We continue celebrating Black History Month in our semi-regular series of Reference Book of the Week. This week we look at African Americans and religion in the two-volume set African American Religious Cultures (R 200.899 A2575 2009). This set, edited by Anthony B. Pinn, takes a look not only at the United States, but the American continents. The introduction states that this work is “concerned with the religious worlds of African Americans– the wide-ranging and complex communities of people of African descent who populate the hemisphere” (xxx). Whether you want to learn about the experience of African Americans in organized religions or their experiences in other spiritual paths, this is a good resource for you.
The set is organized as follows:
- An introduction that provides a good context on African American religious cultures. The introduction discusses how African Americans came to the New World, the experience of slavery, and how their religious traditions have evolved over time in the Americas. The introduction does feature a very good bibliography for further reading.
- A set of entries in alphabetical order. Topics such African Americans in various mainstream churches (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, etc.) as well as other religious traditions are discussed. The entries run from A (African American mysticism) to R (Rastafari) in the first volume and from S (Santeria) to X (Xango) in the second volume. According to the introduction, this first part of the encyclopedia is “concerned with a sense of religion by means of attention to particular traditions. . . ” (xxxi). Each entry has a bibliography so readers can expand their research on these topics.
- The second volume also includes a set of essays on larger topics, a chronology of events, and an appendix containing a selection of primary documents. Do note that the essays focus mainly on North America because “it is assumed most users of this encyclopedia are situated in North America, particularly in the United States” (xxxi). However, the essays should be valuable to any reader anywhere in the world.
Overall, this is a basic encyclopedia designed to give readers some solid background information on the religious cultures of African Americans. After using this resource, readers should be able to to do more in-depth reading. One way to do that is by using the bibliographies provided throughout the encyclopedia and locate items cited. For books cited in the encyclopedia, readers here in Berea College can use BANC (our library catalog) to look up any book. For articles cited in the encyclopedia, you can search our Full Text Journals tool to see if we own a particular journal containing the article. If you are a reader at a different college or community, your local library probably has a library catalog and a tool similar to our Full Text Journals tool to help expand your search. At any rate, any time you need assistance, near or far, you can contact our reference desk.
African American Religious Cultures is available in the second floor of Hutchins Library, in the reference section. Just use the call number provided above to find it.
Welcome to our opening edition of a new semi-regular feature in our blog: Reference Book of the Week. Here at Hutchins Library we have an excellent reference collection. It is a great resource for students, faculty, and staff. We will use this series of posts to highlight specific items in our reference collection, telling our readers what the item does and how it can be used for your research needs.
February is Black History Month. In honor of the observance, we are featuring the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas (REF 973.049 E625 2006). The first edition of this six volume set came out in 1996; the second edition, which the library has, came out in 2006. When the first edition came out ,the editors and writers of this encyclopedia sought to provide readers with accurate knowledge of African American history, a field of study that was long neglected up to the middle of the twentieth century. The encyclopedia features biographical entries of African Americans; there are no entries for figures such as FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, nor Wole Soyinka. The goal for biographical entries was to look at achievements and contributions of African Americans. In addition, the encyclopedia does include various various entries on events, historical periods, legal cases, culture, sports, and geography. The set also features illustrations and photographs as well as appendices with various lists for things like economic data, lists, and other tables.
Entries are arranged in alphabetical order. To make the best use of this set, you want to get the last volume of the set and look in the index to see if your topic is covered. You may find that your topic has an entry, but you may also notice that topics may be mentioned in other entries. For example, Colson Whitehead has an entry on pages 2290-2291, but he is also mentioned in other entries on pages 1311 and 1332. The set does provide cross-references, so once you locate an entry, you will get additional suggestions of other entries to look at that are related to the topic of interest. Using cross-references is an easy way to expand your research on a topic. Plus, like all good reference works, each entry provides a small bibliography of works related to an entry so you can expand your research that way as well. The last volume of the set also contains the appendices with various additional materials such as primary source documents and other data.
