Daughters of Africa

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UK 1st edition cover, 1992. Photograph by Suzanne Roden.

Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present is a compilation of orature and literature by more than 200 women from Africa and the African diaspora, edited and introduced by Margaret Busby,[1] who compared the process of assembling the volume to "trying to catch a flowing river in a calabash".[2] First published in 1992,[3] in London by Jonathan Cape (having been commissioned by Candida Lacey,[4] now publisher of Myriad Editions),[5] and in New York by Pantheon Books, Daughters of Africa is regarded as a pioneering work,[6][7] covering a variety of genres — including fiction, essays, poetry, drama, memoirs and children's writing — and more than 1000 pages in extent.[8] Arranged chronologically, it includes work translated from African languages as well as from Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.[9][10]

The anthology's title derives from an 1831 declaration by Maria W. Stewart (1803–1880), the first African-American woman to give public lectures, in which she said: "O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! no longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties."[11]


Daughters of Africa was widely praised on publication. Reviewing it for Black British newspaper The Weekly Journal, Evie Arup wrote: "Daughters of Africa is a literary first. Never before has the work of women of African descent world-wide been gathered together in one volume. The breadth of this collection is startling.... This book should be required reading for any student of literature, and a standard reference book in school libraries, and, to paraphrase that well known slogan, 'every home should have one.'"[12] The reviewer from The Independent, however, observed: "This book may seem to be about literature but in the end it is as much a testament to language: its power to create attitudes as well as its potency as a means of expression."[13] Described by The Observer as a "glorious fat anthology that makes a history out of a selection, and puts an unsung group of people on the map",[14] according to Library Journal, it is "an invaluable text for courses on women writers and writers of African descent",[15] and Keneth Kinnamon in Callaloo saw it as "impressive", noting: "Brief headnotes and long bibliographies enhance the value of this important volume."[16] Lorna Sage in the Independent on Sunday concluded that "Daughters of Africa has a paradoxical universality",[17] while The Washington Post Book World called it: "A magnificent starting place for any reader interested in becoming part of the collective enterprise of discovering and uncovering the silent, forgotten, and underrated voices of black women."[18][19] The reviewer for Black Enterprise wrote: "It is a landmark anthology.... Busby's first-of-a-kind anthology is a poignant reminder of how vast and varied the body of black women's writing is."[1] It has also been called "groundbreaking",[20] "one of the most significant assemblages of writers across the diaspora"[21] and "the ultimate reference guide to the writing of 'daughters of Africa'".[22]

The Times Literary Supplement review by Maya Jaggi stated: "With rare exceptions, anthologies of black writing and of women's writing have given the impression that there was very little literary endeavour by black women before the 1980s. Margaret Busby's impressive and imaginative selection of 'words and writings', Daughters of Africa, finally destroys that misconception, while tracing continuities within a tradition of women's writing, deriving from Africa yet stretching across continents and centuries."[23] Jaggi goes on to say: "Some writings (such as those by ancient Egyptian or Ethiopian queens) have been selected primarily for their historical significance, or to celebrate little-known landmarks of achievement. Most, however, have been chosen for their literary qualities, making the anthology a source of continual pleasure and surprise. (...) The cumulative power of this monumental and absorbing anthology stems from the clarity and vibrancy of the voices it assembles. While effectively dismissing the equation of oppression with 'voicelessness', it restores marginalized or isolated writers to the centre of their own rich, resilient and truly international tradition."[23]

The anthology was included in Sacred Fire: "QBR" 100 Essential Black Books,[24] which said:

"Daughters of Africa is a monumental achievement because it is the most comprehensive international anthology of oral and written literature by women of African descent ever attempted. (...) The success of the collection is that it clearly illustrates why all women of African descent are connected by showing how closely related are the obstacles, the chasms of cultural indifference, and the disheartening racial and sexual dilemmas they faced. In so doing, the collection captures the range of their singular and combined accomplishments. Daughters of Africa′s accomplishment lies in its glorious portrayal of the richness and magnitude of the spiritual well from which we've all drawn inspiration and to where we've all gone for sustenance, and as such, it is a stunning literary masterpiece."[15]

The anthology was on the Royal African Society's list of "50 Books By African Women That Everyone Should Read",[25] was named by Ms Afropolitan as one of "7 non-fiction books African feminists should read",[26] features regularly on many required-reading lists,[27][28][29][30][31] and in the words of Kinna Likimani: "It remains the ultimate guide to women writers of African descent."[3]


In November 2017 Wasafiri magazine included a special feature marking the 25th anniversary of the first publication of Daughters of Africa,[32] including an interview with the editor by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey,[33] an article by Candida Lacey[34] and contributions from Edwige-Renee Dro, Angela Barry, Goretti Kyomuhendo, Nadifa Mohamed, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and Ayobami Adebayo about the influence of the anthology on them.[35]

