Campus: San Francisco State University -- July 16, 2003
S.F. State Professor Creates First Encyclopedia On African American PoliticsWhat is thought to be the first encyclopedia on African American politics has just been published by San Francisco State University's Robert C. Smith, providing a comprehensive reference book on the people, events and ideas that shaped life for millions of black Americans.
"African American politics is a politics about freedom and equality," said Smith, who is African American and the author of several books on black politics. "The encyclopedia tells the story of how politics and issues of power created and changed policies that have affected generations of black Americans."
In the development of African American politics, Smith said, whites acquired 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," said Smith. "From this perspective, African American politics is an oxymoron: a politics without power."
It is that ensuing tug-of-war that makes African American politics so fascinating to the professor of political science at SFSU.
Smith, who has degrees from Berkeley, UCLA and Howard University, began working on the book in early 2000 after being approached by Facts of File, a leading publisher of reference books for libraries and schools. Many books exist on African American history but apparently none that focus on blacks and politics in a standard reference book.
The book's entries range from the abolitionist movement, described as the first interracial movement, to the life of Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League from 1961
until his death in a drowning accident at 49 years of age in 1971. For readers who want more information about a subject Smith concludes entries with notes on books for further reading. Although most of the material was widely known by students of politics and history, Smith conducted his own research to verify all the information for each entry.
The book provides answers to just about any question on black political history.
Smith hopes the book will help readers understand the breath 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,"
said Smith, the author of "African American Leadership" and
"American Politics and the African-American Quest for Universal
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