Black History Comes to Life with Microsoft’s Encarta Africana

REDMOND, WASH., Jan. 18, 1999 — W. E. B. Du Bois, the leading African-American intellectual of the 20th century, had a vision 90 years ago to create the first encyclopedia of Africana. This month, his dream became reality as Microsoft, in collaboration with two Harvard University editors, launched Encarta Africana, the first comprehensive encyclopedia on black history and culture.

The collaborative effort of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard University, and Microsoft, Encarta Africana makes use of a multimedia format to highlight its content. Through interactive audio, video and text formats, users are able to discover the music, dance, art, sports, political activism and historical achievements of people of African descent around the world.

“For the first time, the story of the black world and its people will be told in a way never before possible – through images, video, music and text brought together in a unique experience,” Dr. Gates said. “Microsoft provided the technology needed to support and highlight this rich history; it was a perfect match.”

“We’re breaking new ground in encyclopedia publishing with the Encarta Africana multimedia encyclopedia,” said Robbie Bach, vice president of the learning, entertainment and productivity division at Microsoft. “When Dr. Gates and Dr. Appiah approached us with the idea for Encarta Africana, we knew our technology was the ideal way to bring the experience of Africa’s history to life. Encarta Africana transports participants to another time and place and allows them to feel part of a dynamic, rich story. It’s an exciting addition to our award-winning Encarta reference product line.”

Encarta Africana also provides students, parents and educators with an unprecedented research tool to address today’s multicultural disciplines. Harvard educators Gates and Appiah have developed more than 20 lesson plans to help teachers integrate Encarta Africana into their curricula. And Microsoft plans to donate 8,000 copies of the product – a $560,000 retail value – to elementary and secondary schools, to the country’s historically black colleges and universities, and to the Gates Library Foundation recipient public libraries throughout the southern United States.

“Students learn more when they are stimulated by the captivating sights, sounds and words in multimedia software,” said Paulette Thompson, world history and French teacher at Garfield High School in Seattle. “Encarta Africana’s outstanding in-depth content and interactive multimedia features make learning about the important topic of black history exciting and fun. As educators search for reference materials that capture our rich cultural diversity, Encarta Africana will set the standard for families and schools.”

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