Coffee-table books are supposed to be heavy, on photos and in pounds. This latest history of black life in America by Henry Louis Gates Jr. is both, with more than 750 photos on nearly 500 pages.
But it offers something more: The distinguished Harvard University professor packs intellectual heft around the pictures. His book updates black history with recent scholarly research, from detailed estimates of the human cargo during the Atlantic slave trade to the DNA test proving almost conclusively that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one child by his slave Sally Hemings. Interpretive gems are sprinkled throughout.