236 : Building your Library # 6

The expansion of black studies in the United States has led to several books which touch on the black British experience. Some American leaders spent time in Britain; many influenced younger people in Africa and the Caribbean through their writings or the training available at black colleges such as Tuskegee in Alabama, Howard in Washington DC, and Hampton in coastal Virginia. Booker T. Washington was often visited by British residents. Louis B. Harlan edited the Booker T. Washington Papers, which were nicely produced. It seems that only the London Library has the full run. Harlan wrote Washington’s biography in two volumes, published by Oxford University Press, New York in hardback in 1972 (volume 1: 1856-1901) and 1983 (1901-1915) and paperback editions following in 1975 and 1986. They are available for £4 – £4.50 each. Individual volumes of the collected papers are also available, usually ex-library copies.

The Detroit-based Wayne State University has its own press, and in 1964 it published William Bittle and Gilbert Geis’s The Longest Way Home. Chief Alfred Sam’s Back-to-Africa Movement, a 220 page book. At that time the British National Archives in Kew had not opened the files of the Colonial Office (and other government departments) but that changed, and as the CO index for the Gold Coast in 1914 shows, there was considerable concern in London over the voyage of Sam’s Liberia with its black American passengers. This makes Bittle and Geis’s book in need of revision, but the story of the exodus is a somewhat overlooked aspect of black history and the book is available at £16: (plus postage from the USA).

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