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African Europeans: An Untold History

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Africans or African Europeans are widely believed to be only a recent presence in Europe, a feature of our ‘modern’ society. But as early as the third century, St Maurice—an Egyptian— became the leader of a legendary Roman legion. Ever since, there have been richly varied encounters between those defined as ‘Africans’ and those called ‘Europeans’, right up to the stories o Africans or African Europeans are widely believed to be only a recent presence in Europe, a feature of our ‘modern’ society. But as early as the third century, St Maurice—an Egyptian— became the leader of a legendary Roman legion. Ever since, there have been richly varied encounters between those defined as ‘Africans’ and those called ‘Europeans’, right up to the stories of present-day migrants to European cities. Though at times a privileged group that facilitated exchanges between continents, African Europeans have also had to navigate the hardships of slavery, colonialism and their legacies. Olivette Otele uncovers the long history of Europeans of African descent, tracing an old and diverse African heritage in Europe through the lives of individuals both ordinary and extraordinary. This hidden history explores a number of questions very much alive today. How much have Afro-European identities been shaped by life in Europe, or in Africa? How are African Europeans’ stories marked by the economics, politics and culture of the societies they live in? And how have race and gender affected those born in Europe, but always seen as Africans? African Europeans is a landmark celebration of this integral, vibrantly complex slice of European history.


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Africans or African Europeans are widely believed to be only a recent presence in Europe, a feature of our ‘modern’ society. But as early as the third century, St Maurice—an Egyptian— became the leader of a legendary Roman legion. Ever since, there have been richly varied encounters between those defined as ‘Africans’ and those called ‘Europeans’, right up to the stories o Africans or African Europeans are widely believed to be only a recent presence in Europe, a feature of our ‘modern’ society. But as early as the third century, St Maurice—an Egyptian— became the leader of a legendary Roman legion. Ever since, there have been richly varied encounters between those defined as ‘Africans’ and those called ‘Europeans’, right up to the stories of present-day migrants to European cities. Though at times a privileged group that facilitated exchanges between continents, African Europeans have also had to navigate the hardships of slavery, colonialism and their legacies. Olivette Otele uncovers the long history of Europeans of African descent, tracing an old and diverse African heritage in Europe through the lives of individuals both ordinary and extraordinary. This hidden history explores a number of questions very much alive today. How much have Afro-European identities been shaped by life in Europe, or in Africa? How are African Europeans’ stories marked by the economics, politics and culture of the societies they live in? And how have race and gender affected those born in Europe, but always seen as Africans? African Europeans is a landmark celebration of this integral, vibrantly complex slice of European history.

30 review for African Europeans: An Untold History

  1. 4 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | “The history of African Europeans is vibrant and complex, just as it is brutal.” Olivette Otélé, who happens to be a professor at my university, is the first black woman in the UK to be appointed to a professorial chair in history. African Europeans is her meticulously researched and illuminating examination of the relationship, past and present, between Europe and Africa. Otélé reveals key figures and connections that have long been overlooked by historians and pu | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | “The history of African Europeans is vibrant and complex, just as it is brutal.” Olivette Otélé, who happens to be a professor at my university, is the first black woman in the UK to be appointed to a professorial chair in history. African Europeans is her meticulously researched and illuminating examination of the relationship, past and present, between Europe and Africa. Otélé reveals key figures and connections that have long been overlooked by historians and public discourse. By revealing the lives and experiences of African Europeans throughout the centuries Otélé dispels the popular myth of Europe having an exclusively white historical narrative (which leads many to criticise period/historical dramas that are set in Europe and star non-white characters, claiming that it isn't 'historically accurate'). In the first chapter, 'Early Encounters: From pioneers to African Romans', Otélé states the following: "From confrontations to collaborations, the relationship between Africans and Europeans has been tumultuous since the third century". She discusses figures such as the Queen of Sheba and St Maurice (an Egyptian and leader of the Roman Theban Legion) as well as African-born Romans such as Emperor Septimius Severus (who was born in Leptis Magna ie Libya) and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. who "paved the way for a strong tradition of African European intellectuals". In the second chapter, 'Black Mediterraneans: Slavery and the Renaissance', Otélé touches upon famous names such as Alessandro de Medici to 'ordinary' ones such as Ursola, a black slave in a Valencian household, who hoped to "buy her freedom". From the Renaissance Otélé moves onto the following centuries, exploring, and challenging, Europe's shifting perceptions of race and blackness. Otélé also demonstrates the ways in which racism has evolved throughout history. “From religious artefacts to representations of the magi; from an intellectual in fifteenth-century Granada to the young grime artists of twenty-first-century Britain, African European identities have continuously evolved.” In the latter half of this book Otélé focuses on more recent history, describing how many European countries refuse to acknowledge systemic racism (as if 'apologising' for their colonial pasts absolves them completely) feigning 'color blindness'. I also really appreciated Otélé's intersectional approach as she always takes into account the different ways in which one's gender and sexuality contributes to the way they are treated by and seen by their society. The lives, experiences, histories Otélé 'unearths' are riveting. While Otélé does not pose questions to the reader, the histories she 'unearths' are definitely question-inducing. Racism, citizenship, identity, notions of freedom and of belonging all shape the individuals Otélé is writing about. This is the kind of history book that should become part of the curriculum. Although I did not attend a British school many of my British acquaintances have complained about the lacunae in their studies (especially when it comes to discussing the relationship between Africa and the UK). And I also hope that it will be translated in Italian and many other languages. I think this an inspiring work that will definitely appeal to those with a 'history' background or to history aficionados. Otélé is a thoughtful yet objective writer and her work demonstrates incredibly acuity and knowledge. Many many many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an a copy of this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    Truth is I finished this the day after I started it🤷🏾‍♀️ I consumed it like a feast and did not take appropriate notes😭 So I need to add my quotes at a later date. I felt this encompasses a very full and complete view of history. Often we are given a peripheral view of history and told that's all that exists. This bursts that open but doesn't focus on that so much as continues with the story. So many fabulous quotes. This is well written and sourced. Truth is I finished this the day after I started it🤷🏾‍♀️ I consumed it like a feast and did not take appropriate notes😭 So I need to add my quotes at a later date. I felt this encompasses a very full and complete view of history. Often we are given a peripheral view of history and told that's all that exists. This bursts that open but doesn't focus on that so much as continues with the story. So many fabulous quotes. This is well written and sourced.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Olivette Otélé provides a very comprehensive history of Africans in Europe from the earliest times through to the twenty-first century. Interestingly, we find communities of people of African descent across that continent from the British Isles right through to Russia and the various places in between. While their presence has had an impact on the history, politics, and religion of the region for generations they still remain a hidden class in many countries as they continue to face many challen Olivette Otélé provides a very comprehensive history of Africans in Europe from the earliest times through to the twenty-first century. Interestingly, we find communities of people of African descent across that continent from the British Isles right through to Russia and the various places in between. While their presence has had an impact on the history, politics, and religion of the region for generations they still remain a hidden class in many countries as they continue to face many challenges mainly in the form of racism in modern times. This is an excellent history showing that Africans haven't just been arrivals to Europe in recent decades and is recommended reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    DNF at 7% This is not a reflection on the content of this book, but unfortunately I just couldn't get through the audiobook. The narration is choppy with oddly placed pauses and emphasis which, in combination with the academic style of the prose, makes it very difficult to follow. The premise of the book, looking at the history of Africans in Europes is an interesting and important one. Perhaps I will return to the material via the physical book at some point in the future, but the audio just isn DNF at 7% This is not a reflection on the content of this book, but unfortunately I just couldn't get through the audiobook. The narration is choppy with oddly placed pauses and emphasis which, in combination with the academic style of the prose, makes it very difficult to follow. The premise of the book, looking at the history of Africans in Europes is an interesting and important one. Perhaps I will return to the material via the physical book at some point in the future, but the audio just isn't going to work for me and that is what I currently have available. I received an audio review copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    Otélé explores the history of Africans in Europe, from Roman to Medieval times, from Alessandro de’ Medici to Stormzy, from the virtually unheard of stories of mixed race children of German and Danish colonialists,. Otélé’s book is impressively researched and draws out the gradual increase of racism in Europe just as it was emerging from the renaissance, which imbued Europeans with a feeling of cultural superiority which was exacerbated by self-interest in the slave trade and which reached clima Otélé explores the history of Africans in Europe, from Roman to Medieval times, from Alessandro de’ Medici to Stormzy, from the virtually unheard of stories of mixed race children of German and Danish colonialists,. Otélé’s book is impressively researched and draws out the gradual increase of racism in Europe just as it was emerging from the renaissance, which imbued Europeans with a feeling of cultural superiority which was exacerbated by self-interest in the slave trade and which reached climax in eugenics and colonialism. Otélé’s greatest strength lies in her ability to interweave personal narratives against the historical context they take place within. So Otélé explores the emergence of grime and drill music against a backdrop of increased racial tensions and poverty, or of the African women of the Danish Gold Coast whose main avenue to independence as to marry a European man, but who were still treated as second class people by European society or of the mixed race German man who grew up Germany during the rise of fascism. At times ‘African Europeans’ can be a bit too academic in style, however this is offset by Otélé’s erudition and her ability to explores the motivations and stories of the people she depicts.

