Deep Roots

Deep Roots

Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora
Edda L. Fields-Black
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/11/2014
Format: Paperback 20 b&w photos, 5 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01610-2
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Mangrove rice farming on West Africa's Rice Coast was the mirror image of tidewater rice plantations worked by enslaved Africans in 18th-century South Carolina and Georgia. This book reconstructs the development of rice-growing technology among the Baga and Nalu of coastal Guinea, beginning more than a millennium before the transatlantic slave trade. It reveals a picture of dynamic pre-colonial coastal societies, quite unlike the static, homogenous pre-modern Africa of previous scholarship. From its examination of inheritance, innovation, and borrowing, Deep Roots fashions a theory of cultural change that encompasses the diversity of communities, cultures, and forms of expression in Africa and the African diaspora.

Author Bio

Edda L. Fields-Black is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in pre-colonial and West African history. With research interests extending into the African diaspora, for more than 15 years Fields-Black has traveled to and lived in Guinea, Sierra Leone, South Carolina, and Georgia to uncover the history of African rice farmers and rice cultures.


“A well-researched examination of the ancient rice-growing cultures of West Africa and their transplantation to the Georgia-Carolina coast. "An imaginative book . . . The writing is good and the ideas important." —Judith Carney, author of Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas”

“An imaginative book . . . The writing is good and the ideas important.”
 — Judith Carney, author of Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas

“Fields-Black . . . offers important new insights into West African agricultural history and the dynamics of diasporic connections.”
 — LaRay Denzer, Northwestern University

“This study is an excellent contribution to the growing literature on food in precolonial Africa. . . . [I]t is a trailblazing work in its innovative amalgamation of archaeological, linguistic, and written source materials.”
 — International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Deep Roots, an important and innovative book, pioneers a multidisciplinary methodology, which substantially compensates for the lack of written documentation . . . and archeology data during the formative period of the transatlantic slave trade in Africa.”
 — American Historical Review

“Fields-Black has written an important book, thoroughly researched, persuasively argued, and engagingly written. It adds a major new chapter to our understanding of the African diaspora. Vol. 76, No. 3, August 2010”
 — The Journal of Southern History

“Fields-Black has written an important groundbreaking agricultural and Diasporic cultural history. ”
 — Georgia Historical Quarterly

“A stimulating study that deserves attention in graduate seminars . . . in African history . . . and in African diaspora studies. December, 2010”

“While Deep Roots is a scholarly endeavor anyone interested in South Carolina’s rice history or African history would find it both fascinating and full of interesting facts, stories, illustrations and graphs that bring the story to life.February 18, 2009”
 — Walterboro, SC

“Fields-Black manages to make her research and its implications accessible to a wider audience. . . . Readers will appreciate the book's clarity of expression and revealing discussions of historical analysis and argumentation. . . . Recommended.December 2009”
 — Choice

“[This] book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of rice cultivation in West Africa . . . .Vol. 50 2009”
 — Erik Gilbert, Arkansas State University

“In fine, Deep Roots represents an important contribution to the literature on risiculture in West Africa.XL.4 Spring 2010”
 — Peter A. Coclanis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“Deep Roots is a valuable addition to research on African rice systems and their origins. contributes to the understanding of the rich cultural diversity of the coastal region extending from Gambia south and east to Liberia. Vol. 53.1 April 2010”
 — Laurence C. Becker, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

“The scope of the work makes it an important addition for African and Diaspora studies, as well as those more generally interested in the transference of ideas and ecology.”
 — Journal of West African History

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Table of Contents

List of Tables

1. The Rio Nunez Region: A Small Corner of West Africa's Rice Coast Region
2. The First-Comers and the Roots of Coastal Rice-growing Technology
3. The Newcomers and the Seeds of Tidal Rice-Growing Technology
4. Coastal Collaboration and Specialization: Flowering of Tidal Rice-Growing Technologies
5. The Strangers and the Branches of Coastal Rice-growing Technology, c.1500 to 1800
6. Feeding the Slave Trade: The Trade in Rice and Captives from West Africa's Rice Coast

Appendix I.1 Fieldwork Interviews
Appendix I.2 Rice Terminology in Atlantic Languages Spoken in the Coastal Rio Nunez Region

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