Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa (Book Review)

I Read “Out of America " when it was published several years ago, but I felt it was time to bring it out of the closet with the human rights problems currently going on around the world to show that this phase is nothing new and represents a part of Africa most African-Americans know nothing about or try hard to ignore. "Out of America" is a candid and sometimes chilling look at the "Motherland" from another person’s eyes.

It  is a dark and disturbing book depicting a continent where morality is a strange concept, where morally bankrupt "big men" pillage the continent's resources at the expense of millions while bringing new killing fields to its already war weary residents and destroying stability while at the time becoming rich "welfare kings" from the misguided foreign dollars siphoned off into foreign banks. The book exposes thugs who run countries, rob and rape the resources and people, according to brutal and savage methods to silence opposition, including torture, imprisonment and murder. 

As a black American and journalist, Mr. Richburg thrusts a "no holds barred" view of black Africa into the reader's face and dares them to look at the Africa he lived and worked in for three years as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post. It is a difficult picture to view. The smell of death and decay scent each page transferring the horrifying images of genocide, madness and utter hopelessness directly to the reader's psyche.

At a time when "Afrocentrism" is fashionable and popular among large portions of the United States' black population, black academicians, "leaders" and pop culture, it would be easy to dismiss “Out of America” as a "popular journalism" tome and write it off. But, that is to entirely miss the point and shrug off an important piece that brings current reality and raw truth to a sensitive subject that has been overly romanticized revealing an Africa that no one talks about.

Although “Out of America” is only one man's view of the continent, it reveals much. Of all the confrontations presented by life there are none so tough as confronting the truth about ourselves and the author admits it. Mr. Richburg makes no pretense that he has all the answers or even that he knows the questions. However, what he does present is an intensely personal view of a subject that most blacks or whites would shy away from ever saying anything in public much less write a book about it. 

Mr. Richburg is candid about where and how he grew up, who his friends are and his early influences, so much so that some might want to write him off as non-representative, but Mr. Richburg never makes that claim. It is his story about his personal reality on a continent that suffers from an unrealistic romanticized characterization and overwrought surface embellishment.

For readers with an open mind and a willingness to peer beneath the surface, “Out of America” is provocative reading. It is a book that is certainly worth the effort for those who wonder about the people who look like them—in the "Motherland." 

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 20, 2013 at 3:05pm
Sadly, their resources are being pawned by "Big Men" and what they pawned, multinational corporations have done.
Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 1:59pm

Yes I know about colonialism, but the Congo and other African countries are no longer colonies.  So why can't they start to pull in foreign money by selling their resources? 

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 20, 2013 at 1:56pm

I do our family's genealogy and I discovered both sides of my families gained great wealth by engaging in the slave trade during the Colonial Days. They were put out of business by USA government and others, who outlawed slave trade. Both sides of my family developed bitterness toward government and authority and it came down to some of my grand parents' generation. I think my parents' generation was far enough removed to recognize the horrors of slavery. You know the old saying, "social changes occur one funeral at a time". 

As to African countries not being able to change things internally, King Leopold of Belgium colonized the Belgian Congo, a peaceful nation, if I understand their history, and for those who resisted, the hands and feet of wives and children were cut off and the resisters either acquiesced or were murdered.

My Belgian family brags about how our family participated in subduing the Congo.  I found many Black Africans with the name, "Denoo" in Africa. We correspond and attempt to find a common ancestor, unsuccessfully.  My Black Denoo sources all seem to be very gentle people, very nice to me and welcome me warmly, even though I am an atheist and they are devout Christians. We assume we are from the same family tree and I think of them as cousins. 

The Congo has great natural resources; the wealth of that nation left in the hands of Colonialists leaving Africans destitute.

Forever in chains: The tragic history of Congo


Sentient Biped did an excellent review of the literature, which I cannot find. When he gets back from China I will ask him for that piece. 


Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 12:43pm


Yes, but why?  Why haven't African countries been able to do what some of those Arab countries did - enrich themselves by selling their resources?

Tribalism making it hard for them to form something like OPEC? 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 20, 2013 at 12:30pm
Simple. Colonialism in Africa has been going on for decades all the way back to slavery and even before that. The Dutch, English, Spanish, as well as Far East countries have been colonizing for decades, displacing tribal lands for capitalist gain. The US has been at it for years making it easier for American businesses to exploit the land. Even the Cubans are there.
Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 9:56am

I've seen documentaries about the exploitation of Africa by foreign countries.  I don't remember how this happens - Africa is probably still rich in resources, how do countries gain the leverage to make themselves rich through their resources, as some Arab countries did?  What prevents African countries from doing the same? 

Comment by Daniel W on October 20, 2013 at 1:51am
Don so would I. I think also, no aid without stringent and enforcible conditions. no use just fattening the bellies and bank accounts of 'big man' and their friends / families. But definitely end religious colonialism.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 19, 2013 at 10:26am
If I could, I'd ban all religios groups Africa. I don't like proselytizing and feel that takes of people. Already, Christianity has homosexuals being persecuted , jailed and even killed. There are people being burned to death as witches. Thou shall suffer a witch to live. The continent has been exploited for nearly two centuries and it has never recovered. And. It is still going on. The rare metals, minerals and oil seem to be owned by someone else. I believe if any US business there were threaten you'd covert military action there much like the US did in undermining Hawaii, which few people know the history.
Comment by Daniel W on October 19, 2013 at 4:43am
The disease issue is so important. Both the endemic diseases that have no ready treatments, and diseases that are preventable and treatable - live HIV and cervicsl csncer, but political / social forces get in the way. Including, with HiV, christianity snd catholicism.

One point Eichburg make repeatedly is tribalism. That is also one of my own pet themes. In tne case of Africa, the tribes may be ethnic and inherited, or religious. For other places tribes are how we define ourselves in relation to others, often dehumanizing 'you' because 'you' are not one of 'us'. That can be ethnic, racial, religious, language, neighborhood, socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation,education.... not usually with the horrendous evil of Somali tribe, or Hutu / Tutsi, or racism in Zimbabwe or South Africa, but with similar underlying dehumanization. I think if there was a full-on superdisaster or superdepression, removing some of our social order, we are not so far from that human us/them tendency for evil anywhere.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 18, 2013 at 9:22pm
Unfortunately, diseases we take for granted we'll never be affect by are common in parts of Africa. Corruption is rampant and no one suffers like the people caught in those ghastly cleansing efforts the "big men" as ruler.


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