Cover image for 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro
Title:
100 Amazing Facts About the Negro
Author:
Gates, Henry Louis
Subject:
History
Sociology
African American Nonfiction
Nonfiction
Description:
The first edition of Joel Augustus Rogers's now legendary 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, published in 1957, was billed as "A Negro 'Believe It or Not.'" Rogers's little book was priceless because he was delivering enlightenment and pride, steeped in historical research, to a people too long starved on the lie that they were worth nothing. For African Americans of the Jim Crow era, Rogers's was their first black history teacher. But Rogers was not always shy about embellishing the "facts" and minimizing ambiguity; neither was he above shock journalism now and then. With élan and erudition—and with winning enthusiasm—Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives us a corrective yet loving homage to Roger's work. Relying on the latest scholarship, Gates leads us on a romp through African, diasporic, and African-American history in question-and-answer format. Among the one hundred questions: Who were Africa's first ambassadors to Europe? Who was the first black president in North America? Did Lincoln really free the slaves? Who was history's wealthiest person? What percentage of white Americans have recent African ancestry? Why did free black people living in the South before the end of the Civil War stay there? Who was the first black head of state in modern Western history? Where was the first Underground Railroad? Who was the first black American woman to be a self-made millionaire? Which black man made many of our favorite household products better? Here is a surprising, inspiring, sometimes boldly mischievous—all the while highly instructive and entertaining—compendium of historical curiosities intended to illuminate the sheer complexity and diversity of being "Negro" in the world.(With full-color illustrations throughout.)
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Pantheon
Date:
2017/10/24
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

The first edition of Joel Augustus Rogers's now legendary 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, published in 1934, was billed as "A Negro 'Believe It or Not.'" Rogers's little book was priceless because he was delivering enlightenment and pride, steeped in historical research, to a people too long starved on the lie that they were worth nothing. For African Americans of the Jim Crow era, Rogers's was their first black history teacher. But Rogers was not always shy about embellishing the "facts" and minimizing ambiguity; neither was he above shock journalism now and then.

With élan and erudition--and with winning enthusiasm--Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives us a corrective yet loving homage to Roger's work. Relying on the latest scholarship, Gates leads us on a romp through African, diasporic, and African-American history in question-and-answer format. Among the one hundred questions: Who were Africa's first ambassadors to Europe? Who was the first black president in North America? Did Lincoln really free the slaves? Who was history's wealthiest person? What percentage of white Americans have recent African ancestry? Why did free black people living in the South before the end of the Civil War stay there? Who was the first black head of state in modern Western history? Where was the first Underground Railroad? Who was the first black American woman to be a self-made millionaire? Which black man made many of our favorite household products better?

Here is a surprising, inspiring, sometimes boldly mischievous--all the while highly instructive and entertaining--compendium of historical curiosities intended to illuminate the sheer complexity and diversity of being "Negro" in the world.

(With full-color illustrations throughout.)


Author Notes

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. He received a degree in history from Yale University in 1973 and a Ph.D. from Clare College, which is part of the University of Cambridge in 1979. He is a leading scholar of African-American literature, history, and culture. He began working on the Black Periodical Literature Project, which uncovered lost literary works published in 1800s. He rediscovered what is believed to be the first novel published by an African-American in the United States. He republished the 1859 work by Harriet E. Wilson, entitled Our Nig, in 1983.

He has written numerous books including Colored People: A Memoir, A Chronology of African-American History, The Future of the Race, Black Literature and Literary Theory, and The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. In 1991, he became the head of the African-American studies department at Harvard University. He is now the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at the university.

He wrote and produced several documentaries including Wonders of the African World, America Beyond the Color Line, and African American Lives. He has also hosted PBS programs such as Wonders of the African World, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Harvard professor Gates (Life upon These Shores) leads readers on a broad and inviting tour of black history with this compendium modeled after journalist Joel Rogers's 1957 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro. Gates's version, an outgrowth of his writings published on the website the Root, consists of 100 brief essays written in a question-and-answer format on such wide ranging topics as "Who was the first black person to see the baby Jesus?"; "Who were the black passengers on the doomed Titanic voyage?"; and "What happened to Argentina's black population?" Illustrated with one image per entry, the collection is peppered with information about little-known events in far-away places (such as Argentina, France, and Iraq) and far-removed times (the oldest entry covers ancient Greece). The work is particularly rich in 19th-century American history, with entries on Richard Potter, the first American ventriloquist; Henry "Box" Brown, who escaped slavery in Virginia in 1849 by shipping himself to Philadelphia in a cargo box; and on the raid on Harpers Ferry and the Colfax Massacre. Gates's book is aimed at readers with limited knowledge of African-American history rather than scholars, and its tendencies toward exaggeration, titillation, irony, and debunking make for an easy romp, with enough obscure tidbits to entertain and inform specialists as well. Illus. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