  6. 5 out of 5

    2TReads

    This is one of those historical accounts that needs to be read. African Europeans have been creating and sharing knowledge for centuries. They have been transmitting their various cultures in environments that were hostile to them and in ways that were not recognised as valuable by scholars from the Global North.' Otele has written an illuminating and engaging history that is aimed at returning the Africans that existed within the European societal construct to the collective consciousness of toda This is one of those historical accounts that needs to be read. African Europeans have been creating and sharing knowledge for centuries. They have been transmitting their various cultures in environments that were hostile to them and in ways that were not recognised as valuable by scholars from the Global North.' Otele has written an illuminating and engaging history that is aimed at returning the Africans that existed within the European societal construct to the collective consciousness of today. Those whose images had been rewritten and redrawn by European historians to suit their racialised definitions and perceptions. She has reclaimed their true identities and contributions that have been obscured to feed into the need to erase and downplay their colonialistic and imperialist past. She uses an investigative and comparative approach using records and surviving observations to accomplish this and it is done brilliantly. Otele focuses on their relationship with their histories and identities, how the structure of the European society was set up to extract their talents, minds, and bodies to further each colonial country's agenda, while refusing to view them as an integral part of the social fabric. She takes us into laws and practices that were implemented to exclude and separate those of African descent and with dual heritage from the native white populace, the perceptions held by the general public and the effects that rippled and crippled the potential of those who were branded stateless, not belonging, exotic. We also learn how these countries use their dual-heritaged/African-descended individuals to excel in arenas such as Sports/Athletics and the Arts. But throughout Otele's brilliant, easy to read and understand account, we are shown the resilience that resides within, how it is used to fight for the right to be seen and heard. Across Europe, social movements, festivals, artists, and activists have instigated and initiated movements to cement their place in the countries they and their ancestors, on and off continent, literally built.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gretel

