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Sampson, an emeritus professor of Black studies and public affairs, penned an emotionally gripping memoir in which he shares his reflections on family, history, and race. 

Dr. Charles Sampson’s memoir is a highly compelling story of six (6) generations of his high-accomplished African-American family, told in the context of historical events like the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement.

An accomplished professor emeritus in public affairs and urban, Dr. Sampson weaves academic research, genealogy, and oral tradition into effortless storytelling from his Laurel, Mississippi, childhood.

Sampson etches his family to the West African trading port first known as Senegambia (now Goree Island). He describes a moving visit there and how the global slave trade tangled sophisticated business practices.

The island of Gorée lies off the coast of Senegal, opposite Dakar. It was the enormous slave-trading center on the African coast from the 15th to the 19th century. Ruled in succession by the Dutch, Portuguese, French, and English, its architecture is set apart by the contrast between the elegant houses of the slave traders and the grim slave quarters. Currently, it serves as a sanctuary for reconciliation and a reminder of human exploitation. 

About The Book

Charles Sampson’s book about the countries of Senegal and The Gambia reveals how enslavers made evenly effective systems to brainwash “the so-called Negro” to accept a permanently subordinate role in society. Today’s methods still have lesser education, voter suppression, and high incarceration rates. In another excellent example of society’s disregard for black communities, Dr. Charles Sampson recounts his boyhood church being torn down before his eyes to make way for the construction of Highway 59. This is a situation recurring in countless black communities during the 1950s’ interstate highway augmentation.

Sampson’s parents highlighted education as a path to social and economic advancement. All eight (8) of their kids were highly accomplished. While Sampson acknowledges the promise of merit-based advancement and actuality sometimes conflicted, Charles’ reflections on being a black person in a white-dominant culture are mild. Without resentment, Charles writes that he coped in part by focusing on career goals, rationalizing away negative feelings, and compartmentalizing past injustices.

Sampson’s memoir is a well-paced, thoroughly engaging story. His travels, friends, and siblings feature prominently, and his thoughtful reflections are flaked throughout. While his own story (arriving nearly halfway through the book) might not grab readers, these issues do not discount the overall quality of this first-rate memoir. 

Sparrows of Senegambia merits a place on shelves next to other African-American experience nonfiction books, told factually and more fully in the post-George Floyd world.

Who Is Charles Sampson?

Charles Sampson, Ph.D., author of the new book Sparrows of Senegambia: A Memoir and an emeritus professor at the University of Missouri, imparts lessons from his parents, reflects on race and ancestry, and inspired words of exhortation and insight and reflections from his travels in Senegambia. And Dr. Sampson defined the title’s meaning as his work and life experiences led him to compare his American family to sparrows, birds that symbolize hard work, power, persistence, perseverance, and productivity. The sparrow’s flight allows it to rise above dismay and dread.”

Dr. Sampson’s trips to more than a dozen African countries are exciting in Sparrows of Senegambia. The area once known as Senegambia, a historic geographical designation found in West Africa, is of great interest. That name no longer knows the region. It now encloses the modern states of Senegal, The Gambia (both of which are briefly a loose confederation, namely Senegambia Confederation), Guinea-Bissau, and parts of Mali, Mauritania, and Guinea. Travels to west, east, central, and southern Africa are also included.