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James T. Haley
Afro-American Encyclopaedia; Or, the Thoughts, Doings, and Sayings of the Race, Embracing Lectures, Biographical Sketches, Sermons, Poems, Names of Universities, Colleges, Seminaries, Newspapers, Books, and a History of the Denominations, Giving the Numerical Strength of Each. In Fact, it Teaches Every Subject of Interest to the Colored People, as Discussed by More Than One Hundred of Their Wisest and Best Men and Women.
Nashville, Tenn.: Haley & Florida, 1895.


In his Afro-American Encyclopaedia (1895), James T. Haley has collected a vast assortment of historical and contemporary information pertaining to African Americans at the end of the 19th century. Haley has compiled this book in order "to meet the wants of the Negro, who is desirous of knowing more of the history of his race, and the achievements of its great men and women." The book consists of short informational sketches of notable African Americans and African American institutions. Mixed with these sketches are essays and lectures by African Americans pertaining to a variety of subjects. Haley also includes a collection of African American poetry as well as statistical tables containing information such as the county by county population of African Americans in the United States.

Thematically, the Encyclopaedia concerns itself primarily with history and racial progress. On the historical front, the book contains background information on Africa, addresses numerous aspects of slavery, praises anti-slavery movements, and discusses elements of Reconstruction. Haley also includes information on individual African Americans who played a role in this history. In particular, Frederick Douglass receives extensive attention.

In terms of progress, the book offers both evidence of the advancement of the race and suggestions for individual and societal improvement. Haley examines the expansion of religious institutions during and since slavery. He provides background information on various denominations as well as numerous individual churches. He links religious institutions to their role in the rapid expansion of African American education since emancipation. The Encyclopaedia devotes attention to religious and secular academic institutions. Haley also addresses primary education, and he presents information on technical training, including a lecture by Booker T. Washington. The book further highlights the advances of the race by presenting sketches of successful African American clergymen, lawyers, businessmen, and artists. Prominent African American women address topics of women's rights, and African American doctors address issues of health and dentistry.

Haley's Encyclopaedia seeks to inform its audience on topics of history, religion, morality, education, and civil rights. Along the way the reader encounters a wealth of perhaps less important but no less interesting subject matter, such as Ben Franklin on beer or a chart containing the value of old coins. On the whole, however, the book is, as Haley states, an effort "to compress within a few hundred pages the momentous events connected with the Afro-American race during the nineteenth century."

Andrew Leiter

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