    I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ---------------------------------- Sometimes you find books you instantly know you’ll like. I found this one months ago and I would’ve read it anyways, but it just so coincided with the rising of racist ignorance regarding Black people living in Europe. People were decrying the existence of Black characters in popular media, from games to movies, arguing that Black people didn’t live in Europe “at that time I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ---------------------------------- Sometimes you find books you instantly know you’ll like. I found this one months ago and I would’ve read it anyways, but it just so coincided with the rising of racist ignorance regarding Black people living in Europe. People were decrying the existence of Black characters in popular media, from games to movies, arguing that Black people didn’t live in Europe “at that time”, a range that encompasses from antiquity and the middle-ages to at least 1945. I already knew that this was historically incorrect and that the presence of Black people was, as I assumed correctly and Otélé proves, an act of active amnesia: erasing, negating and thus forgetting the existence of Black people in Europe as a political move. So, when I saw this ARC, I was not only happy to learn more and get rid of my blind spots, I was looking forward to being equipped with the historical and scholarly ammunition I needed for future conversations. I knew this book was going to be good and dear readers, this book delivered and exceeded my expectations tenfold! First of all, for an ARC this book was flawless. Flawless! I found exactly one minute mistake – one sentence in the epilogue didn’t start with a capitalisation – and was otherwise stunned at the quality, not because I didn’t expect it to be excellent, but because I thought of other ARCs I’ve read. (One particular very awful nonfiction comes to mind…) Each and every single book by Black women I got through Netgalley share the same amount of skill and rigorous research. I strive to be that good in my own academic writing and I know I have a long way to go but their work gives me a goal and an example I try to achieve. Not only are grammar and spelling flawless, Otélé is a great storyteller. She writes clearly, concisely and with passion. The words flow from the pages, which I know takes a lot of hard work. The scholarly aspect is equally impeccable with great summaries of complex theories and works, great analysis, giving every single source and summarising materials to give you enough information and details but without being confusing or boring. It is hard to be able to synthesise sources well. It was an absolute pleasure to read this. What is African Europeans about? The history of African Europeans is vibrant and complex, just as it is brutal. It is a collection of experiences that vary greatly from one place to another and across time. All of these histories have shaped the social practices and identities of European communities and continue to do so today. The trajectories of African Europeans are embedded in local architecture, as well as in national and international visual, literary and other cultural productions. From religious artefacts to representations of the magi; from an intellectual in fifteenth-century Granada to the young grime artists of twenty-first-century Britain, African European identities have continuously evolved. While most eighteenth-century African Europeans had to tiptoe around their spaces, reluctant to assert their presence, twenty-first-century French Afrofeminists and other African Europeans are claiming their rights to self-define, reshaping discourses around race, feminism, and their own lives. From the antiquities to modern times, Otélé looks at various cases of African-European exchange and the lives of famous and regular people of African Europeans. We have Roman soldiers, who enjoyed high education and became politicians; religious figures and saints; enslaved and freedpeople, including how Africans navigated slavery as participants within the global market; famous Black women, such as Josephine Baker, Sarah Baartman (Hottentot Venus) and Jeanne Duval; famous European figures with African ancestry like Alexandre Dumas and Alexander Pushkin; people from sports; and much more. As Otélé shows, it would be a mistake to view everything from the racialised and racist lens that permeates our time. Did racism play an important role in many of these interactions? Yes. But through millennia and centuries, the idea and identity of “African” had shifted numerous times. She presents a complex and nuanced kaleidoscope of exchange, influence and even appreciation for African culture, history and people throughout Europe. It wasn’t until much later that “African” became synonymous with “slave/enslaved” and even within this system of enslavement, exploitation and dehumanisation did Africans find myriad ways to engage with Europe/ans. There are clear examples of exploitation within slavery, as many women were sexually abused by their white owners. The trajectory for the children was complicated, as some would become enslaved themselves, while others could advance – albeit oftentimes limited – within European society and receive education, possibly even positions or marriages within the European elite. There are also cases where white men would marry indigenous African women for their connections within their culture, as it made trading – in goods, as well as enslaved people – easier. This way, African women could profit and even participate in the global market. The power relations should not be obfuscated and Otélé is very clear in saying that these relations were complex and based on exploitation and uneven power dynamics. She doesn’t sugar-coat the history or pretend that Africans had equal chances and opportunities within a system that was designed to oppress them. She merely shows that there were hybrid forms of life where Africans would try and find success, (relative) safety and money within a system as best as they could. African Europeans presents a slice of the many lives of African Europeans, discussing what it meant to be “African” depending on the epoch, the shifting identities and changes in perception and ultimately the numerous and indispensable contributions to European history, culture, economics, society, arts, sports and more. There is no Europe without Africa, and not only because the first humans to walk the planet moved from Africa to Europe – the first humans to live in what is now England were scientifically proven to be dark-skinned – but because the African-European exchange – from goods and ideas to people – has never stopped. It was and is a continuous flow. Fact is that we Europeans profited from Africans and Africa a lot and it hasn’t stopped. And even if that weren’t the case, people deserve respect, equality, equity and opportunity without being “productive” or becoming a “model immigrant”. Human rights and dignity should never be tied to conditions, like economic contributions/exploitation. I will end this review by recommending you this book in all its five-star glory. You will not regret reading it. And the final words go to Otélé herself: The stories of migratory movement from Africa to the Americas and to Europe educate us about the forced contributions of people of African descent. Even ‘voluntary’ migrations are also forced in many ways, as economic migrants leave their families and culture in search of better lives. What to make of all these histories colliding, and contributing to anxiety amongst some contemporary groups while they are deeply valued by others? These stories should be taught, widely analysed, and valued. They bring us back to our human nature, while also serving as reminders that ‘humanity’ itself is a shifting concept. […] They do so because the histories of marginalised communities have found ways, be it through music, dance, food, arts or sports, to permeate the societies in which they live and have lived. Lived experiences have also been transmitted by these groups through successive generations. However, simply remembering is not the ultimate goal. Triumph against institutionalised brutality, everyday forms of racism and microaggression, poverty, exclusion and marginalisation requires a radical way of using transmitted experience of resistance. It demands a collective degree of consciousness that runs across social, economic, gender and cultural barriers. It entails a renewed and adaptable practice of kinship. It means engaging with black radicalism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    As the description of this book suggests, many of us have an inaccurate understanding of the history of Black people’s presence in Europe. So I wanted to correct my understanding. It’s important for us to learn the history of the slave trade, of course. But if we reduce Black histories merely to slavery, we are engaging in yet another type of colonial violence. Olivette Otélé aims to highlight the presence of African Europeans throughout history. She complicates and problematizes both our unders As the description of this book suggests, many of us have an inaccurate understanding of the history of Black people’s presence in Europe. So I wanted to correct my understanding. It’s important for us to learn the history of the slave trade, of course. But if we reduce Black histories merely to slavery, we are engaging in yet another type of colonial violence. Olivette Otélé aims to highlight the presence of African Europeans throughout history. She complicates and problematizes both our understanding of the slave trade as well as our conceptions about what it meant to be a “free” Black person in Europe during various centuries. African Europeans is informative and interesting, although it is also highly academic and difficult to read. Thanks to Perseus Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC! I’m not going to attempt to summarize this book. All I will say is that I learned a lot from it. Some of the highlights include the first Medici Duke of Florence, Alessandro, and how his skin colour affected his rule. Another highlight would be the ways that various European countries attempted to restrict or require extensive documentation from people of colour. Throughout this book, Otélé demonstrates how European countries, such as France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, have yet to really reckon with their role in the slave trade. Much is made of celebrating when these countries abolished slavery. Little discussion happens around the experiences of Black people in these countries around or even after that time. I wish I could say I enjoyed the book, but that would be a stretch. There are academic books, and then there are academic books, and then there are academic books. Like, African Europeans is full of research and references to other scholars. If that’s what you’re looking for—if you are studying this subject, then you will find this book useful. Nor do I want to suggest that every book should be comprehensible to a lay reader. But as someone who has a couple of university degrees and has been around the academic block a couple of times, I still found large parts of this book a slog to read. It largely comes down to how Otélé has organized the information. The transitions are often abrupt, and at times I found it difficult to understand the overall topic of each chapter. So when I say that I learned a lot from this book, I also want to say that I think I could have learned more if the writing style had worked better for me. I’m not sure how much I will retain that I learned. Therefore, unfortunately, as much as I would love to recommend this book widely to my friends, I’m not sure I can do that. African Europeans is informative but no compelling, well-researched but not well-organized, important but perhaps in need of more work to make its information accessible to those of us who most need to read it. Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    An untold story, certainly, and one that is worth the telling. I learnt a lot from this book, which explores the presence of people of African descent in Europe from way back, something that is perhaps not widely known. From as far back as Roman times, in fact, there have been Africans in Europe. Even Russia’s national poet Pushkin had African ancestry. Often there is little evidence to go on, particularly for women, but the author’s research has been thorough and deep, highlighting individuals An untold story, certainly, and one that is worth the telling. I learnt a lot from this book, which explores the presence of people of African descent in Europe from way back, something that is perhaps not widely known. From as far back as Roman times, in fact, there have been Africans in Europe. Even Russia’s national poet Pushkin had African ancestry. Often there is little evidence to go on, particularly for women, but the author’s research has been thorough and deep, highlighting individuals from different time periods and exploring attitudes and perceptions through the ages. She also explores the different words that have been used – negro, black, slave – and how they came not only to denote race and colour but eventually inferiority. The book is academic and scholarly and thus not always an easy read, although the author has made it as accessible for the general reader as it can be. I found the constant references to other writers and quotes from them, which peppered the text, intrusive, and would have preferred to read the author’s own views, leaving her sources to notes or footnotes, as I felt this impeded the narrative flow, and I can’t say that I really enjoyed the book. However, it is an important one and adds much to our understanding of race in history and thus any quibbles do not detract from that importance.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lona

