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I, TOO, SING AMERICA: The African-American Book of Days by Paula L. Woods and Felix H. Liddell (Workman Publishing: $22.95; 256 pp.)

March 07, 1993|E. W. Alexander

African Americans are amused by the fact that Black History Month is relegated to the shortest month in the year; this book of days demonstrates the irony of that twist of fate. Replete with approximately 1,500 entries spanning 500 years, it clearly shows that the accomplishments of African-Americans could not possibly be squeezed into one month; not even one year. While the authors have done an impeccable job of compiling data on prominent contemporary and historical figures, events, inventions and legislation, there are still some omissions.

African-American accomplishments have enriched the nation since its beginnings: Crispus Attucks was one of the first to bear arms and be felled by the British in the Revolutionary War; Dr. Charles R. Drew discovered how to use blood plasma in transfusions, and it was African-Americans, led by the inestimable Dr. Martin Luther King, who breathed new life into the words of the Declaration of Independence--"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .,"--thereby lighting the path for Americans of all walks of life to unapologetically claim that right as well.

The book details the notable and the unappreciated. We are all familiar with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Brown vs. the Board of Education, Carter Woodson, originator of the first Negro History Week. But who knows Miles Vandehurst Lynk, who at 19, in 1871, became a physician, or Mary Ann Shadd, who published a newspaper in 1823, or Pedro Alonzo Nino, who accompanied Columbus on his voyages of discovery?

As an additional treat, beautiful artwork appears throughout the calendar, celebrating artists like Edmonia Lewis, Romare Bearden and Aaron Douglas, whose painting "Building More Stately Mansions" (1944) appears above. The book is hard-bound, so despite its graceful appearance it is not fragile and will hold up over time. Days of the week are not noted, nor is the book broken into the usual segments of weeks and months, making it a little hard to follow. On the other hand, this also means that it can be used year after year. And, $22.95 is a small price to pay for the priceless information.

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