In December 2017, it was announced that a companion volume, entitled New Daughters of Africa, had been commissioned from Margaret Busby by Myriad Editions for publication in 2019.[36][37][38][39] It was launched at the South Bank Centre on 9 March at the WOW Festival.[40][41]


More than 200 women are featured in Daughters of Africa, including:


  • Margaret Busby (ed.), Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present. First edition, London: Jonathan Cape, hardback, 1992 (ISBN 978-0224035927), 1089 pages.[68]
  • — London: Vintage Books, paperback, 1993 (ISBN 978-0099224211).
  • — New York: Pantheon Books, hardback, 1992 (ISBN 978-0679416340).
  • — New York: Ballantine/One World Books, paperback, 1994[69] (ISBN 978-0345382689).


  1. ^ a b Tonya Bolden, "Book Review: Two Types of Revelation – Daughters of Africa", Black Enterprise, March 1993, p. 12.
  2. ^ "Introduction", Daughters of Africa, p. xxix.
  3. ^ a b Kinna, "Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby", Kinna Reads, 24 September 2010.
  4. ^ Candida Lacey, "Daughters of Africa Twenty-five years later", Wasafiri, 32(4), November 2017, pp. 7–8.
  5. ^ Margaret Busby, "Granddaughters of Africa", Commonwealth Writers, 19 March 2015.
  6. ^ Margaret Busby profile, African Writing in Britain.
  7. ^ "The 2015 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award Recipient: Margaret Busby, OBE" Archived 2 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
  8. ^ "Daughters of Africa", Goodreads.
  9. ^ "50 Books by African Women that Everyone Should Read", What's_On Africa, Royal African Society, 30 June 2014.
  10. ^ Meserette Kentake, "Daughters of Africa", Kentake Page, 17 December 2013.
  11. ^ Maria W. Stewart (ed. Marilyn Richardson), "Religion And The Pure Principles of Morality, The Sure Foundation On Which We Must Build", in America's First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches], Indiana University Press, 1987, p. 30.
  12. ^ Evie Arup, "Books: Daughters of Africa", The Weekly Journal (Issue 29), 12 November 1992, p. 15.
  13. ^ Patricia Lee, "BOOK REVIEW / Canon to the right of them, canon to the left...", The Independent, 12 December 1992.
  14. ^ Nicci Gerrard, "Anthologies", The Observer, 29 November 1992.
  15. ^ a b "Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent and from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present", Editorial Reviews, Barnes & Noble.
  16. ^ Keneth Kinnamon, "Anthologies of African-American Literature from 1845 to 1994", in Callaloo, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring, 1997), p. 468.
  17. ^ Lorna Sage, "Deep roots in an impossible homeland", The Sunday Review, Independent on Sunday, 3 January 1993, p. 21.
  18. ^ a b "New in Paperback", The Washington Post, 6 February 1994.
  19. ^ Shereen Ali, "Sharing Our Voices" Archived 2018-08-02 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 29 April 2015.
  20. ^ Margaret Busby profile, The Guardian.
  21. ^ Carol Boyce Davies, "Women and Literature in the African Diaspora", in Melvin Ember, Carol R. Ember, Ian Skoggard (eds), Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World, Volume 1, Springer Science and Business Media Inc., 2005, p. 384.
  22. ^ Sharmilla Beezmohun, "Twenty-Five most influential books" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Wasafiri, 2009.
  23. ^ a b Maya Jaggi, "Ain't I a woman", The Times Literary Supplement, 11 December 1992.
  24. ^ Max Rodriguez, Sacred Fire: "QBR" 100 Essential Black Books, University of Michigan, 1999.
  25. ^ "50 Books by African Women That Everyone Should Read", What's On Africa, RAS, 30 June 2014.
  26. ^ "7 non-fiction books African feminists should read", Ms Afropolitan, 27 September 2015.
  27. ^ Sandra E. Gibbs, "National African American Read-In", Supplemental List for Young Adults and Adults, Recommended by Black Caucus Members.
  28. ^ Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, "The feminist books that inspired us – Part 1", This Is Africa, 24 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Thinking of Travel: Armchair and Otherwise", BlackPast.org, 2 August 2012.
  30. ^ Yinka Sunmonu, "Bookshelf: A Cultural Collection", The Voice, 26 December 2015.
