Wonders of the African World is an exuberant, visually stunning journey across Africa and through the history of its glorious but forgotten civilizations.
Traveling by camel, by dhow, by Land Cruiser, and on foot, the renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., takes us to twelve countries in search of Africa’s magnificent past, the now neglected civilizations that in their day were as grand and sophisticated as any on the face of the earth. From Nubia’s ancient empire, which for a time ruled Egypt and centuries before had established the earliest known African city, to the fabled town of Timbuktu, where during the medieval period there thrived a center of scholars that rivaled any in Europe and where books were as prized as gold, to Ethiopia’s Christian kingdom, where the Lost Ark of the Covenant is said to reside under perpetual vigil, Gates reveals an Africa little known to Westerners. And as he shows us the achievements that exploiters of the continent have ignored or denied for centuries, he introduces us as well to the fascinating variety of modern-day Africans, many of whom are descended from the great peoples who built Africa’s most formidable cultures, including the Asante, the Swahili, the Tuareg, and the Shona.
As Gates’s compelling narrative shows, the continent’s past continues to be felt in the lives of many Africans today. And in America for the descendants of those brought here as slaves, that past has been a controversial inheritance, passionately embraced by some, fiercely rejected by others. For this reason, Gates’s deeply personal account of discovery is charged throughout by a question posed by Countee Cullen in his 1925 poem "Heritage" and perennially asked by African Americans: What is Africa to me? Finally, though, it is the wisdom of this book that the legacy of Africa, no less than that of Greece or Rome, belongs to all the world’s civilized peoples.
Illustrated with spectacular full-page photographs specially commissioned from the internationally acclaimed Lynn Davis, Wonders of the African World is Africa as we have never known or seen it before.
With 66 photographs by Lynn Davis, 132 illustrations in black-and-white and full color, and 7 full-color maps
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. An award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored… More about Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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"In a fascinating, personal account, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., shows us the glories of Africa and explains why African-Americans have for so long been both fascinated and repelled by the great continent."
— Marion Wright Edelman
"This is more than a book about Africa. It is a study in black America’s profound ambivalence about our shared ancestral continent. Caught between a distaste for Africa within his own family and his abiding love for and fascination with Africa, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., traverses the continent with a keen eye, a brilliat mind, and an ambivalent heart."
— Ali Mazrui, State University of New York at Binghampton
"From Ethiopia to Nubia, from Swahili country to West Africa, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., takes us on a fascinating journey, teaching us about the great civilizations we do not know well enough and making us reconsider the Africa we thought we already understood."