Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

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Harcourt Brace, 1998 - Social Science - 266 pages
27 Reviews
Nothing in Keith Richburg's long and respected journalistic career at the "Washington Post" prepared him for what he would encounter as the paper's correspondent in Africa. At first all he could focus on was an Africa he tried his best to explain, a continent where brutal murder had become routine, where dictators and warlords silenced dissent with machine guns and machetes, where local officials sought payoffs for the most routine tasks, and where starvation had become depressingly common. But slowly, and with a great deal of personal anguish, this reporter asked a much more difficult question: If this is Africa, what does it mean for me to be an African-American? In this provocative and unvarnished account of his three years on the continent of his ancestors, Richburg takes us on an extraordinary journey that sweeps from Somalia to Rwanda to Zaire and finally to South Africa, and shows how he was forced to confront the divide within himself between his African racial heritage and his American cultural identity.

Before his arrival, Richburg had assumed that Africa's troubles were the legacy of colonialism and the Cold War, and that if the African nations were given a level playing field, they too would take their place on the escalator to prosperity that had lifted so many other formerly backward nations. But what he finds instead is senseless cruelty and repressive dictators, which have not emerged from the sins of the West but are homegrown. Inhumanity in Africa wears a black face, and the more Richburg sees, the more disillusioned he becomes.

Are these really my people? he wonders. Am I truly an African-American? The answer Richburg finds after much soul-searching is thatblack skin is not enough to bind him to Africa and that he is an American first, foremost and singularly. To those who would romanticize Mother Africa as a black Valhalla, where blacks can walk with dignity and pride, he regrets to report that this is not the reality. He has been there and has witnessed the killings, the repression, the false promises, the horror. And in his darkest night of the soul, Richburg looks into his own family's past and concludes, "Thank God. Thank God my nameless ancestor, brought across the ocean in chains and leg irons, made it out alive. Thank God I am an American."

In the tradition of the greatest works of international reportage, "Out of America" is a transformative personal journey as well as a journalistic tour de force. Once you see the world through Keith Richburg's eyes, you'll never think of Africa, America, or African-Americans in the same way again.

"Black America has always imagined Africa like the adopted child imagines the birth parent. The dream is that Africa holds a truth for us. Keith Richburg marches through that dream and finds that he was an American all along."

--Shelby Steele, author of "The Content of Our Character"

"Keith Richburg's pathbreaking narrative has the deliciously subversive feel of a samizdat classic. Anger at this book will, I suspect, only enhance its prestige. The judicious reader will see that Richburg is a self-confident American who, while proud of his rich black heritage, does not require Africa to buttress his identity."

--Robert D. Kaplan, author of "Balkan Ghosts" and "The Ends of the Earth"

" "Out of America" is a book we've needed for a long time, and Keith Richburg delivers. He has writtena courageous book that is at once moving and disturbing -- an African journey of the heart that I will not soon forget."

--David Lamb, national correspondent, "Los Angeles Times, " and author of "The Africans"

"With searing, vivid candor and unflinching courage, journalist Keith Richburg dares to discard preconceived notions about Africa to learn and convey a larger truth about humanity. His personal observations demolish the confining categories of race and class that imprison us all. Out of America is a brilliant, electrifying story of one man's hard-won liberation."

--John Hockenberry, NBC News, author of "Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence"

" "Out of America" may stun, depress or anger you. It definitely will not bore you. Whether you accept or reject Keith Richburg's deeply felt conclusions, his book -- and his unusual journey -- will certainly make you think. With "Out of America ," Richburg has carved out for himself a place among America's writers of the first rank."

--Ellis Cose, author of "The Rage of a Privileged Class" and "Color-Blind" "Striking in both its honesty and horror...A passionate reminder to a multiethnic democracy that human dignity, not banal notions of cultural identity, is the source of enduring civic and personal esteem."--Brian W. Jones, "Wall

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The writing was intriguing. - Goodreads
I just didn't care for his writing style. - Goodreads
Very educational and interesting. - Goodreads

Review: Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

User Review  - Zakyya Kenny - Goodreads

Thought provoking and very...dark Read full review

Review: Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

User Review  - Tammy Theriault - Goodreads

this books was so awesome! such a rude awakening. i loved how he says people want to come to do safaris but if they only knew the REAL struggles! very empowering book! Read full review

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About the author (1998)

African American journalist Keith B. Richburg was raised in Detroit. He worked for the Foreign Service Office of the Washington Post for several years and is currently the Hong Kong bureau chief for that publication. He wrote Out of America: A Black Man Confronts America after working in Africa for three years and seeing the suffering and corruption there. His controversial book suggests that African Americans should assimilate into mainstream America rather than maintaining a separate cultural identity.

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