  31. ^ "Women’s Classic Literature Event Questionnaire", A Canon Of One's Own, 18 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Daughters of Africa Anniversary", Wasafiri, Issue 92: Winter 2017.
  33. ^ Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (2017), "An Interview with Margaret Busby", Wasafiri, 32:4, pp. 2–6, DOI: 10.1080/02690055.2017.1350364.
  34. ^ Candida Lacey, "Daughters of Africa – Twenty-five years later", Wasafiri, 32(4), pp. 7–8.
  35. ^ Edwige-Renée Dro, Angela Barry, Goretti Kyomuhendo, Nadifa Mohamed, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers & Ayobami Adebayo, "Encounters with Daughters of Africa from around the world", Wasafiri, 32(4), pp. 11–12.
  36. ^ Natasha Onwuemezi, "Busby to compile anthology of African women writers", The Bookseller, 15 December 2017.
  37. ^ Otosirieze, "Margaret Busby-Edited Anthology to Feature 200 Female Writers Including Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Bernadine Evaristo, Imbolo Mbue, Warsan Shire, Zadie Smith", Brittle Paper, 10 January 2018.
  38. ^ New Daughters of Africa page at Myriad Editions.
  39. ^ Emily Temple, "LIT HUB’S MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019", LitHub, 28 December 2018.
  40. ^ Margaret Busby, "From Ayòbámi Adébáyò to Zadie Smith: meet the New Daughters of Africa", The Guardian, 9 March 2019.
  41. ^ "New Daughters of Africa", Southbank Centre, 2019.
  42. ^ Red Jordan Arobateau, The Rich/The Poor In Spirit - New Edition, 2013, p. 249.
  43. ^ Ian I. Smart, "Eulalia Bernard: A Caribbean Woman Writer and the Dynamics of Liberation", Letras Femeninas, Vol. 13, No. 1/2 (1987), pp. 79–85.
  44. ^ a b "Tales of Travel, Daughters of Africa", ICA talks. British Library.
  45. ^ Annette Madden, "Ayse Bircan: Turkish activist", In Her Footsteps: 101 Remarkable Black Women from the Queen of Sheba to Queen Latifah, Berkeley, California: Conari Press, 2000, pp. 56–57.
  46. ^ "Barbara Burford", Goodreads.
  47. ^ "Busia, Abena" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Department of Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.
  48. ^ Dinah Anuli Butler, "To My Father", Representation Matters, 6 November 2016.
  49. ^ "Clarise Cumberbatch Want to go Home by Joan Cambridge", Books do furnish a room, 31 August 2015.
  50. ^ "Jane Tapsubei Creider" at Goodreads.
  51. ^ "Thadious M. Davis", Department of English, University of Pennsylvania.
  52. ^ Femi Ojo-Ade, "Interview with Aline França, Afro-Brazilian Woman Writer", in Being Black, Being Human: More Essays on Black Culture, Africa World Press, 1996, pp. 247–266.
  53. ^ "Shades on a Dream — Vivian Glover", BookOxygen.
  54. ^ Meserette Kentake, "When You Have Emptied Our Calabashes by Iyamide Hazeley", 4 May 2015.
  55. ^ Chantal Zabus, "Between Rights and Rites: Excision on Trial in African Women's Texts and Contexts", in Peter H. Marsden, Geoffrey V. Davis (eds), Towards a Transcultural Future: Literature and Human Rights in a 'Post'-Colonial World, Rodopi, 2004, pp. 122–23.
  56. ^ "AMELIA BLOSSOM HOUSE - DELIVERANCE: sisterhood is universal", African Activist Archive.
  57. ^ Izetta Roberts Cooper, Kyra E. Hicks, Liberia: A Visit Through Books, Lulu.com, 2008, p. 86.
  58. ^ "Alice Perry Johnson", The Liberian Connection - Africa.
  59. ^ Kathleen E. Sheldon, "Khaketla, Caroline Ntseliseng 'Masechele", Historical Dictionary of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa, Scarecrow Press, 2005, pp. 117–118.
  60. ^ "Gabriela Pearse" at Goodreads.
  61. ^ "Marta Rojas" at Goodreads.
  62. ^ "Jacqueline Rudet" Archived 2014-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Unfinished Histories.
  63. ^ Sandi Russell, Jazz Singer, Writer & Educator. Myspace.com
  64. ^ Diana Collecott, "Sandi Russell obituary", The Guardian, 14 August 2017.
  65. ^ "Jenneba Sie-Jalloh" at Goodreads.
  66. ^ "Joyce Sikakane" at Goodreads.
  67. ^ "Sikakane, Joyce Nomafa (1943—)", Encyclopedia.com.
  68. ^ Daughters of Africa at Google Books.
  69. ^ "Celebrate Black History Month with the many worlds of African Americans from One World Books" (Ballantine Books), The Crisis, Vol. 101, Issue 1, January 1994, p. 64.

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