Molefi Asante, professor in the African American Studies program at Temple University, has written a volume in which he attempts to distill his work on the history of African Americans into a list of the 100 greatest people in that history--a difficult task to be sure, and one that can lead to arguments over the choices. Whether one feels Barbara Jordan would make a better choice than Shirley Chisholm, or that Matthew Gaines was a stronger educator than John Russwurm, it is hard to disagree with the people who Asante chose to highlight. He explains his choices in the introduction and makes it very clear that he left out numerous current popular people because he feels the hype around the pop persona is not what makes an individual important. He makes no attempt to rank the people he selected because he viewed that as an impossible task, so arrangement is alphabetical. A short bibliography lists material for further research.
The 100 people who are included range from former slaves such as Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley to more contemporary individuals such as Amiri Baraka and Toni Morrison. Among others are sports figures Jesse Owens and Tiger Woods, performers Marian Anderson and Bill Cosby, and political activists Marcus Garvey and Jesse Jackson. Each portrait covers two to four pages that summarize the person's life, work, and importance and is accompanied by a black-and-white photograph or illustration. There is enough variety so that students with assignments will have no trouble focusing on someone in their area of interest.