|Nation's first encyclopedia on black politics is published|
July 28, 2003
It was a tough research assignment even for a respected scholar known for his vast knowledge of black politics: create a comprehensive survey of African American politics.
Now three years and 432 pages later, political science Professor Robert C. Smith has finished what is thought to be the first encyclopedia on African American politics, providing a comprehensive reference on the people, events and ideas that have shaped life for black Americans.
American politics is a politics about freedom and equality," said
Smith, the author of several other books on black politics. "The
encyclopedia tells the story of how politics and issue of power
created and changed policies that have affected generations of
One of the country's top scholars on race and politics, Smith began working on the book in early 2000 after being approached by Facts on File, a leading publisher of reference books for libraries and schools. Many books exist on African American history but apparently no standard reference that focused on blacks and politics existed before.
The encyclopedia's entries range from the abolitionist movement, described as the first interracial movement, to the life of Whitney Young Jr., executive director of the Urban League from 1961 to 1971. Although most of the material is widely known, Smith verified all the information for each entry. For readers who want more information about a subject, Smith concludes entries with notes on books for further reading.
the development of African American politics, Smith explained,
and maintained bases of power and used them to
subordinate blacks and maintain control. While blacks, on the other
hand, have tried to acquire bases of power to end their subordinate
relationship. "Historically, however, whites have monopolized
virtually all of the bases of power," Smith said. "From
this perspective, African American politics is an oxymoron: a politics
In compiling the book, Smith said he received invaluable assistance from his wife, Scottie Smith. And he dedicated the book to the memory of Lavonya Dejean, a friend and colleague of his wife. Dejean was a well-known advocate and activist for the education of disadvantaged children in western Contra Costa County.
Smith hopes the book will help people understand the breadth of the African American experience in politics. "Readers will learn something about the impact of this unique black experience and its integral relationship to the political theory and development of politics in the United States," he said.
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415)