A collection of vignettes about the black experience in the United States and around the globe.In 1957, respected Pittsburgh Courier journalist Joel A. Rogers published a book, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, based on research he had conducted for his columns. His work provided a counter to white supremacist myths and proved to be a source of pride for the black community, which too often read and heard histories that excluded them. Gates (Life upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008, 2011, etc.), the prolific scholar and popularizer of black history, presents this book as an homage and update to the work of "Mr. Rogers." Indeed, just as Rogers had compiled his brief essays for his book from his columns, Gates similarly draws from his series, which carried the same title as this volume and ran in the online magazine The Root, which Gates co-founded. The entries are brief, averaging about four pages. In his acknowledgments, the author also reveals that these essays, though ultimately bearing his name, are the product of the research team he leads at the Hutchins Center for African African American Research at Harvard. The pieces range widely in chronology, theme, and geography, and his facts about the "Negro" (the anachronism is intentional, part of the tribute to Rogers) most heavily emphasize the African-American experience but also explore Africa and the diaspora across the Americas and in Europe. The pieces are generally well-written and engage with secondary sources and occasional primary documents on his topics. The title of each entry is a question. The first"which journalist was among the first to bring black history to the masses?"introduces Rogers and thus the book. The rest range widely and are fairly consistent. It will not be necessary for readers to tackle this book from front to back; it rewards dipping into occasionally, as Gates sometimes surprises, sometimes intrigues, and rarely disappoints. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The initial, 1957 edition of 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro with Complete Proof by journalist and black history devotee Joel A. Rogers was derived from his weekly Your History (later called Facts about the Negro) columns for the Pittsburgh Courier, which ran from 1934 until the year of his death, 1966. Now, renowned historian Gates picks up the baton, updating the book's 100 amazing facts with recent research, including, in a nod to his PBS documentary series, Finding Your Roots, for which he wrote the companion volume, genealogical and DNA studies and conclusions. Presumably, Gates retains Negro because Rogers used it and for the word's original intent to refer to the African diaspora. Indeed, this fresh investigation relays centuries of events in the lives of numerous historical figures of African descent not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, Central America, and the Middle East. This compilation of portraits of select soldiers and saints, authors and athletes, royalty and rebels, and escapees and entrepreneurs, provides a much needed foundation for historical and cultural identity. By setting this new standard, Gates paves the way for future editions exploring achievements in science and technology and the visual and performing arts. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Scholar, writer, filmmaker, and public intellectual Gates has tremendous presence and his latest book will be strongly promoted.--Hawkins, Valerie Copyright 2017 Booklist


