Exchanging Our Country Marks The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South by Michael A. Gomez (review)

Exchanging Our Country Marks The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South by Michael A. Gomez (University of North Carolina Press, 1998)

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Exchanging Our Country Marks The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South by Michael A. Gomez (review)

by Sylvia R. Frey
Southern Cultures, Vol. 6, No. 3: Fall 2000

University of North Carolina Press, 1998

Every so often an essentially synthetic works appears that is more than a synthesis. Exchanging Our Country Marks by Michael A. Gomez is such a book. Although it relies heavily on secondary sources reinforced by extensive research in runaway slave advertisements in southern newspapers and WPA interviews from the 1930s, Exchanging Our Country Marks is a conceptual tour de force. No brief review can do justice to the nuances and complexities of Gomez’s argument. His essential concern is with the “self-view,” or self-perception of the African in Africa and in North America in the period before 1830. Ethnicity, he maintains, was the source of cohesion and division in the African American community that developed in North Americaan ethnicity derived from and informed by African antecedents. Gomez covers the complex and problematic process through which Africans and their descendants moved from ethnicity to race and within race to class.