    That's the stuff that should be taught in school too, so people wouldn't always talk like Black people in Europe would be something relatively "new". It was super interesting to read and I am glad, that I could catch up on mending my knowledge gap about their history here a bit. There was also of course information about ongoing important topics that still need to be adressed today. Absolutely worth reading! That's the stuff that should be taught in school too, so people wouldn't always talk like Black people in Europe would be something relatively "new". It was super interesting to read and I am glad, that I could catch up on mending my knowledge gap about their history here a bit. There was also of course information about ongoing important topics that still need to be adressed today. Absolutely worth reading!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Pope

    An absolutely brilliant book -

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    ↠ 2.5 stars

  13. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    Olivette Otele: ‘In France, you are either French which basically means white, or French “of so and so origin”.’ Photograph: JLK INTERVIEW The UK’s first black female history professor talks about slavery, Black Lives Matter and the long thread of resistance among Africans in Europe Fri 16 Oct 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/books/202... Olivette Otele is the quintessential African European. She was born in Cameroon, grew up in France where she received her education, and now lives in Wales. In 2 Olivette Otele: ‘In France, you are either French which basically means white, or French “of so and so origin”.’ Photograph: JLK INTERVIEW The UK’s first black female history professor talks about slavery, Black Lives Matter and the long thread of resistance among Africans in Europe Fri 16 Oct 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/books/202... Olivette Otele is the quintessential African European. She was born in Cameroon, grew up in France where she received her education, and now lives in Wales. In 2018, she became the UK’s first black female history professor, and this she year was included in the “100 Great Black Britons” list. When Edward Colston’s statue was torn down and dragged into Bristol’s harbour, Otele, who teaches the history of slavery at the University of Bristol, could not have been better placed to witness and process the moment. “I live just across the [Severn] bridge in Newport,” she says, “and I was very surprised by the whole movement. It was coming from young people taking matters into their own hands. But I also understand that this conversation has been going for decades and it looked as if we’d exhausted all other avenues.” Her first thought, when she saw the statue being thrown into the harbour was that it reminded her of underwater slave memorials. Colston’s statue, she believes, belongs in a museum, with the scars and dents of his journey to the harbour intact. “It would be interesting to see those moments within the body of the statue, as long as we have it somewhere where it can be contextualised. It’s part of the history of Bristol.” Otele has a fundamentally hopeful view about Britain and its race relations. She moved to the UK from France “for love”, but also from anxiety. “Twenty years ago, Britain offered a space I couldn’t find in France. In France, I wouldn’t want to have children. I wouldn’t want them to have to fight, emotionally and physically. Britain gave me a space and a chance to regenerate.” The statue of Edward Colston is thrown into Bristol harbour after protesters pulled it down. Photograph: Keir Gravil/Reuters That regeneration and space were needed because – living in France – she found her identity was always presented to her as “an either/or”. With her first book in English, she attempts to challenge that dichotomy by revealing a long history of African European identity that does not conform to the boundaries applied today. African Europeans: An Untold Story is a broad historical sweep that begins with the queens of Merowe on the Nile a few centuries BC, and ends in present-day Britain. Otele speaks to me from one of her children’s rooms, and her youngest child bounces in and out a couple of times during our conversation. She talks with the zeal of a historian and the warmth of someone who feels connected to the next generation of African Europeans. She tells me that she wrote the book for personal reasons. “In France, you are either French, which basically means white, or French ‘of so and so origin’.” The latter was emphatically second class, but Otele sees no reason for the separation. “For me they are completely intermingled.” As well as France, her family has connections in Germany, where her relations have lived for three generations. These Africans in Europe feel as if they have multiple identities, none of which negates their European one. But according to Otele, “society didn’t see her that way”. The book is many things. A scholarly work that reveals detail and colour about African Europeans; a study in how race waxes and wanes in its significance within social structures; and a claiming of black history as European history. But more than anything it is a rebuke – a rejection of the simplistic accounts of race and the history of black people in Europe. Otele is, in this historical moment of Black Lives Matter, clearing a space within which to discuss race on her own terms. As someone who has been thinking about these things for a long time, she has little interest in the current wars on race and cancel culture. “I don’t pay attention to any of that,” she says. “These discussions are very middle-class discussions. Activists and members of the black community, who tends to be working class, just survive and support each other. I think people get lost in these discussions, which are not precisely about inclusion or about making society better.” For Otele, the world is split into two: the dimension of the media and politicians, in which public discourse about race in general is polarised and reactionary; and another realm in the real world, on the ground, that is dynamic and diverse. There is a contrast between how Black Lives Matter has played out spontaneously in the streets and the way the movement has been folded into a popular narrative of incursive interests. It demonstrates, as far as Otele is concerned, that responding to all the ephemeral frequencies of racism diverts energy from the real work of challenging oppression. The long history that she covers renders culture war skirmishes mere reactionary moments that say little about where we are. Her perspective is informed by insight into societies in the past that, although primitive when compared with the present day, had what would be considered enlightened views on race. The book focuses on characters of African origin from the Roman empire, to the Medicis, to aristocratic Russia. Colston’s statue after it was retrieved from the harbour in June 2020. Photograph: Bristol Culture/PA The reason these accounts are not more well known is, to put it in a “mean” way, Otele jokes, simply “intellectual laziness”. Our horizons are so small that we only want to present stories that are “easy to understand, stories that put people of African descent in boxes. When stories are easy to understand, they are also easy to control.” That control is what Otele wants to prise away from the mainstream narrators of European history. Race, she believes, like all other features