Life Upon These Shores

Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 chronicles the African American contribution to America, beginning with the first Africans to reach these shores—thirty Africans, as part of Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s “expedition, which “discovered” the Pacific Ocean in 1513—and concluding with Barak Obama’s inauguration.

The author about the book in his own words:

“ranges from the exploration of the New World and the long ordeal of slavery through Emancipation and the Civil War; from the era of Reconstruction through Jim Crow and World War I; from the Great Migration of 1910 to 1930—including the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age—through the Great Depression and World War II; from the civil rights movement and its aftermath, and the Black Power insurgence, on to the age of hip-hop and of the Joshua Generation, leading to the election of the first African American president of the United States.”

Included are dozens and dozens of brief essays and hundreds of illustrations (many in color) depicting the African American life in the United States, and many long forgotten or little known facts.

The book also contains many illustrations.  Per a recent review in the York Times:

There’s a reproduction of a pencil and watercolor, by Lieutenant Frances Meynell, titled “View of the Deck of the Slave Ship Alabanoz,” drawn in 1846.  A “visual” of the Middle Passage, replete with dozens of slaves on top of one another in wretchedly cramped circumstances.

An advertisement for Pullman Compartment Cars—sometime from the 1930s, showing two men (who oddly look Middle Eastern), seated at a table, drinking spirits and served by a Pullman porter.

A “Save the Scottsboro Boys” donation pin, “created by the Communist Party—affiliated International Labor Defense, the organization that represented the Scottsboro defendants.”

The good and the bad, ugly stereotypes, derogatory images, racist documents—all are here, including several pages of color illustrations in a section called “Sambo Art.”

As we reflect on where Harlem is headed, it’s important we to remember where it has been, so we can appreciate it all the more.

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