The African American National Biography edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham compliments our resources the Oxford National Biography and the American National Biography (ANB). When the ANB was re-released in 1999, its editor Casper Grathwohl asked Gates to highlight one of the African Americans listed in the then new edition. Gates found that so many important figures were missing from the ANB, that a completely new encyclopedia would have to be created as its complement; Grathwohl and Gate’s co-editor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham immediately assented.
Gate’s mentor in African American studies, John Wesley Blassingame, Sr., had been adamant that the discipline of African American studies had to end the cycle of each new scholar having to re-do the work of previous scholars because the earlier work had fallen into obscurity. A complete collection of quality reference books such as encyclopedias, bibliographies and concordances would insure the continuation and accumulation of scholarship in the field. Gates has been responsible for many innovations in the field of African American studies including collections of slave narratives and the discovery of the first novel by an African American, Our Nig by Harriet E. Wilson. The African American National Biography is the culmination of his work to create a solid basis for African American scholarship and will be his greatest contribution for generations to come. The African American National Biography will continue as the primary reference tool in the field as well. This title is located in our Silent Reading Room.