Library Journal Review

The 1936 publication of this title led to its author, J.A. Rogers, becoming a leading historian of his day. Although a longtime popular black history book, with its amassed facts covering varied aspects of the African diaspora, this volume has been criticized for its lack of scholarship. Here, historian and scholar Gates (And Still I Rise: Black America Since MLK), an admirer of the original text, reframes the work, relying on meticulous research. -Presented in question-and-answer format, it tackles everything from biographical entries to articles relating to the economy, the government, and the institution of slavery. Entries include "Who Was the First Black Saint?"; "Did Russia's Peter the Great Adopt an African Man as His Son?"; "Who Were the Black Passengers on the Doomed Titanic?"; and "Did Martin Luther King Jr., Improvise His 'I Have a Dream' Speech?" Previous books on black trivia, such as Jeffrey C. Stewart's 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African-American History, are traditional in content and organized by subject; Gates presents topics and facts that are fascinating and unique. VERDICT An entertaining and informative read for those with an interest in black history and who enjoy historical trivia.-Tiffeni Fontno, Boston Coll. Educational Resource Ctr. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 Which journalist was among the first to bring black history facts to the masses?     For black families in the middle of the twentieth century, "Mr. Rog­ers" was a columnist for the legendary Pittsburgh Courier, and his pithy and always intriguing tidbits of African and African-American history armed them with facts about the black experience that seemed more like fantasies. Since students weren't being taught anything about black people at school, Joel A. Rogers was just about the only source of black history that a few generations had.   The first edition of his now legendary 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, published in 1957, was billed as "A Negro 'Believe It or Not,' " signifying on Robert Ripley's brain-bending series that had pre­miered in the New York Globe in October 1919. Rogers's little book was priceless because he was delivering enlightenment and pride, steeped in historical research, to a people too long starved on the lie that they were worth nothing because their ancestors had contributed nothing to world civilization. Deep in his bones, Rogers knew what a lie that was, and he used every ounce of creative energy he had to expose the twin fallacies on which it was based: racial purity and white supremacy. For African Ameri­cans of the Jim Crow era, Rogers was their first black history teacher. And he wrote to educate, with the black everyman and everywoman foremost in his mind.   Did he sometimes embellish what he had found? Yes; he wasn't above shock journalism. Did he miss key details? Absolutely. His style was brief and to the point, using a minimum of words and ambiguity so that the "facts" could speak for themselves.   Critics skeptical of Rogers's style dismissed him as a "vindicationist" for an aggrieved race, as Thabiti Asukile notes. And many of the subsequent ninety-nine chapters in this book will put Rogers's amazing facts to the test. Although he didn't bat a thousand, he consistently and tantaliz­ingly raised questions about history that stimulated others to dig deeper. But he was as serious a researcher as they come, as serious as W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson. And when you study his life, you realize he wasn't just an aficionado of amazing facts. He was one of those facts.   ***   Joel Augustus Rogers was born in Negril, Jamaica, on September 6, 1880, to Samuel and Emily (Johnstone) Rogers. When university study was precluded in the Caribbean, Rogers served for four years in the Royal Gar­rison Artillery.   A heart murmur may have kept him from serving overseas but not from traveling. As for looks, he was told he could pass for Cuban, but when he emigrated to the United States in 1906, it became clear that under the old one-drop rule, he was black. Thus he was relegated to the hard-luck side of the color line, a fact made all too clear when he was dissed at a restaurant in New York's Times Square.   After visiting Boston, Rogers made his way westward to Chicago, where the University of Chicago denied him admission because, in Asukile's words, "he did not possess a high school diploma." From then on, Rogers knew that whatever he accomplished in life as a man of letters would have to be done without degrees.   ***   Rogers was especially devoted to debunking the false religion of racial purity then being expounded in such racist texts as Thomas Dixon's 1905 novel The Clansman, later adapted for the screen by D. W. Griffith in 1915's Birth of a Nation. The whole legal apparatus of segregation hinged on the illusion that whites and blacks could easily be identified, then rigidly cat­egorized, so that any advantages in life were doled out only to those free of any (obvious) "drops" of African blood.   Rogers's game plan was simple: proudly claim for the black race any man, woman, or child, including gods and goddesses, in the pages and paintings of history who manifested traces of African or "Negroid" ances­try. Textbook examples were the Russian novelist Alexander Pushkin and Alessandro de' Medici, as well as Gen. Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and Alexandre Dumas. Rogers poked as much as he prodded, while restoring to greatness lost heroes of the black experience, among them Saint Mau­rice, Benjamin Banneker, Toussaint Louverture, Paul Cuffee, Cetshwayo, and various Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.   Rogers waged his battle against Jim Crow on three broad fronts: his­tory, genealogy, and genetics, as the historian W. Burghardt Turner pointed out in 1975. Rogers didn't need yet-to-be-discovered DNA science to tell him that sex between the races had been going on since time immemo­rial. If anything, Turner explained, Rogers detected "a seemingly mystical attraction of the light to the dark" (not the other way around) and tried proving it in his mini-exposés of famous world leaders.   ***   Rogers did all this virtually by himself. No mainstream publisher would touch his books, so he released them through his own imprint: the J. A. Rogers Historical Research Society. Making matters more difficult, he had no grants or foundation support to speak of and no lectureships or pro­fessorships to sustain him. Except for a three-hundred-dollar infusion from journalist H. L. Mencken, he paid his own way.   The black press (effectively, the nation's first black studies departments) gave Rogers his day job reporting the news, first for the Chicago Enterprise and then, when he moved back to New York in 1921, for fellow Jamaican Marcus Garvey's Daily Negro Times. From there, his rise was quick. Of par­ticular help was the noted black essayist George Schuyler, who networked Rogers to A. Philip Randolph's socialist Messenger magazine before they became colleagues at the Pittsburgh Courier. It was for the Courier and the New York Amsterdam News that Rogers made two critical trips abroad in the 1920s.   The world was suddenly different after the war. Some European pow­ers had fallen, and the future of others was in doubt, while a nascent Pan-Africanism, encouraged by Du Bois, was on the rise. In the thick of it, Rogers traveled across Britain, North Africa, Italy, and Spain, absorbing everything he could. He made Paris his home base and there became a proselytizer of jazz. He even had his essay "Jazz at Home" anthologized in the founding document of the Harlem Renaissance, Alain Locke's The New Negro: An Interpretation.   In his spare time, Rogers hunted for whatever lost or buried informa­tion from the black past he could find. He was just as fascinated by the written word as he was by the visual arts. (It helped that he spoke sev­eral languages.) For his efforts, as Asukile writes, Rogers was elected to the Paris Society of Anthropology. And when he returned home to Depression-era New York, he was a library of one, like his Harlem neigh­bor Arthur Schomburg.   With encouragement from Schuyler and a green light from Robert Vann, his editor at the Courier, Rogers launched his popular "Your His­tory" column as a weekly vehicle for communicating the treasure trove of amazing facts he had brought back. Rogers's series ran from 1934 all the way to 1966 (though from 1962 on it was called "Facts About the Negro").   ***   Rogers died doing what he loved: researching black history. After having a stroke on an expedition to Washington, D.C., he passed away at St. Clare's Hospital in New York on March 26, 1966, at eighty-five. He was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. His widow, Helga Rogers-Andrews, a former translator in the German government whom Rogers had married in 1957, heroically kept the story of this very private man, and his many books, alive until her own death in 2013. Generations of scholars, teachers, and students are the beneficiaries of Joel A. Rogers's remarkable historical discoveries.   The best way to honor him, I think, is to follow his example by taking nothing we are taught for granted; to be ever curious, open, and alive; and to take ourselves to task for being too easily impressed by what is handed to us. This book, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, is an homage to Rogers's work. Thank you, Joel A. Rogers. Because of you, the field of black history has never been stronger. Excerpted from 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro by Henry Louis Gates All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.