Date: Sat, 21 Dec 1996 10:08:42 -0600
From: "colin s. cavell" <firstname.lastname@example.org> (by way of Scott Marshall <email@example.com>)
Subject: Support Urged for Encyclopedia Afrikana in the Spirit of W.E.B. Du Bois
From: IN%"firstname.lastname@example.org" "Marpessa Kupendua" 20-DEC-1996 19:21:39.09
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996 17:08:28 -0600 (CST)
Urgent Support Needed for genuine Encyclopedia Afrikana!!
From Marpessa Kupendua <email@example.com>, 19 December 1996
Bro. Ray Winbush, Professor at Fisk University, urges all those dedicated to the promotion of an accurate depiction of the history of African people (finally!) to read the following *VERY IMPORTANT* CALL TO ACTION AND INFORMATION!!
Afrikan Frontline Network is soliciting wide-based support for the GENUINE Encyclopedia Africana, and salute Bro. Winbush and Sis. Bansa in Ghana for their tireless efforts on all of our behalfs!! We honor, respect, wholeheartedly stand by and encourage these literary warriors and have faith that you do as well!
PLEASE HELP TO WIDELY DISSEMINATE THIS INFORMATION VIA THE INTERNET AS WELL AS PUBLICATIONS, NEWSPAPERS AND OTHER OUTREACH ORIENTED FORUMS!
!! U R G E N T !! !! EMERGENCY LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN!! !! TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE !!
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA AFRICANA PROJECT IS FACING POSSIBLE CO-OPTATION AND BASTARDIZATION BY THE USUAL SUSPECTS. YOUR COMMITMENT TOWARDS DEFEATING THIS *BLATANT OPPORTUNISM* IS URGENTLY REQUESTED IN ORDER TO INSURE THAT THE INTEGRITY OF THIS PROJECT IS NOT DILUTED BY THOSE WHO WOULD, ONCE AGAIN, DEPRIVE AFRICAN PEOPLE OF TELLING OUR STORY, OURSELVES!!
Henry Louis "Skip" Gates is publishing an "Encyclopedia Africana", which is not in the spirit of Du Bois intention that it be an "All African" enterprise. While Bro. Winbush was in Ghana this past summer, Ms. Bansa and he talked about this, and the editorial staff is 100 per cent against the bastardization of the EA from the Cambridge Mafia.
Sis. Eileen Irvin of the Encyclopedia Africana in Michigan, is calling for all who recognize this direct impingement on African self-determination to begin a letter writing campaign against Gates. Irvin is the widow of Keith Irvin, who was one of the original editors of the Encyclopedia Africana. He died a couple of years ago, and his widow is 74 years old and still trying to carry on the legacy. She informed Bro. Winbush that she has done everything in her power to block Gates' attempt to stop the publication of the EA, but he simply ignores her as well as the Board in Ghana. Furthermore, she has been stabbed in the back by Charles van Doren (yes *the* Charles van Doren) who is now on the "editorial board" that Gates has set up at Harvard. van Doren was a good friend of her husband's but apparently has been co-opted by Gates as well. It's a real tragedy.
SEND YOUR LETTERS OF PROTEST TO GATES AT: firstname.lastname@example.org
and cc: myself at email@example.com or Bro. Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org
She says that one of the most important things we can do now is to create a web page for the genuine "Encyclopedia Africana." PLEASE DONATE SUPPORT TOWARDS GETTING THIS WEB SITE UP ASAP, IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL!
Contact myself by clicking "reply" (email@example.com), Bro. Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sis. Irvin at email@example.com until 12/25, firstname.lastname@example.org after 12/26, phone 810-794-5722 to offer your talents and abilities in spreading this message FAR AND WIDE to these strong, struggling people.
Gates is simply appropriating a book that he knows damn well doesn't belong to him. In an article Bro. Winbush published about two years ago, he referred to him as the "Booker T. Washington of Black studies", because just as BTW *defined* education for Blackfolk for so many years, Gates is attempting to *define* the very reality of the African experience on a global level. An article in last Thursday's NYT about Gates' just published Norton Anthology of African American Literature" begins, "We now have a canon". Gates actually believes that he can define the reality of Blackfolk to white folks, ignoring people like John Henrik Clarke, Marimba Ani, Asante, and everyone else. His rejection of Afrocentric paradigms is the main reason why the Encyclopedia Africana is such an important project.
