Praise - American Founders by Christina Proenza-Coles
579
page-template,page-template-full_width,page-template-full_width-php,page,page-id-579,bridge-core-1.0.4,,qode-title-hidden,footer_responsive_adv,qode-content-sidebar-responsive,transparent_content,qode-theme-ver-18.0.8,qode-theme-bridge,disabled_footer_top,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.7,vc_responsive,mob-menu-slideout-over

Praise For American Founders

“A wide-ranging synthesis of the history of African influence on the Americas.

 

In this kaleidoscopic narrative, Proenza-Coles…tackles the long history of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. “In an effort to convey how events and individuals connect to larger historical forces—colonialism, revolution, republicanism, and nation building—the chapters proceed chronologically and endeavor to provide a pan-American vantage point.” In that, she succeeds, and her argument is clear and cogent: Far from being mere victims or objects of historical change, Americans of African origin have been central to the country’s history and served as active agents in pushing for their freedom and the freedom of others. She is especially solid in her discussion of the era of slavery and its impact on not only the region, but the larger world, and she uses separate sections to provide the capsule biographies of a wide sample of important individuals who shaped American life…Proenza-Coles writes clearly, her mining of her sources is impressive, and her argument is lucid…this is a useful history to supplement existing works on the African experience in the Americas. Acclaimed Civil War historian Edward L. Ayers provides the foreword.

 

Passionate history with a clear point of view.

– KIRKUS Review

“In this persuasive work, historian Proenza-Coles challenges what she calls “the simplest version of [American] popular history,” which “gives the impression that… black people stepped onto the stage of American history as plantation slaves in the 19th century and entered the political arena in the 1950s.” She shows that men and women of color “were central to the founding of the Americas, the establishment of New World nations, the dismantling of slavery, and the rise of freedom in the Americas.” She subdivides black inhabitants of the Americas into 16th-century “conquistadores,” 17th-century “colonials,” 18th-century “revolutionaries,” 19th-century “patriots and liberators,” and 20th-century “freedom fighters.” She emphasizes African-Americans’ role in shaping both their own lives and American life as a whole, and adds to the general understanding of such events as the founding of the English colony at Jamestown and the American Revolution. She presents succinct but engaging accounts of previously obscure individuals like Elizabeth Jennings Graham, who sued successfully for the desegregation of Manhattan’s streetcars in 1855, and banker and philanthropist Robert Reed Church, the first African-American millionaire in the American South. 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.”
– Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) 

“Proenza-Coles, an academic with a dual doctorate in sociology and history, takes a deep look at the many roles filled by people of African descent in North American life from the sixteenth century to the present. Africans in the New World and African Americans were not a separate population but rather people thoroughly enmeshed and active in society and essential to the growth of America on all fronts. Furthermore, as Proenza-Coles so eloquently discusses, races have long intermixed throughout the hemisphere, so that people share genealogies as well has history. She pinpoints these rich commonalities by telling the stories of dozens of individuals of color who contributed to American life as farmers, domestic workers, builders, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, bankers, business owners, inventors, artists, writers, activists, politicians, and many more occupations. She argues that rather than discuss American history in terms of racial divisions, we must define the U.S. as a land of multiculturalism in which, nonetheless, generations have had to fight to secure the equality this heritage demands. Well-researched, welcoming, and highly recommended.”
Booklist 

“Recently, a famous U.S. musician tweeted that Atlantic World slavery lasted so long because enslaved people chose it. He should have read American Founders before he pressed send. 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. Pointedly, she notes that the first court-recognized enslaved person in the future United States was also the first person to launch a legal fight against it. With an uncanny ability to tackle her subject in broad yet digestible strokes (her history of slavery begins in Mesopotamia), what Proenza-Coles does best is detail individual accounts of bravery, resistance and resilience (some well-known, others not so much) that challenge prevailing notions that black folks sat on the sidelines of American history. This is no “Forrest Gump” version of events where black people just happened to be there.  Instead, American Founders makes plain that the possibility of freedom was conceptualized and enacted by black people throughout the Americas, sometimes in conjunction with European and Native actors, but often by themselves.”

– Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Smith College, Associate Professor of History, author of Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War

“Erudite and balanced, Christina Proenza-Coles traces a complicated and arresting history with scholarly skill and finesse.  She compellingly makes the case that the story of greater America is a deeply interconnected history where people of African descent played a more comprehensive, indelible, and sweeping role than once thought.  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 freedom’s 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.”

– Ben Vinson III, George Washington University, Dean of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, author of Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico

“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 counter narrative to help guide historical change.

– Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University, Clark Chair of American Civilization, author of Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture between the World Wars

“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.”

– David Roediger, University of Kansas, Foundation Professor of American Studies, author of The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class

“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.”

– Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, and The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography

“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.”

– Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Rutgers University, Professor Emeritus of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, author of Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Instagram