Mitchison asserts in her preface that her personal involvement in the fledgling country of Botswana led her to write this book. Although white (she was born in Edinburgh, Scotland), Mitchison counts herself as an accepted member of the Kgatla people. She paid taxes in Mochudi, the capital of her tribe, and expressed loyalty to Botswana despite the fact that she continued to be a British citizen. Her deep friendship with Botswana’s people led her to realize that African heroes were taken away from her adopted culture through the neglect of European textbooks. With this book, she dramatizes the culture of each leader’s tribe, emphasizing to young Americans that Africa and African Americans had a rich history filled with nobility, pageantry, and military and cultural wealth to rival the royalty of Europe. For young people looking for biographical information on African heroes, Mitchison articulates with passion the belief that the nobility of Africa governed and lived under a strict moral judicial system. For example, Lobengula, a benevolent king of the future country of Rhodesia, traveled to Great Britain and met with Queen Victoria as an equal. They discussed Cecil Rhodes’s relentless drive to acquire all the land, cattle, and mineral resources belonging to Lobengula’s empire. Another, equally stately, figure was Shaka, the king of the Zulu nation and the leader of its military war machine. The Europeans who interacted with Shaka were in continual awe of his leadership, military prowess, and vast rule of such a large part of Africa.
For young adult readers, Mitchison delineates each African hero in...
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Mitchison’s book fills a void in the availability of materials on African heroes for young adults. African Heroes is an outstanding supplement for a high school history class seeking materials on historical African leaders, for sociology classes needing information on African family structure, and for young adult readers trying to discover something about the cultural heritage of African Americans. Young people will always seek heroes to emulate, and this collective biography offers easy-to-read materials. It is important to remember when reading African Heroes, however, that Mitchison is somewhat biased. Because of her allegiance to the country of Botswana, she often recounts the heroic achievements of these African heroes with much compassion in order to compensate for the lack of original and suitable materials in this area.