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Review: Black Africans and Native Americans by Jack D. Forbes

27 April 2014

Cross-posted from The Molinist.
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Cover of the second editionThis is less a review than a recommendation, since Jack Forbes’ impressive, if occasionally problematic, book on American-African contact and relations in the early modern period was first published in 1988. Dated or no, Forbes’ seminal contribution to a still under-reasearched and under-published on field remains a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in or studying European colonialism and slavery in the Americas.

The now-deceased Jack D. Forbes was a pioneering Native American scholar (of the Powhatan-Renapé, if I’m not mistaken) and founding member of the Native American Movement (also known as red power) who studied early modern social history from the perspectives of American natives, black slaves, and racially mixed populations. Though his particular focus, here as elsewhere in his work, is on the experiences of native American populations, the histories of other enslaved and marginalised communities were also a significant portion of his work, particularly as they relate to, inform, and are informed by those of American native communities.

Though (Black) Africans and Native Americans [1]is ostensibly about contact between Americans [2] and Africans, rather than either group’s contact with Europeans, the definitively-known history of that contact is of one primarily mediated by European colonialism, therefore, though Forbes goes into far, far more detail than most about pre-colonial American-African contacts (as well as pre-Columbian European-American and European-African [aside the northern Maghreb, of course] contacts), most of the work focusses on European-mediated-but-shared experiences of slavery and servitude, though also going into detail about later, non-mediated contacts and relationships…

Continued at The Molinist.

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