rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 3: p. 259
Sources: The African American Electorate: A Statistical History
Brent D. Singleton

Reference Librarian, California State University, San Bernardino

There are several scholarly nonreference studies on African American voting; most tend to focus on particular regions and/or historically significant periods. As well, there are reference works concerning the general US electorate that may or may not include sections on African Americans. This reference set is unique in that it focuses solely on the African American electorate from a broad geographical perspective, covering both enfranchisement and disenfranchisement efforts during all eras of American history.

The book is arranged into well-written and detailed chapters by topic, each bolstered by an impressive collection of statistics, totaling more than 500 maps, diagrams, tables, and figures often down to the county level. Furthermore, an additional 170 pages of appendixes of longer, more detailed tables extend the chapter data. The topical chapter arrangement is a departure from most studies on the subject, which are usually in strict chronological order or by region. The topical nature of the work leads to interesting chapters such as “Felon and Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement” or “The National Equal Rights League,” which further contextualizes the mass of data.

One missing element that would have been useful was a chronology for those new to researching the subject. Additionally, one might get the impression from this book that there are no and never have been any African Americans in the western United States. In the index, California has no entries, instead readers are directed to “See Far West States,” and then there are only three page entries. For the purposes of this study, states such as Arizona, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Idaho apparently do not exist. The authors contend that data can often be “spotty, fragmentary, piecemeal, as well as elusive and fugitive” (4). This notion seems appropriate for nineteeth-century and possibly early twentieth-century statistics, however, not for post–World War II data that was also omitted for western states. It appears that the laudable topical approach, eschewing regionalism as much as possible, may have left a void in this work as states west of Texas are roundly ignored.

Nonetheless, overall this is a tremendous set that would benefit any college collection.

Article Categories:
  • Library Reference and User Services
    • Sources


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2019 RUSA