An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States

Beacon. Nov. 2021. 280p. ISBN 9780807011683. $27.95. HIST
Mays (history, UCLA; Hip Hop Beats, Indigenous Rhymes) fills a much-needed void in the interpretation of U.S. history. The author’s background intersects both Indigenous (Saginaw Chippewa) and African American experiences. While Indigenous and Black histories are often understood as existing in different spheres, Mays challenges this assertion, contending that these two worlds share common—and often intersecting—relationships. The book explores issues in U.S. history, including settler colonialism, racist violence, and slavery. In it, readers will find lesser-quoted but tangible parts of the American past, by which Indigenous and Black people were excluded from the freedoms guaranteed to others. For instance, Jefferson, an enslaver, condemned the British government in the Declaration of Independence by claiming that the Crown had instigated the “merciless Indian” against colonizers. Mays also discusses other critical documents in early American history, such as Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. The complicated relationships between Black people and Indigenous people in the Southern United States are also carefully examined.
VERDICT Much like David Treuer’s Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, this work presents an Indigenous voice in the interpretation of U.S. history that is highly relevant to current discourse on the country’s history and present society; it will likely be much sought-after in college classrooms.
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