawn by circumstances across several continents and over a wide historical time frame.

Conyers' essay, "Maulana Karenga and Phenomenology -- An Intellectual Study," seems to set the tone for the other authors' selections. Among the African Americans profiled are Toni Morrison, Daniel "Chappie" James, and Richard Allen, founder and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. One may question to what extent the other contributors embrace the Afrocentric framework assuming there is even a loose consensus on Afrocentrism or Eurocentrism for that matter. Setting aside the matter of that broad subject, this reviewer found the following selections highly informative: Calvin McClinton's "Vinnette Carroll: African American Director and Playwright"; Gloria T. Randle's "Ourlaw Women and Toni Morrison's Communities"; and Owen G. Mordaunt's "Bessie Head-The Idealist. …