What you can do to help is write letters of protest to Gates denouncing what he is doing at Harvard!! and write Ms. Bansa in Ghana and ask her what you can do to help out. You can reach her at:
Ms. Grace Bansa, Editor
She will be more than happy to hear from anyone who has suggestions for securing a larger publisher, one of the main reasons why more Africans in Amerikkka have not heard about this important work.
Please keep an eye out for ongoing updates on this very worthwhile project and don't delay with getting your letters written! PASS THIS ON!
SPEAK TRUTH TO THE PEOPLE! and most importantly, THE CHILDREN!
Here are some basic facts about the Encyclopedia Africana:
1. The books (3 volumes of a proposed set containing 10 million words) is still being published in Accra Ghana. Grace Bansa is the Director and the publication committee meets regularly in Lagos.
2. You can purchase the Encyclopedia Africana at $75.00 each (and worth every penny!) from:
The Encyclopedia Africana
Volume I. ISBN: 0-917256-01-8
The books are absolutely incredible. They are Afrocentric, and provide in depth background on a host of subjects. The Dictionary of African Biography, which is essentially volume 3, continues information that is far better than the Encyclopedia Britannica on things African.
Here is a copy of the 1962 letter originally written by W.E.B. Du Bois when he became Director of the Secretariat for the Encyclopedia Africana Project. It provides good insight into the original intent of Du Bois on the EA Project. This is copied verbatim with permission from the current director of the EA, Ms. Grace Bansa. It is a rare document that both she and I feel needs to be read by Africans throughout the Maafa. Treasure it, and please feel free to distribute it as widely as possible.
A PROPOSED ENCYCLOPEDIA AFRICANA
W.E.B. Du Bois
Director of the Secretariat
Early in 1962 preparatory work toward the compilation and production of an Encyclopedia Africana was formally initiated in Accra, Ghana, under the sponsorship of the Ghana Academy of Sciences. As Director of the Secretariat for this undertaking, I am naturally most anxious that what we propose become both well known and properly understood in scholarly circles throughout the world, to the end that we may secure the widest possible cooperation. It is with this purpose in mind that the present brief, preliminary statement is offered.
First, a word of background. In 1909 when I was teaching history and economics in the Negro University of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia, I proposed the preparation of an "Encyclopedia Africana". I secured as members of the Board of Advisors, in addition to sixty-two American Negro scholars, Sir Henry Johnstone, K.C.B., and Professor W.M. Flinders Petrie, D.C.L, of England; Professor Giuseppe Sergi of Italy; Dr. J. Denniker of France; Professor William James, LL.D., and Franz Boas, Ph.D. of Harvard and Columbia respectively, and many others. However, I was never able to raise the funds to carry the enterprise forward.
In 1934 the Phelps Stokes fund initiated a new project to prepare and publish an "Encyclopedia of the Negro". I was chosen as Editor-in-Chief and for the next ten years gave intermittent effort to the project; but again the necessary funds, which we estimated then at $260,100, could not be secured. Perhaps it was too soon to expect so large an amount for so ambitious a project to be carried out be Negroes and built mainly on Negro scholarship. Nevertheless, a preparatory volume summarizing the effort was published in 1944.
When I was in Ghana, West Africa, in 1960 witnessing the inauguration of the independent Republic, the President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, asked me if I again would plan an Encyclopedia Africana. I consented to do this and to consult personally and by letter a number of persons who might be interested in this project.
My idea is to prepare and publish an Encyclopedia not on the vague subject of race, but on the peoples inhabiting the continent of Africa. I propose an Encyclopedia edited mainly be African scholars. I am anxious that it be a scientific production and not a matter of propaganda. While there should be included among its writers the best students of Africa in the world, I want the proposed Encyclopedia to be written mainly from the African point of view by people who know and understand the history and culture of Africans.
My thought also is that it would be a great advantage if at this juncture the interest and research of the African intelligentsia were concentrated on the history of the past and the cultural remains of Africa; that this might direct their action away from political and tribal divisions, give them a body of truth to guide them, and unite them in wide agreement as to what has happened on this continent and what can happen in the future.
I realize that this is going to involve difficulties: first, the comparatively small number of Africans who are scientific students of Africa; and secondly, the attitude of European scholars toward Africans. There is, I am sure, a great deal of interest, sympathy and good will among British, French, Belgian, and German scholars towards the African peoples. But there is also much prejudice and condescension based upon certain assumptions toward Africans that are almost inevitable among persons educated in Europe. I believe both of these difficulties are surmountable.
