Tracey Baptiste’s “African Icons” Receiving Rave Reviews

Tracey Baptiste's upcoming book "AFRICAN ICONS: Ten People Who Shaped Histor" is being applauded by reviewers.
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Photos: Tracey Baptiste

Author Tracey Baptiste's upcoming book "AFRICAN ICONS: Ten People Who Shaped Histor" is being applauded by reviewers.

When American schoolchildren learn about Black History, they are typically taught American stories rooted in the struggle over enslavement and oppression. While these stories are essential, they acknowledge only part of a rich and thrilling history that goes back millennia across the vast African continent.

In African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History (Publication Date: October 19, 2021, $19.95), Tracey Baptiste, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jumbies series, skillfully transforms how Black history is presented by spotlighting the incredible achievements of ten awe-inspiring African innovators illustrated by stunning full-color portraits by artist Hillary Wilson along with maps, photographs, and other graphics.

“African Icons is a lullaby to a continent,” Baptiste says. “It’s about the people whose histories have been left off the books or disregarded because they didn’t come from Europe, and about the land that changed under their feet.”

African Icons is already receiving high praise from reviewers.

"In African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History, Baptiste engages in the hard work of unveiling the myths about the African continent to young readers. She pieces together the stories of ten people in a continent that fueled the world. This is a great beginner’s guide to pre-colonial Africa.” —Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist.

“Miraculous. [Baptiste] lifts the veil intentionally cast over African history, granting readers a veritable feast of information and inspiration. Wilson’s portraits of each figure exude such beauty, strength, power, and, above all, dignity as to be nearly breathtaking. Black leaders of any age will see themselves reflected in the amazing lives chronicled, many of whom may be new to readers. Non-Black readers will get a window into the marvelous history of a continent oft overlooked and relegated to a single narrative. …[T]his impressively researched work was clearly a massive undertaking, presenting figures from multiple parts of the continent in the truth of their cultural and historical richness. The result is empowering, necessary, and required reading for all. Game changing.” —Kirkus Reviews

· Born into a time of political strife in Egypt, Imhotep rose from peasant to doctor to vizier, the king’s most important advisor, and then used his resources to design the first ever pyramid—a tremendously complex and artistic feat—and write the oldest known manual of surgery.

· An Ethiopian, Aesop was enslaved and forcibly brought to Greece where he began telling wise and enthralling stories of small animals besting more powerful creatures through perseverance and cunning. His fables have since been written and rewritten, translated, and spread around the globe, continuing to inspire and educate readers world-wide to this day.

· At a time when no other country in the world had female rulers, Queen Amanirenas ruled the kingdom of Kush. A ferocious soldier, clever strategist, and skilled diplomat, she fought brutally and victoriously against the invading Romans and negotiated a peace deal that led to generations of economic growth.

· Tin Hinan, a member of the nomadic Tuareg group, saw opportunity in the desperate need of desert travelers for shelter, rest, and protection. Erecting a city in the Sahara, she became the first Tuareg Queen and established a matrilineal society.

· Mansa Musa, ruler of Mali, lead over forty million people yet maintained peace and prosperity through his generosity and world-famous diplomacy. At his wealthiest, the beloved king was worth the modern-day equivalent of four hundred billion dollars, making him the richest person in world history.

“My book is about African history before Europeans decided to carve up, colonize the continent, and cart away people from their lives,” explains Baptiste. “It gives a view into how Africa was developing on its own, how it used its resources, and how it was a major player on the world stage before it suddenly became 'backward' and 'dark' after the Medieval period … In African Icons, we find the stories of ten people whose actions shaped not only the history of their own countries or their own continent, but whose reach extends into world history all the way to modern times.”

Inspiring and enriching, AFRICAN ICONS provides ten illuminating portraits of Black excellence from ancient times through the sixteenth century, reminding young scholars that Africa holds the longest and most lasting history in the world. By introducing these tremendous stories into current discussions of racial inequality and historical bias, Baptiste takes an important step toward filling a vast educational gap.

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