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Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  2,330 ratings  ·  59 reviews
"Before the Mayflower" traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey that ended in slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in an exploration of the complex realities of African-American life in the 1990s. Here is the most recent scholarship on the ...more
Paperback, Revised Sixth Edition, 736 pages
Published July 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1964)
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 ·  2,330 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Donna Davis
When I was working on my MA with the goal to teach history in the upper grades, I expressed my frustration to my professor. I asked where I could find the actual history of Africa. Everywhere I looked (in conventional sources, such as the university library and trade journals) it said, "See Europe". I didn't WANT to read about the colonizers. But of course, when conquerors succeed in occupying another land militarily and politically, the next thing to be done is to eradicate the culture as it ...more
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book of all time. That means that it influenced my actions. Also, I collect editions of it, so if you have one you want to let go, please send it to me. :) Thank you.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for one of my history courses while attending San Diego City College. This book is powerful. Spanning centuries of history, a great introduction and original text on African American History. 15 Chapters:
1. The African Past
2. Before the Mayflower
3. The Founding of Black America
4. Behind the Cotton Curtain
5. Blood on the Leaves: Revolts and Conspiracies
6. The Generation of Crises
7. Black, Blue and Gray: The Civil War Nobody Knows
8. Black Power in Dixie
9. The Life and Times of Jim Crow
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you are of African ancestry you have to know your history before you can put your eyes on the future, with success. This is also a very good read for anyone that is not African American but wants to explore the history of Africans in America.
This is a solid 3.5 on my scale of ratings, tipping to 4, as the mood changes. This book is a nice, solid primer for those who don't know anything about Black History ... or American History for that matter, for it is impossible to distinguish, and absurd to split hairs.

It is to be noted that this book was first published in 1961, when it truly was a landmark for American culture. It has been revised at least 3 times since; and in this revision Lerone Bennett states he re-wrote many of the
Claude E Haywood El
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a M U S T read for all! yes, it is a lil strong in its content but it all truth to how life was for a race of people whom is still classed as 2nd class! it has a real WOW factor to it but i really feel if read but our young sisters & brother today would clearly feel a lot better about themself than they do now!
R.K. Byers
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
PLEASE read this book.
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't believe I haven't reviwed this book yet! Read it about 20+ years ago and Loved it!! It's basically a Black version of the history books we're given in school. My daughter's too young to read it now, but in another 10 years or so, she's definitely reading this gem.
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read. The chapter on Lincoln puts a lot of things into perspective and casts a new light on "The Great Emancipator"
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As an African American, I found this book not only very educational but also an interesting read. I expect that anyone interested in black history would enjoy it too.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Chronicles the cohabitation of Europeans and Africans in North America and corrects misconceptions and bold face fabrications that have been perpetuated by scholars throughout american history.
Keith Wagner
This a great introduction, if not then the best introduction, to African American History. If you are wanting to know more about the story of African Americans this book is very readable and accurate. When I taught our school African American History class this was my text. My students liked it so much most of them went out and bought their own copies.
This comment is only to add corrections to the editions shown on GoodReads. My copy is the (Revised Edition) A Pelican book published by Penguin Books (14 020856 9) from 1970, with the Cover Design by Janet Halverson. (435 pages - including reference pages). I selected this one since it came closes in year in publishing date and format.
Velicia Tillman
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent resource book to have. It provides a detailed history of Black America before coming over on the Mayflower. There are many that have tried to lift up the defeats and successes of the African American. Great historical book to maintain in your home library.
Nov 03, 2015 added it
Learned some things I didn't know.
Jul 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all americans
Shelves: history
I had to read this book, since I was named after the author.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great Black history book
Jan 27, 2009 added it
Very detailed, and very informative. Content, in some areas, may promote anger while reading.
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Very thorough, this book can easily be used as a sort of encyclopedia
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a great resource of history. I have not read it cover to cover, but turn to it often.
Dianna P.
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
an incredibly influential book for me. changed my perspective on a lot. transformational.
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great Book! I have read previous versions. There are some new updates in this one.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
great read on african american history. the history of africans in america is the history of america.
Adam Hall
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wedding-registry
An engagingly written survey book of African American history. There are some sources cited in the early book that seem dubious, and some statements made that strike me as false in ways that should be especially relevant to a black history textbook. For example, Rosa Parks did not sit down in the white section of the bus on an "impulse," but rather as part of a calculated civil disobedience strategy. But overall the breadth of the book's focus and the liveliness of its prose counterbalance these ...more
Apr 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book.

This is truly important reading for everyone. It is not just that African American history is important because black people were around and doing things that are often ignored in the study of mainstream history; there was a constant influence on society and history, and without understanding that our comprehension of history is complete.

I had worried about bias, but the start of the chapter on Lincoln and Jefferson is gracious, and there is a poetry that comes out there. This is
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Finally came to the end of this amazing historical text. I read the edition from 2007 and at times had to take a break. This was due to the anger and sadness I felt as I read and learned. This book is eye opening and I recommend everyone read it, especially white people. Going forward I now have a better understanding of how terrible it was and still can be for my friends of African American descent. While hopeful in some areas this book tells me that I need to do more to help right the wrongs ...more
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing piece of work. I knew that people of color in this country had it rough but this truly shows just how bad. Even with all of the hardships people of color tried again and again to be the best that society would not let them. I was inspired by this book to continue to strive for progress and thus success. The stories of my ancestors have shown me that I come from a strong stock that can survived the worst of times so that I may have the best of times.
Martin Pepe
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The most thorough study of the African American experience I've ever read. It takes you from their life in western Africa before the slave ships arrived all the way through the Jim Crow era to their struggles and place in our society today. For any history lover who wants a full, true account of the journey African Americans have taken in our society.
Jennifer Thompson Burns
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comps-list
A Classic! This should be on every historian's bookshelf.
Lynn Dixon
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Upon the beloved Lerone Bennett, Jr.' s passing on Valentine's Day of this year, I did what I had been intending to do for years- read this masterpiece. I opened it on a Friday and finished it on Sunday. I could not put it down.
Before the Mayflower touched so many parts of my soul. I traveled many new roads and some parts of the history were recalled. It was truly a long journey in night, into light and mostly into illumination.
Just think, this scholar did all of this research before the advent
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Lerone Bennett Jr. was an African-American scholar, author and social historian, known for his analysis of race relations in the United States.