Monday, October 28, 2013

Meet the (Virtual) Reference Books: Encyclopedia of African American History

Meet the Reference Books introduces noteworthy encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference materials in Carmichael Library's print and digital collections.  Blog posts are contributed by Reference Student Assistants.  This year, we're starting out with books from our Virtual Reference Shelf.  

Our first post comes from Astin Cole, a senior History and Political Science major.  Astin writes about the Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to Present.  This title is available digitally through the VRS, but we also hold it in print.  Additionally, there is a companion volume that covers from 1619 to 1896.  

I know what you’re thinking, “this is intimidating," but fear not! Yes, this set of encyclopedias depicts a serious focus in a specific aspect of American history, but that’s a good thing! In average American history encyclopedias, many interesting facts which promote a diversity of views and cultures are typically omitted or understated. Here, the scope is much narrower. It begins in 1896 during the height of Jim Crow, transitions into the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, covers the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, and describes the overall enrichment of American culture through African Americans since. 

In terms of applicable use, the Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to the Present can be a great source of reference for all social sciences. Through issues such as the bombing in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1920, to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments between 1932 and 1972, you can impress your professors with your knowledge of controversial events from different periods. Additionally, there is always something new to observe about different cultural movements such as the Jazz Age, Black Nationalism, and the Civil Rights Movement. An example would be the discussion of famous black athletes, musicians, politicians, activists, and writers who gained their recognition because of or in spite of their cultural environment.

The Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to Present is an excellent source of information. By focusing on a particular group of people, a new outlook is created, depicting a rich heritage that exemplifies the strength of diversity in American society.

-Astin Cole

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