The Introduction identifies and discusses major themes and concerns within the book. It begins with a discussion of quotations about history from James Baldwin’s essay “White Man’s Guilt” and Walter Rodney’s 1972 book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, to argue that in the mid- to late twentieth century, Black writers and historians engaged with history and historiography as part of a fight for civil rights and political independence in Africa and the diaspora. Using these as a springboard, the Introduction critiques exclusionary characteristics of Western history and historiography. It draws attention to scientific history or positivism, showing its exclusionary practices with regards to race, gender and methodology.
The Introduction then looks at the challenge of Black writers and historians to correct these by providing separate discourses of the developments of West African and African-American histographies from the mid-twentieth century to present day. It concludes with a discussion of West African and African-American writers’ engagement with the past in literature, drawing examples from social and political events in West Africa and the United States that have shaped writers’ perspectives.