Lest We Forget: The Passage from Africa into the Twenty-First Century
By Velma Maia Thomas (Becker & Mayer Books)
This year—2019—is a year for remembering. Four hundred years ago, the first African slaves were brought to America. Velma Maia Thomas tells this long story, starting with Africa before the European slave trade.
Lest We Forget is three books in one—Lest We Forget, Freedom’s Children and We Shall Not Be Moved—and is the size of a coffee table book. Lest We Forget covers the beginning of the slave trade through the end of the Civil War. Freedom’s Children takes the reader from emancipation through Reconstruction and on to the Great Migration of African-Americans out of the South. We Shall Not Be Moved takes up the story in the early 1900s and carries it to the present with significant coverage of the struggle for civil rights.
Thomas laid the book out much like a museum exhibit with two-page spreads dedicated to specific topics. Important photographs and facsimiles of historic documents are included throughout. Among the facsimiles are handwritten notes, public notices, a deposit book from a freedman’s bank and a copy of the rules given to students participating in lunch counter sit-ins.
Not only does Thomas relay the rich and rhythmic history of those brought to America as slaves and who later came to count this land as home, she weaves the thread of faith from beginning to end, explaining how faith in God, the power of spiritual songs and the resonance of the biblical story gave black men and women, boys and girls hope and the strength to carry on.
Lest We Forget isn’t the only book a person should read about black history, but it is a very good introduction providing a complete arc from pre-slavery through slavery and the way out the other side.
Eric Black, executive director, publisher and editor