HISTORY

African American Culture: An Encyclopedia of People, Traditions, and Customs

Greenwood. 3 vols. Jul. 2020. 1,122p. ed. by ed. by Omari L. Dyson & others. ISBN 9781440862434. $319. REF
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In his introduction to this three-volume set on Black culture, editor Dyson (peace & conflict studies, Univ. of North Carolina–Greensboro; The Black Panther Party and Transformative Pedagogy) defines culture as giving context to a group or individual’s experience; it is “the method by which an individual/group works to produce the parameters on who will be identified as us or them.” To provide a reference for that broad concept, Dyson and coeditors Judson L. Jeffries (African American & African studies, Ohio State Univ.), and Kevin L. Brooks (academic specialist for diversity and civic engagement, Residential Coll. in the Arts and Humanities, Michigan State Univ.) have assembled articles by a variety of academics and independent researchers on subjects that include from concepts, places people, movements, traditions, and historical milestones like Brown v. Board of Education. Articles are signed and arranged in alphabetical order. Though a few of the broader entries (“African Cultural Influences”) feel unsatisfactory, these are the exception and they are only the result of the attempt to compress a broad subject, rather than lack of scholarship. A bigger issue is tone, as some entries seem highly scholarly while others are aimed at a more general audience. However, this simply means that there is something for everyone. Entries are cross-referenced and feature further reading.
VERDICT Covering subjects that are frequently mentioned in contemporary discourse but not always fully explained (see, for instance, the informative entry on historically Black colleges and universities), this is a valuable resource for a wide range of readers.

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