of identity, is subject to the values prized in a society at any one time. It is tempting to see those values in Europe as linear and progressing from racist to liberal as the continent left slavery and colonialism in the past, but it’s not that simple. Through the example of African Europeans such as Marcus Cornelius Fronto, a Roman of Berber origin who became tutor to two future emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, Otele shows how race was not necessarily a hurdle to achievement. “The Roman empire had more consideration for its subjects who were living within it than 18th-century colonies.” It is unthinkable that there would have been a colonial era equivalent of, for example, Lucius Septimius Severus, an African Roman emperor from 193-211 AD. His analogue would have been a north African person ascending the British throne as king or queen. “Under the Roman empire you had that understanding that all Roman subjects were actually capable of achieving something. It was about, not necessarily class, but it was about power. It was about those who were fierce enough, hungry enough to manage, whether they were on the fringe of empire, or within empire.” In Europe in the 18th century, opportunities were radically reduced, and the elevation of those of African birth into elite circles could not happen without the sponsorship and protection of powerful white advocates. The book is full of these African protagonists, either born in slavery or enslaved and transported to Europe at a young age. Some then exhibited great talent and skill either in scholarship, sports, or music, and were given passage into white society and permission to marry white women. One of them, central African-born general Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a slave kidnapped as a child and gifted to Peter the Great, was Alexander Pushkin’s great grandfather. Alexander Pushkin was proud of his great grandfather, a slave who had been given to Peter the Great. Photograph: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS We find it difficult to conceive of a world in which race is anything other than the prime indicator of someone’s status in white majority countries. But where race sits as a status determinant is not final. Otele wants people to understand that fighting racism is a long game, one that starts with refusing to see race as a barrier. “Race, resilience, resistance” is how she puts it. Her academic detachment gives way to a sharper tone, one of indignation, when she speaks of the various loyalty tests British people of colour are subjected to. As with the French identity, the notion of Britishness is limited and uniform, one that interrogates citizens of foreign extraction, rather than accommodates them. “We are more than the idea of Britishness that is presented to us. It’s skewed, it’s based on a specific time and place, because even Britishness is shifting constantly. But most people of African descent specifically, and sometimes those of Asian descent, are expected to demonstrate loyalty ... They are made to feel guilty about being attached to the idea of being, for example, from African descent of from Caribbean descent, or Asian descent. It’s ridiculous because the world is global, Britain is and was a global power, and in the 17th and 18th century, those questions were not that important.” This fixation on what it means to be British, and how that branches out into questions about fealty or integration, is related to a colonial loss of status by a country that never quite got comfortable enough with the colonised decamping to its shores. “It’s quite a novel perception of what loyalty is. For example, the enslaved were not subjects, but they were part of the British empire, they belonged to the British and in a way, were British. They have been free for some time. But as free people, they are questioned. They are challenged. It’s really about the anxiety of losing property.” The policing of identity is what Otele wants to free herself – and other black people – from, while giving them the tools to scope out and own their own valid place in the world. Without that autonomous navigation, Europeans of African descent will be stuck in a racial discourse that looks as if it is dynamic and shifting, but is in fact terminally repetitive. “I keep saying this to people around me. Racism keeps shifting as well. And what we end up doing is answering back, instead of actually creating stories of a long thread of resistance, of community collective cohesion or inter-community collaborations that are not necessarily referring to the white community. What we’re being pushed towards is these binaries.” Racism keeps shifting. What we end up doing basically is answering back, instead of creating resilient stories Olivette Otele Black people are constantly asked to “answer back to oppression, rather than having these nuances. I am trying to inject nuance. Our answer so far is to resist, rather than to create. And those who create actually are the ones who give me incredible hope. Communities, grassroots communities.” She mentions Black South West Network, a BME led infrastructure organisation working for race equality across the south-west; Babbassa, a social enterprise that supports youth; One Bristol Curriculum; and the Bristol Commission for Race Equality (Core) which she chairs, and is staffed by “outstanding individuals who are making a contribution to Bristol’s various communities outside their normal paid jobs”. All such organisations should have, Otele believes, more “prominence in the grand narratives of oppression, because they’re not just about oppression. The binary discourse is detrimental and it’s a trap.” Otele is measured in her speech but barely contains her passion whenever she touches on the vast unclaimed history of Africans in Europe. As a historian she sees the level of detail and research that goes into European history. “So why don’t we have that as people of African descent? Well actually, we do.” A rich theme in her work is that of communities and networks of support that have existed for centuries, and which were, and still are, crucial in the consolidation of African European communities. In her book, she describes enslaved populations in Europe not as atomised helpless individuals, but well read and informed about their legal rights in different jurisdictions. Slaves often challenged their owners in courts of law, and drew on the knowledge of other members of the liberated and indentured populations. That is still the way forward for Otele. “I wanted to show a network at international and European level.” The history of Africans in the west is not just about American plantations, that’s a particularly British obsession, she believes. “Black Lives Matter would not have had the European impact it had if there were no community-collaborative, powerful groups that exist and have been in place for decades.” When I ask her how she feels about the challenge of bringing nuance to such a polarised public sphere, she is hopeful. Offline, away from social media, the real work is being done. Her children see themselves as Welsh, French, Cameroonian, and are free of the anxieties she grew up with. Her work bringing to life their European predecessors is “a celebration for them”. It is also a thank you for the education she received from her parents and grandparents, who told her that, “no matter how others define you, you get to define yourself”.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Littlebookterror

