Thanksgiving is coming soon and you know the story.
A bunch of white folks came over in a boat, and landed on a rock. When it was November, they had a party and invited the Indians. Or not. Actually, mostly not, says Michael Harriot. In his new book “Black AF History,” you’ve been lied to.
Even when he was a young boy growing up, Micheal Harriot understood that the book-filled home he lived in was more than just books, it was opportunity. There, he was able to find the words of great Black thinkers and leaders and as he read, he says “my brain fired off a dozen questions” and it opened his mind. The house full of truth and those books also sent him in search of what “white history” wasn’t saying.
The first thing he learned was that “whiteness is not the center of the universe around which everything else revolves.” The Jamestown “settlers,” for instance, weren’t very bright and probably would have perished, were it not for King Wahunsenacah, the leader of a nearby group. The natives bailed the white guys out of hot water more than once.
A church, says Harriot, started slavery and white guys seized upon the idea by claiming that Black prisoners would be better slaves because they seemed “’sturdier.’” European immigrants were allowed to be indentured slaves (and thus, freed after a certain time) but “African imports and their children were now considered property.” On that, he says, we have to remember not to lump all slaves together as “Africans” because of the wide variety of cultures represented on an average farm or plantation.
Later, slaveholders recognized the knowledge of female Africans and exploited it.
Black American history isn’t only about slavery, though. Black people were soldiers, mercenaries, and activists. They were inventors, folk heroes, and survivors. They were lynched. They were hunted. They were churchgoers, comedians, and chroniclers.
And they were revolutionaries.
So you’ve been living all this time with the assumption that history is dry and boring? No, in author Michael Harriot’s hands, the past is full of hidden truths that aren’t hiding anymore. You’ll find them inside “Black AF History.”
You’ll also find plenty to laugh about.
Harriot doesn’t just tip textbooks upside down. He includes stories from his own life in this book and while they sometimes make their own chapter, those stories often lead into a point to be made or a bit of reference to be explained. Harriot is also very adept at the art of sarcasm, and so many chapters practically drip with it.
That helps readers to see how completely ridiculous it is that these tales have been ignored for dozens, even hundreds of years. The excitement and accomplishment inside these stories further serve to keep you glued to the pages.
If you’ve been following current events, you know how thoroughly important a book like this is, and how much it needs to sit next to more somber history tomes. Grab “Black AF History,” and you’ll be thankful you’ve read it.