The African American National Biography (AANB) is a joint project of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Oxford University Press. Edited by Professors Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, this landmark undertaking resulted in an eight-volume print edition containing over 4,000 individual biographies, indices, and supplementary matter. The AANB, published in February 2008, includes many entries by noted scholars, among them Sojourner Truth by Nell Irvin Painter; W. E. B. Du Bois by Thomas Holt; Rosa Parks by Darlene Clark Hine; Miles Davis by John Szwed; Muhammad Ali by Gerald Early; and President Barack Obama by Randall Kennedy. In 2008 the AANB was selected as a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, was named a Library Journal Best Reference work, and awarded Booklist Editors’ Choice – TOP OF THE LIST.
An expanded edition of the AANB continues online, with more than 1500 entries added since 2008. More than 750 of these can be found in a Revised Print Edition of the AANB, published by Oxford University Press in 2013. The Revised Edition includes significant updates and revisions of hundreds of entries, including that of Barack Obama, in recognition of his 2008 presidential campaign, election victory, and first term in office up to October, 2011. Additional entries range from First Lady Michelle Obama, written by award-winning historian Darlene Clark Hine, to several entries concerning the African American experience in Hartford, Connecticut. These were submitted by students of Theresa Vara- Dannen, a teacher at that city’s University High School of Science & Engineering. The enthusiasm of these students and the professionalism of their entries prompted the AANB, in conjunction with Oxford and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, to launch a broader outreach program to solicit entries from more than 40 high schools in 2012 and 2013.
The expanded AANB has also allowed us to capture some of the less well-known, but fascinating individuals in African American history. Also included in the revised edition are the classics scholars Wiley Lane and Daniel Barclay Williams; Alberta Virginia Scott, the first black graduate of Radcliffe College; and Virginia Randolph, a pioneer of industrial and vocational education in the Progressive Era South. Among the more unusual biographies included here is that of Barney Hill, a post office worker who gained notoriety by claiming to have been abducted by extraterrestrial aliens in the 1960s, while another postal worker, Homer Smith, is one of several entries on African Americans who migrated from the United States to seek a better life in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. (Smith would help modernize the Soviet postal system). Finally, the Revised Edition includes entries on all 87 African American recipients of the nation’s highest award for military valor, the Medal of Honor.