    This book is exactly what you expect from the title and it's great. Otélé explores in great detail the relations between African and European countries over centuries and how different our current views on race are when it comes to our history. From different countries to different social statuses, we get an array of opinions supported by quotes and footnotes divided into several chapters to paint a full picture. Through known historical figures, we get an insight into what their life must have be This book is exactly what you expect from the title and it's great. Otélé explores in great detail the relations between African and European countries over centuries and how different our current views on race are when it comes to our history. From different countries to different social statuses, we get an array of opinions supported by quotes and footnotes divided into several chapters to paint a full picture. Through known historical figures, we get an insight into what their life must have been like and Otélé explains the complicated and contradicting views people had during those times. The political and economic situations are well explained and strengthen her narrative as she truly shatters the notion that "black people did not exist in Europe". I received an advanced reading copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    What was the experience of Africans who became European? Such is not normally presented as part of the historical narrative of Europe. The author begins with Roman times and some information known regarding Africans in Europe, yet the majority of the work covers the period since the Renaissance. The story is very much tied with colonialism: the Portuguese experience, those of mixed European and African heritage in Guinea unable to fit in either in Europe or in Africa; the fate of Cameroonians acc What was the experience of Africans who became European? Such is not normally presented as part of the historical narrative of Europe. The author begins with Roman times and some information known regarding Africans in Europe, yet the majority of the work covers the period since the Renaissance. The story is very much tied with colonialism: the Portuguese experience, those of mixed European and African heritage in Guinea unable to fit in either in Europe or in Africa; the fate of Cameroonians acculturated to Germany after Germany lost its Empire; conditions for Africans in Sweden, Denmark, and the surprising celebration of Pushkin's African heritage in Russia. Much is made of the modern experience of Europeans of African descent, both of those who came to Europe in the colonial days and those who have more recently immigrated. The author gives a strong voice to those African Europeans who wish to be seen and valued in Europe as Europeans without experiencing discrimination or exoticization. A good work which highlights aspects of European history most often neglected, and one with which Europe should grapple. **--galley received as part of early review program

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This is an incredibly important work of history. It needs to be read and analyzed in graduate classrooms, it should be in every graduate student's exam reading list, and it needs to be read by anyone who teaches European or World history at any level. Otele traces the history of Africans in Europe from ancient Greece to today and in doing so tells us a story of racial discrimination and perseverance. Because of the expansive nature of her work, not everything is covered. By choosing the stories This is an incredibly important work of history. It needs to be read and analyzed in graduate classrooms, it should be in every graduate student's exam reading list, and it needs to be read by anyone who teaches European or World history at any level. Otele traces the history of Africans in Europe from ancient Greece to today and in doing so tells us a story of racial discrimination and perseverance. Because of the expansive nature of her work, not everything is covered. By choosing the stories included, Otele does cover a large geographic area. The strongest and most accessible chapters are the last two, which are of interest to a general audience, The rest of the book is better suited for specialists because knowledge of European and African history is required to fully understand the stories and analysis.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    This book covers the history of African people in Europe/Western society from Biblical times through the present day. I, however, could not get past chapter three. The history was clearly well-researched and the author knew what she was talking about, but it was not communicated well. The book would often dart between people and topics without fully explaining any of them, describing people as if they're recognizable on first glance. The one that stood out was the story of St. Maurice, who I nev This book covers the history of African people in Europe/Western society from Biblical times through the present day. I, however, could not get past chapter three. The history was clearly well-researched and the author knew what she was talking about, but it was not communicated well. The book would often dart between people and topics without fully explaining any of them, describing people as if they're recognizable on first glance. The one that stood out was the story of St. Maurice, who I never heard about having never been a Christian nor a European. The author talked about him in assorted paragraphs between other discussions about the life of Africans in Roman Europe and going as far as the Middle Ages before circling back. This jumping around made it hard to remember who was whom and what they were doing and when. There were many assertions of someone's influence, but no description of what their effect was. The author seemed to become overly academic in her writing by responding to many historians as if we should already know who they were and their basic argument about whichever topic. Overall, it felt like multiple historical journal articles mixed together, and I could not get through it. A free e-copy of this book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The answer to every person who's ever tried to argue that Black people appearing in European period dramas is anachronistic. It's not. People of African descent have been living in European (sometimes by choice, sometimes not) since ancient times. From musicians to soldiers and everything in between, African Europeans have played an important role in the history of Europe. But they have often been either forgotten or willfully erased by those (usually white and male) writing the history books. O The answer to every person who's ever tried to argue that Black people appearing in European period dramas is anachronistic. It's not. People of African descent have been living in European (sometimes by choice, sometimes not) since ancient times. From musicians to soldiers and everything in between, African Europeans have played an important role in the history of Europe. But they have often been either forgotten or willfully erased by those (usually white and male) writing the history books. Otele sets the record straight. I learned about a number of historical figures I'd either never heard of (Joseph Bologne, French composer almost erased from history by Napoleon) or didn't realize were of African descent (Alexander Pushkin). Maybe too dry for reluctant non-fiction readers but I'm very glad to have read it and learned quite a bit.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    A couple of years ago, I was playing the Stonemaier game, "Viticulture" in which you own and operate a "rustic, pre-modern" vineyard throughout all seasons. I remember looking at the faces on the cards and thinking, "Why are there so many white people?" I wrote to Stonemaier Games and asked them to consider including adding more people of color to any future reprints. I got a snarky response from Jamey Stegmaier about historical accuracy. I'm so tired of people without backgrounds in history or A couple of years ago, I was playing the Stonemaier game, "Viticulture" in which you own and operate a "rustic, pre-modern" vineyard throughout all seasons. I remember looking at the faces on the cards and thinking, "Why are there so many white people?" I wrote to Stonemaier Games and asked them to consider including adding more people of color to any future reprints. I got a snarky response from Jamey Stegmaier about historical accuracy. I'm so tired of people without backgrounds in history or anthropology wielding their ignorance like a sword of truth. Europe has never been exclusively comprised of white people. First, our definition of white people has changed over time, and second--trade exists!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Signed, Iza

    Well, this one's for them scholars and Academia. But a must read for everyone who wishes to broaden their knowledge of Black Europeans. Well, this one's for them scholars and Academia. But a must read for everyone who wishes to broaden their knowledge of Black Europeans.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    An impressive breadth and depth in this fascinating history, but somewhat lacking in an engaging narrative.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Allieveryday

