Academic journal article African Studies Review

Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora

Article excerpt

Michael A. Gomez. Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. New Approaches to African History. 236 pp. Maps. Figures. Notes. Suggestions for Further Reading. Index. $55.00. Cloth. $19.99. Paper.

With Reversing Sail, Michael Gomez has managed to strike the ideal balance for a textbook. The book is packed with relevant information for students of the diaspora and also is very clearly written. More important, at key moments Gomez raises important points for further study in a way that will stimulate those students who are inclined to deepen their knowledge of the subject.

What first meets the eye about Reversing Sail is its small size. The book has a total length of 236 pages, including text, bibliography, and index. Nevertheless, Gomez manages to outline the entire history of the African diaspora on every continent with a sizeable population of African origin. At the beginning, of course, Gomez deals with Egypt and the various civilizations of the Nile Valley. In this section, he identifies and explains the main ideas of Afrocentric writers while still providing a space for alternative interpretations of that early history. His section on Africans and the Bible is also very important, given the centrality of Christianity and Christian imagery to so many diaspora cultures.

As he promises in his introduction, Gomez manages to tie this expansive study together by returning to several themes throughout the text. Since Africa is the source of the diaspora, he often demonstrates how a given practice reflected the application of African cultural elements to a new environment. This is especially evident in part 2 of the book, "'New' World Realities." Here he shows the varying degrees to which African culture expressed itself in the emerging religious, political, and material world of African immigrants to various parts of the Western Hemisphere. …

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