African Americans and Africa: A New Book about Black America’s Relationship with the ContinentHistorians in the News
tags: Africa, African American history, Black History
George Washington University. She holds a BA in History and International Relations from Mount Holyoke College, and an MPhil and PhD from Yale University. Dr. Blyden specializes in African and African Diaspora history. Her new book, African Americans and Africa: A New History (Yale University Press), provides an introduction to the relationship between African Americans and the African Continent from the era of slavery to the present. It examines the diversity of African American identities through relationships with region, ethnicity, immigration, and slavery to investigate a fundamental area of African American studies. She is the author of West Indians in West Africa, 1808-1880: A Diaspora in Reverse (University of Rochester Press, 2000). Professor Blyden was a consultant for In Motion: The African American Migration Experience for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library). Professor Blyden has lived in Africa, Europe, and the Soviet Union. Follow her on Twitter @BlydenNemata.
AAIHS Editors: Books have creation stories. Please share with us the creation story of your book — those experiences, those factors, those revelations that caused you to research this specific area and produce this unique book.
Nemata Blyden: I suppose the creation story for this book is simply my personal history. Being born to an “African American” mother and an “African” father (a more complex story readers will discover), made it inevitable that I would be interested in this subject. As a child I interacted with my Black American and Sierra Leonean relatives, coming to understand the history of both places. Although I am American born, my formative years were spent on the continent. My adult life has been shaped by living in a country with a complicated racial history. I moved to this country as an 18 year old with the sensibilities of an immigrant, having to learn elements of American culture. I came to understand America’s racial hierarchy and its norms, and experienced racism of the kind that exists only in this country.