    This was a fascinating and eye opening book but it read like a text book at times so this is not for the distracted reader. Otele presents the lives and experiences of Black Europeans from Roman times up until today, and there is a great moment near the end where she points out that for some Black people Europe is now a choice as opposed to being forced to. There were stories about well known people, like a Medici and Pushkin, and lesser or totally unknown people. She talked about ancient times a This was a fascinating and eye opening book but it read like a text book at times so this is not for the distracted reader. Otele presents the lives and experiences of Black Europeans from Roman times up until today, and there is a great moment near the end where she points out that for some Black people Europe is now a choice as opposed to being forced to. There were stories about well known people, like a Medici and Pushkin, and lesser or totally unknown people. She talked about ancient times and Rome that one kind of figures "duh, there was contact and migration with Black people and Africans" but didn't fully think about and realize until now, and also about Danish involvement in Africa that no one talks about and the interactions between Europeans and Africans in a way I had not thought about before including how African and Black communities benefitted from these interactions. Just fascinating all around. However, the chapters were very long and could have benefitted from subsections or each chapter could have been a section instead with its own chapters. I say this because chapters often felt like they abruptly changed focus or jumped around topics and I felt a little lost and wondered "How did we get here from six pages ago?' Basically, it felt unstructured at times. And finally, I was bothered by what felt like a glossing over of racism in modern Britain after expounding on racism in France and colorblindness in the Netherlands. And moreover how we went from African European lives and history to French feminism, BLM, and modern British music (when music was never mentioned prior). So it was like a history book that suddenly became an essay on modern race relations? I did enjoy this book for the most part but the seeming lack of structure and incongruent ending were a big distraction.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    A lot of scholarship has gone into this book. Professor Otele is of course an academic, and her style is quite dry with constant referencing of her sources. As an academic book, it is extremely important and interesting with challenging content in the second half. What I missed, however, were the stories. For the most part, she relates the accounts of people's lives but they don't leap off the page. There are no illustrations, so I scurried across the internet to find images of the people she wa A lot of scholarship has gone into this book. Professor Otele is of course an academic, and her style is quite dry with constant referencing of her sources. As an academic book, it is extremely important and interesting with challenging content in the second half. What I missed, however, were the stories. For the most part, she relates the accounts of people's lives but they don't leap off the page. There are no illustrations, so I scurried across the internet to find images of the people she was mentioning. Some of them came much more alive in their Wikipedia entries. So this book provides not only food for thought, but offers ideas for further personal research into some fascinating characters.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dan Hicks

    A new landmark study of the central place of the lives and experiences of people of African descent in Europe’s history. Accessibly written, it skilfully combines a reassessment of a hidden past across two millennia with an urgent celebration of multiple identities in the present. African Europeans: An Untold History reframes how we understand the enduring and vital connections between Africa and Europe—at human as well as transcontinental scales

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thushara

    This was such a comprehensive academic book! It is about African history in Europe. An insightful and well written book that helped me understand a lot about the African history in Europe.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peg - The History Shelf

    You can read my review at BookBrowse Review here: https://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/in... You can read my review at BookBrowse Review here: https://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/in...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bagus

    Several days ago, I have just finished reading Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. Among the curious stories included in the book were three (presumably) fictional letters by Angelo Soliman’s daughter Josefine to the Austrian Emperor Franz II. In those letters, Josefine pleaded for her father’s body to be given proper Christian burial as opposed to being made into an exhibit within the cabinet of curiosities. Angelo’s body was skinned, stuffed and made into exhibit alongside stuffed animals. Neither his Several days ago, I have just finished reading Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. Among the curious stories included in the book were three (presumably) fictional letters by Angelo Soliman’s daughter Josefine to the Austrian Emperor Franz II. In those letters, Josefine pleaded for her father’s body to be given proper Christian burial as opposed to being made into an exhibit within the cabinet of curiosities. Angelo’s body was skinned, stuffed and made into exhibit alongside stuffed animals. Neither his social standing nor his membership as an Austrian Freemason saved him from posthumous exploitations of his body, which granted him the status of “mummified Moor”. The story of the tragic posthumous treatment of Angelo Soliman’s body is only one of the stories portraying the complexity of life for the African Europeans. One of the terms frequently employed by Olivette in this book is the notion of exceptionalism, which denotes the perception or belief that a species, country, society, institution, movement, individual, or time period is “exceptional”. The notion of exceptionalism could be used by a group of people to exaggerate or overemphasise on differences in appearance for example, by bringing up some representations which show a group of people as superior, while downplaying meaningful comparisons that could serve as a common ground. There are several abstract eventualities since the period of antiquities which served as precedents to this notion, but the author chose to highlight particularly the research carried out by Swedish physician and botanist Carolus Linnaeus, which specifically highlights the notion of race and its implications on modern concepts of racism and racialism. In the twelfth edition of Systema Naturae (1767), he labelled five varieties of human species based on the variations of culture and place, namely: the Americanus, the Europeanus, the Asiaticus, the Afer or Africanus and the Monstrosus. Olivette’s research on African Europeans is highly intriguing. If one wants to get a really clear picture of the interactions between the Europeans and the Africans, between two people, between two continents, and then the results of those interactions which would be the people of dual-heritage, this is the book to go. Using terminologies to describe the relationships between Africa and Europe would simplify the whole discussions, therefore I like the approach taken by Olivette by highlighting several instances in history when prominent African Europeans took part building their “exceptional” qualities, either in African colonies, or in Europe, and sometimes in the Americas. Take Battling Siki for example, who was among the forgotten person of dual heritage who managed to thrive into the world stage like a boxer. His legacy as a boxer was downplayed as a result of his origin as a person of dual heritage, both in his place of origin in Saint-Louis, Senegal and also in France which served as his starting point in his career. Olivette could bring the legacy of the past, into its continuation at present time without making it looks like a ranting scene. If any, each part of this book has successfully outlined the whole stories, with a brief introduction about each concept related to racism and racialism. As the author has said, the stories of African Europeans are full of complexities. It was not only about migration and slaveries in European colonies but also about identities formed particularly by people of dual heritage, partly due to the societal changes that arrived with displacement. If I have to say a particular thing that I dislike in this book, it is the way this book tries to tell the whole stories from the early encounters of Roman Empire period until the twenty-first century, which I think make this book less focused on its approach. To do it justice, I feel the need for this book to be developed into several separate books. If I might say, it was as though each chapter could be explored further into several books. This book could serve as an outline to works that are already existing about African Europeans and the relations between the two continents, particularly because it is rich of examples from historical actors in this regard, fictionalised stories in European literature and also cultural representations (particularly, I have been amazed by the extent of Olivette’s research about Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands, something which I did not realise before reading this book). === I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wilco