African political independence can mean the encouragement and flowering of independent scientific study of African history by Africans, and there is already some evidence of this. On the other side, a significant number of Europeans have in recent years made valuable contributions to the true reading of Africa's past.
Since 1960 I have been in correspondence about the proposed Encyclopedia with leading students of African history and culture in Britain, Europe east and west, America, Asia and Africa. Though there remain individuals and institutions to be written to, I have already received close to a hundred responses from among those in various countries around the world who are regarded as most eminent in this are of scientific research. The responses have on the whole been exceedingly encouraging. Most have expressed concurrence with the idea and willingness to cooperate, and many have contained valuable comments and suggestions. (A digest of the opinions expressed is in preparation.)
The Ghana Academy of Sciences (formerly known as the Ghana Academy of Learning) decided at its meeting on October 31, 1960 to sponsor the project for an Encyclopedia Africana as I had outlined it. At a subsequent meeting on December 21, 1961, at which I was present and gave a report, the Academy formally agreed that the planning and production of the proposed Encyclopedia should be carried forward by a Secretariat under my directorship. It was further agreed that an initial grant of funds would be provided by the Government of Ghana for the purpose of starting this work.
While it is essential that the main and concentrated effort should be centered where the project has been initiated - in Ghana, I wish to emphasize what I said in my report to members of the Academy: "that all Africa should be invited and urged to participate and to share in authority and support." At the outset, we are seeking the advice and counsel of leading authorities in all Africa in determining the answers to various questions of substance and procedure involved in planning and preparing the Encyclopedia. A formal request for the practical assistance of the governments of all independent African states will be made in due course.
It is planned that our Secretariat here in Accra will establish and maintain a close liaison with teams of scholars in various parts of Africa engaged in work on specific problems in their respective areas.
Further, it is expected that the Editorial Board, as it comes to be established, will be broadly representative of all Africa, the members of the Board having as their common aim the preparation and publication of an Encyclopedia Africana which is at the same time authentically African and scientific. This Board may in turn wish to invite the cooperation of a body of advisors representing the best scientific scholarship relating to Africa available outside that continent.
Such in brief outline is the background, aim, and broad plan of our work for an Encyclopedia Africana. We are yet only in the preparatory stage of the work. It will proceed with deliberation, and it will take time. If the first volume can be published in ten years time, we will be satisfied.
I eagerly invite your cooperation in bringing this matter to the attention of individual scholars, learned societies and institutions interested in such a project. We welcome all inquiries of opinion about what we here propose. Above all, we seek the assistance and support of all who can contribute to the realization of this endeavor.
From Bro. Ray:
Regardless of what we think of Du Bois, the man evolved. He called Garvey a "fat, Black monkey" regretted it and continued to change as was necessary for the times. He had his flaws (don't we all) but in the end, the brother knew that Africa was where we all should look to for our strength and our future. I'm publishing an article that should be out in early 1997 on my research entitlted Fisk in Africa: George Padmore, W.E.B. Du Bois and the Encyclopedia Africana." Finally, if you haven't already, read David Levering Lewis' (another Fisk graduate) biography of Du Bois. It's simply the best, and describes his being color struck, his feud with Garvey and Washington and a lot more. If you *really* want to understand Du Bois, read Lewis' biography in a short period (3-4 weeks) and then begin with a chronological reading of his writings. His first major work, was his dissertation at Harvard (The Suppression of the African Slave Trade), but his earlier writings as a student at Fisk, and even in Great Barrington need to be read for understanding the complexities of the brother. Most of us have read *about* Du Bois, rather than what he said himself about himself. His writings should be read *chronologically* so that you can get a feel for his pan-Africanist development through his lifetime. Du Bois was his best critic, and few have taken upon themselves the daunting task of reading his writings directly.
Whenever I travel to Ghana, I am always struck by the fact that the average Ghanaian knows far more about Du Bois than Africans in Amerikkka. He is revered for what he, Padmore and Nkrumah attempted to do in developing the idea of a united Africa and global pan-African theory *and* practice.
Du Bois was an old brother when he died in '63, and his life parallels a lot of things that happened to Us as a people during that past 100 years. You must read Du Bois in a context, that few of us have done. For example, most of us don't know that while earlier espousing the notion of the "Talented Tenth" he later rejected it as being an elitist concept.
This has been a long post, but I hope it helps.
Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa