This biographical encyclopedia is the first of its type by Grey House, building upon ABC-CLIO's 2000 work, African-American Writers: A Dictionary.
The single, hand-bound volume showcases more than five centuries’ contributions on the part of African Americans, including curricular standbys like the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights and Black power movements. The Encyclopedia also manages to re-conceptualize the very meaning of "writing" as it is usually treated within an academic reference book, including within its purview here activists, rappers, spoken word performers and musicians, as well as other individuals whose ties to the literary tradition appear even more tangential. For example, Anita Hill, who wrote a memoir about her harassment at the hands of Clarence Thomas and Thomas’ subsequent Supreme Court hearing, is among the writers profiled.
The numerous articles describing the founding, editorial oversight and production of African-American journals and literary magazines, as well as the articles profiling the Johnson Publishing Company, are among the Encyclopedia’s highlights. Each entry in the Encyclopedia supplies bibliographical references, including many citations from less than established sources, such as Wikipedia (abbreviated to "Wiki" within the body of the text) and MySpace. Generous cross-references to other entries are indicated in boldface throughout the text.
The Encyclopedia is supplemented with more than 100 pages of primary source documents, sorted roughly by era, the earliest relating to the presence of African-Americans in the colonies but also including photographic images of Zora Neale Hurston's work from the Library of Congress Manuscript division. Appendices sort writers in chronological order by birth date and offer a chronology of firsts and writers organized by genre. Recommended only for public libraries with a strong collecting emphasis on African-American literature.