    Have you ever a book that left you so frustrated you decided to reopen your Good Reads account that you haven't used since high school? Well that is what "African Europeans" did to me. I picked this book up primarily because I want to learn more about the topic. I didn't even bother to read a page before purchasing the book. That was a mistake as I would shortly learn. This book is a heavy histography of the topic on hand that looks over maybe one or two people of interests during a "specific" tim Have you ever a book that left you so frustrated you decided to reopen your Good Reads account that you haven't used since high school? Well that is what "African Europeans" did to me. I picked this book up primarily because I want to learn more about the topic. I didn't even bother to read a page before purchasing the book. That was a mistake as I would shortly learn. This book is a heavy histography of the topic on hand that looks over maybe one or two people of interests during a "specific" time period for the first five chapters. Otele examines the story of each person extraordinarily closely, so much so she can't see the forest for the trees. It is not helped that often the connecting logic between case studies is so jumbled and leaves the reader confused. There is also the implicit idea throughout much of the writing that one is familiar with the literature that already exists or has ready access to such works. The writing is dense and academic and hard for any lay person who has not previously read any academic works. The work is not helped that within a "specific" time period, the writer will often jump around to time periods that are supposedly further ahead in the book. This is supposedly to help connect themes, however it only ends with creating more confusion for the reader. The other issue is, that I have already hinted at, is that some of these case studies seem like a poor choice and only offer interesting factoids of the individual case study despite the impressive citations around them. The case studies seem to have little impact or bearing on what was happening to other African Europeans and gets stuck with being a presentation of the exceptional. There is an issue that she discuss the interesting but not necessarily relevant topic of the inter marriages between European Colonizers and the native people along the African West Coast. I say not necessarily relevant, due to it not exactly about Africans in Europe as the book wishes to discuss, which leads to the slippery slope of whether she should include the stories of African Slaves in the Americas and their interactions with Europeans (which is a topic wildly discussed). This ends up taking most of one of the five "time" period chapters and at the same time expands over several time periods and seems disconnected from the rest of the "narrative". The book seemingly takes and even worse turn in the final two chapters where is leaves history becomes the last two decades. Here things become less descriptive, the one redeeming quality of the book, and really becomes less interesting. The last chapter is really dreadful where it at times reads like a list of Guardian headlines from the past decade and has very little examination. It was so bad I decided to skim the last ten or so pages. It really is frustrating that these two chapters take up about a quarter of the book. Otele would have been better of just dropping these sections and focusing on buttressing up the previous five chapters. I would like to make a quick aside and critique some of the other reviews have declared this book comprehensive...this book is hardly comprehensive since it hardly discuss Britain (leaving it to small discussions at the end about Grimes and current media representations of British History), as well as other nations which have some connection to Africa. It also hardly discusses the migration of Africans to Europe after decolonialism or African participation during the World Wars. There are things I learned from this book and I appreciate this book for giving me this new knowledge. But this does not outweigh how terribly written and unfocused this book is. I do hope another book comes along that is far better written and more comprehensive. With the current political environment that is likely, and I would I highly recommend any potential reader to wait for that book and give this a big pass.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I received African Europeans as part of a NetGalley giveaway. Despite mainstream notions that questions of immigration, diversity, and racial identity are a relatively recent phenomenon, African Europeans have been present at all levels of European society since ancient times. Their stories are Europe's story, and over the centuries, African Europeans have found multiple ways of adapting to and/or challenging hostile or paternalistic white power structures, which themselves have evolved over time I received African Europeans as part of a NetGalley giveaway. Despite mainstream notions that questions of immigration, diversity, and racial identity are a relatively recent phenomenon, African Europeans have been present at all levels of European society since ancient times. Their stories are Europe's story, and over the centuries, African Europeans have found multiple ways of adapting to and/or challenging hostile or paternalistic white power structures, which themselves have evolved over time. From the ancient Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who was born in present-day Libya, to African Europeans of the colonial era fighting against paternalistic, condescending barriers to equality, to millennial and Gen Z activists challenging deeply entrenched and oppressive power structures and demanding an end to not just racism, but economic/environmental injustice, sexism, and homophobia, the African European experience is complex and too often ignored or compartmentalized by those in power. Somewhat surprising myself as someone whose major historical interests are ancient and medieval, I found the latter chapters on the more modern day experiences of African Europeans the most powerful and engaging. I'm not sure if that's just a result of our particular moment in history, or if there's a natural commonality with people who live closer to us in time, but as a white American I found the discussions of how racism manifests itself differently between European countries, and between Europe and the United States, very thought-provoking. I've had a working knowledge of how racism in America is its own phenomenon, but having a European perspective to compare it to really brought both sides into clearer focus. As the epilogue states, African Europeans is more of an overview of the lives and experiences of African Europeans--each chapter feels like its own self-contained essay. Personally, I tend to prefer deeper dives on a more concentrated subject, but that''s just me. For those who may not have a strong background in the subject matter, African Europeans is a valuable introduction.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Josh Hedgepeth

    Thanks to NetGalley for an e-arc. 3-3.5/5 stars This was a fascinating look at the history of Africans relationship to, and existence in, Europe. I ended up reading along with the audiobook narrated by the author. The narration was alright. I always admire academics who choose to narrate their own works, but it can be a learning process. The quality of the audiobook isn't the best. It's mostly minor stuff, small shifts in volume or tone or how the author is narrating something, likely due to break Thanks to NetGalley for an e-arc. 3-3.5/5 stars This was a fascinating look at the history of Africans relationship to, and existence in, Europe. I ended up reading along with the audiobook narrated by the author. The narration was alright. I always admire academics who choose to narrate their own works, but it can be a learning process. The quality of the audiobook isn't the best. It's mostly minor stuff, small shifts in volume or tone or how the author is narrating something, likely due to breaks in between. It also feels dry which isn't necessarily a bad thing, merely not my personal preference, but that approach did exacerbate my problem following the content of the book. I'm hesitant to give this three stars because much of my critique is personal preference mixed with my mindset while reading this. I've been interested in reading this for a while, and when I finally did it was hard for me to follow the overall narrative in part because I was struggling to read in general. Nevertheless, some of the blame is with the book, or how it's structured. It feels like we go from topic to topic, each very detailed, but those very details come across like a wave of facts that I struggled to retain. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a more overarching narrative to help the reader/me connect each step in the overall story. Where, even if we don't retain every name or event, we get a good feel of each time period. Overall, my feelings are very subjective>, and I certainly don't want to give the impression that this book isn't worth reading because it very much is. Even as an American, I felt much of the earliest history explored here is important precursor to American history, not to mention the value of understanding it in Europe considering it's weight on the world's stage. This isn't an easy book, but if it seems interesting to you, I do urge you to give it a shot. My struggles don't make it a bad book, nor is it necessarily representative of most readers. Again, 3-3.5/5 stars.

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