The second edition of the encyclopedia, which is the one we have in the reference collection as of this writing, expanded the set from five to six volumes and provided a substantial revision. The editors did remove some entries, updated others, and added some new entries. It now does provide some coverage of figures outside the United States for instance in places like the Caribbean and Latin America, a reflection of the diverse times we live in.
If you are interested in African American history, and/or you are writing a paper on African-American topics, this is an excellent resource to get you some background information and some possible citations to expand your research.
The library, in addition to the print edition, also has an electronic (e-book) edition of this resource. Do note that this is a subscription-based resource, so if you are trying to access it from outside of the Berea College network, you will need to provide your Berea online credentials (username and password). The print version of this work is located in the second floor of the library in the Reference Collection.
The Berea College Hutchins Library has put together a book display in the second floor to honor Black History Month. We are featuring a selection of books from our collection as well as some photos and materials. There is even a small quiz to see if you can identify some famous African Americans (don’t worry. If you need a little help, you can stop at the reference desk).
The following books are on display now. These books are available for checkout, so if any grab your attention, feel free to take it. The rest of the year, you can find the books in our circulating collection on the third floor:
- Gail Buckley, American Patriots: the Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm. (355.008 B924a).
- Devon W. Carbado, et.al., eds., Black Like Us: a Century of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual African American Fiction. (823.91 B6265).
- W.E.B. Du Bois, Writings. (973.0496 D816wr).
- Robert Franklin Durden, Carter G. Woodson: Father of African American History. (973.049 W898zd 1998).
- Nikki Giovanni, Acolytes. (821.914 G512a 2007).
- Christopher Moore, Fighting for America: Black soldiers–the Unsung Heroes of World War II. (940.5403 M822f 2005).
- Paula Pfeffer, A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement (973.049 R192zp 1990).
- Joe Wilson, The 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion in World War II: an Illustrated History of the First African American Armored Unit to see Combat. (940.5403 W749s).
- Dick Russell, Black Genius and the American Experience. (973.049 R962b)
- Rafia Zafar, ed., Harlem Renaissance: Five Novels of the 1920s. (823.91 H284 2011).
- Rafia Zafar, ed., Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 1930s. (823.91 H2845 2011).
Earlier this week, as I constructed a display in the library to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I had a chance to read and reflect upon his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech. In doing so, I was struck by the fact that though it was delivered almost 50 years ago, his words continue to touch people even now. Many of you probably first experienced the words as I did – read to you by an elementary school teacher or quoted in a high school history textbook. After those initial experiences, Dr. King’s words continued to find me throughout the years, whether via documentaries and news sound bites or on audio CDs and in children’s books. Despite my many encounters with the speech, in a variety of formats, I was surprised this morning when I found that those stirring sentiments now reside on YouTube as well. The website best known for its videos of baby animals being adorable and illegal copies of current tv shows also hosts historical documents, apparently. When I performed a quick search of the site in my quest for a video of the speech, I found more copies than I could ever need; I was pleased to find that the very first one I opened had enjoyed more than 1.6 million views thus far! In case you have wondered whether his words still carry weight, the fact that they continue to persist in each new media format that springs forward should silence your doubt.
When I consider the vast numbers of speeches lobbed at each of us throughout our lives, whether at political rallies, graduations, religious services, or even here at Berea’s convocations, I am hard pressed to think of any that will enjoy the timelessness of King’s words. So what about King’s speech makes it still relevant and moving? Is it because there is always an “ism” to speak out against? Racism and sexism persist, for example, despite the existence of laws meant to prohibit them. King’s words serve as a reminder that we have a right to desire more for humanity than its current condition; they validate our protests. Or is it timeless because everyone understands what it means to wish for a better future, whether for themselves or others? His words speak so eloquently about our responsibility to improve the world that we love.
Whether it is for these reasons or another, his words still matter. Inspired by them and wanting to be inspired by yours, I’d love for you to share your dreams with our community. Visit our display near the library entrance, by the printers, and share your own vision for the future, no matter how big or small, on one of our “I have a dream…” cards. Here are pictures of a few recent submissions: