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Matt Wasniewski, et al., “Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007” (U.S. House of Representatives, 2008): In just a few days, the United States will inaugurate its first black president, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. And though it’s a momentous day for the cause of equality, Mr. Obama is hardly the first African American to come to DC to serve the peop...

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In just a few days, the United States will inaugurate its first black president, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. And though it’s a momentous day for the cause of equality, Mr. Obama is hardly the first African American to come to DC to serve the people of the United States. His way was paved by well over one hundred black legislators who served over the past 140 years in the House and Senate. Happily, you can read all about them in wonderful Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Clerk, Office of History and Preservation, 2008). This is book has three cardinal virtues. First, it’s timely, as we’ve said. The editors and authors deserve praise for seeing it into print at exactly the right moment. Second, it’s well researched and written. The entries–one for each black legislator–are at once informative, rich in detail, and full of humor and pathos. Finally, it’s a beautifully designed and produced work. This book is, like its companion Women in Congress 1917-2006, a work of great craftsmanship, and should be acknowledged as such. Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 is the sort of book you buy to keep and hand down to your children. So buy it, hand it down, and preserve the memory of those who came before President Obama.
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