Wonders of the African World

by Henry Louis Gates

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | January 16, 2001 | Trade Paperback

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The Companion Volume to the PBS Television Series

Wonders of the African World is an exuberant, visually stunning journey across Africa and through the history of its glorious but forgotten civilizations.

Traveling by camel, by dhow, by Land Cruiser, and on foot, the renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., takes us to twelve countries in search of Africa''s magnificent past, the now neglected civilizations that in their day were as grand and sophisticated as any on the face of the earth. From Nubia''s ancient empire, which for a time ruled Egypt and centuries before had established the earliest known African city, to the fabled town of Timbuktu, where during the medieval period there thrived a center of scholars that rivaled any in Europe and where books were as prized as gold, to Ethiopia''s Christian kingdom, where the Lost Ark of the Covenant is said to reside under perpetual vigil, Gates reveals an Africa little known to Westerners. And as he shows us the achievements that exploiters of the continent have ignored or denied for centuries, he introduces us as well to the fascinating variety of modern-day Africans, many of whom are descended from the great peoples who built Africa''s most formidable cultures, including the Asante, the Swahili, the Tuareg, and the Shona.

As Gates''s compelling narrative shows, the continent''s past continues to be felt in the lives of many Africans today. And in America for the descendants of those brought here as slaves, that past has been a controversial inheritance, passionately embraced by some, fiercely rejected by others. For this reason, Gates''s deeply personal account of discovery is charged throughout by a question posed by Countee Cullen in his 1925 poem "Heritage" and perennially asked by African Americans: What is Africa to me? Finally, though, it is the wisdom of this book that the legacy of Africa, no less than that of Greece or Rome, belongs to all the world''s civilized peoples.

Illustrated with spectacular full-page photographs specially commissioned from the internationally acclaimed Lynn Davis, Wonders of the African World is Africa as we have never known or seen it before.

With 66 photographs by Lynn Davis, 132 illustrations in black-and-white and full color, and 7 full-color maps

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 pages, 9.91 × 10.08 × 0.77 in

Published: January 16, 2001

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375709487

ISBN - 13: 9780375709487

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– More About This Product –

Wonders of the African World

by Henry Louis Gates

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 pages, 9.91 × 10.08 × 0.77 in

Published: January 16, 2001

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375709487

ISBN - 13: 9780375709487

Read from the Book

So, Daddy, what in the world am I supposed to have in common with them?" my younger daughter, Liza, shouted at me within the confines of our suffocating train cabin, furnished by the BBC and Zambia National Railways. It was more a cry of frustration than anger. In 1994, we were on a 3,000-mile train trip, filming an episode of Great Railway Journeys for the BBC and PBS. "Nothing!" her older sister, Maggie, responded on my behalf, hoping to preempt any possible response premised on our commonality of ancestors, of black skin, thick lips, or kinky hair. "They live in mud huts," she continued, "they are covered with dust, their clothes are ragged . . . they don''t even wear shoes!" What do we have in common? I allowed myself to wonder in silence, seeking to avoid the smug intensity of my daughters'' gaze as they dared me to try to think of a convincing response, even while some part of them might have been desperately hoping that I could. As I sat there, amused at my daughters'' honesty, despairing to think of a clever one-liner that would deflect the enormous challenge of their question, these couplets from Countee Cullen''s "Heritage," standard in black literary anthologies, kept dancing through my mind: What is Africa to me? Copper sun or scarlet sea, . . . Africa? A book one thumbs Listlessly, till slumber comes. And then that curiously ridiculous refrain: Spicy grove, cinnamon tree, What is Africa to me? I had never really apprec
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From the Publisher

The Companion Volume to the PBS Television Series

Wonders of the African World is an exuberant, visually stunning journey across Africa and through the history of its glorious but forgotten civilizations.

Traveling by camel, by dhow, by Land Cruiser, and on foot, the renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., takes us to twelve countries in search of Africa''s magnificent past, the now neglected civilizations that in their day were as grand and sophisticated as any on the face of the earth. From Nubia''s ancient empire, which for a time ruled Egypt and centuries before had established the earliest known African city, to the fabled town of Timbuktu, where during the medieval period there thrived a center of scholars that rivaled any in Europe and where books were as prized as gold, to Ethiopia''s Christian kingdom, where the Lost Ark of the Covenant is said to reside under perpetual vigil, Gates reveals an Africa little known to Westerners. And as he shows us the achievements that exploiters of the continent have ignored or denied for centuries, he introduces us as well to the fascinating variety of modern-day Africans, many of whom are descended from the great peoples who built Africa''s most formidable cultures, including the Asante, the Swahili, the Tuareg, and the Shona.

As Gates''s compelling narrative shows, the continent''s past continues to be felt in the lives of many Africans today. And in America for the descendants of those brought here as slaves, that past has been a controversial inheritance, passionately embraced by some, fiercely rejected by others. For this reason, Gates''s deeply personal account of discovery is charged throughout by a question posed by Countee Cullen in his 1925 poem "Heritage" and perennially asked by African Americans: What is Africa to me? Finally, though, it is the wisdom of this book that the legacy of Africa, no less than that of Greece or Rome, belongs to all the world''s civilized peoples.

Illustrated with spectacular full-page photographs specially commissioned from the internationally acclaimed Lynn Davis, Wonders of the African World is Africa as we have never known or seen it before.

With 66 photographs by Lynn Davis, 132 illustrations in black-and-white and full color, and 7 full-color maps

About the Author

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities and the chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University. The author of seven previous books, including the widely acclaimed memoir Colored People, Professor Gates has also edited several anthologies and is coeditor with Kwame Anthony Appiah of Encarta Africana, an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora. An influential cultural critic, he is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and other publications and is the recipient of many honors, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the National Humanities Medal.

Lynn Davis has won international acclaim for her photographs of sacred sights and landscapes all over the world. She has had thirty-two one-person exhibitions and is represented in numerous private and public collections. Born in Minneapolis, she lives in New York City; Hudson, New York; and Nova Scotia.

Editorial Reviews

"In a fascinating, personal account, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., shows us the glories of Africa and explains why African-Americans have for so long been both fascinated and repelled by the great continent."

-- Marion Wright Edelman

"This is more than a book about Africa. It is a study in black America''s profound ambivalence about our shared ancestral continent. Caught between a distaste for Africa within his own family and his abiding love for and fascination with Africa, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., traverses the continent with a keen eye, a brilliat mind, and an ambivalent heart."

-- Ali Mazrui, State University of New York at Binghampton

"From Ethiopia to Nubia, from Swahili country to West Africa, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., takes us on a fascinating journey, teaching us about the great civilizations we do not know well enough and making us reconsider the Africa we thought we already understood."

-- Reverend Jesse Jackson
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