Encarta Africana, the First Comprehensive Encyclopedia Of Black History and Culture, Launches Today
Jan. 08, 1999
Microsoft and Leading African-American Scholars Bring Black History to Life Through Multimedia Technology

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 8, 1999 — Microsoft Corp. today launched Microsoft® Encarta® Africana, the much-anticipated comprehensive multimedia encyclopedia of Africans and people of African descent throughout the world. Encarta Africana is the culmination of a dream conceived in 1909 by W.E.B. Du Bois, the leading African-American intellectual of the 20th century, to produce the first encyclopedia of Africana. By compiling volumes of reference materials, audio and video footage, and stories passed on through generations, Microsoft, in collaboration with co-editors Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, and
Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard University, has today made Du Bois' dream a reality.

"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," 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."

Created by Two Teams of Experts

In collaboration with Microsoft's expert editorial and technical teams, Afropaedia LLC provided content for Encarta Africana, which catalogs the historical and cultural achievements of Africa and people of African descent throughout the world, including the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, from 4 million B.C.E. (before the Common Era) to the present. Afropaedia is led by Dr. Gates and Dr. Appiah and includes scholars from Harvard University's department of Afro-American Studies, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research and the Committee on African Studies. A distinguished team of more than 30 advisory board members from universities worldwide, chaired by Wole Soyinka, 1986 recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature, also contributes to Afropaedia.

The Microsoft Encarta team provided interactive technologies to incorporate the content, still images, video, audio and 360-degree views that make up Encarta Africana. This new encyclopedia delivers the same rich multimedia experience, superior technology and world-class content found in the line of Encarta CD-ROM reference titles.

"From 1909 my father, W.E.B. Du Bois, dreamed of editing a comprehensive encyclopedia of Africa and the Black diaspora. He pursued this dream his entire life, culminating in the establishment of the Secretariat of the Encyclopedia Africana in Accra, Ghana, in 1961, an ongoing project that seeks to create an encyclopedia about Africa produced by Africans. Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., inspired by my father's original idea, have made a magnificent, state of the art contribution to African and African American Studies and Humanities with Encarta Africana. Dr. Du Bois would have been proud."

Product Features

As Encarta Africana unfolds, the user is drawn into the content by singers performing the South African anthem and greeted by visuals including cultural artwork, historical maps and photos of famous black people. Users then move further into the multitude of historical content through the click of a mouse:

  • Welcome. Users begin the journey through African history by clicking on the Welcome icon, which initiates an audio-video introduction of the product and its content by co-editors Gates and Appiah.

  • Articles. More than 3,000 detailed articles cover a broad range of topics. Students of all ages can learn about the slave trade; sports heroes such as Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; and the importance of Brazil in the African diaspora.

  • Features. Users can access features such as Africana on Camera to explore African and African-American topics with personalities such as Maya Angelou and Quincy Jones and interact with From Africa to the Americas, one of the first multimedia presentations chronicling the number of slaves dispersed to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade from 1519 to 1867. Users can participate in Virtual Tours, visiting interesting locations in the African diaspora ranging from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to the Harlem section of New York City. The section also includes an Interactive Africa Map and six videos showing Historic Sites in Africa.

  • Time line. A detailed time line calls out important historical events from 4 million B.C.E. to the present and enables students of all ages to learn about subjects such as Lucy, the oldest and most complete skeleton of the earliest hominid species that lived between 3 million and 4 million years ago, found in Ethiopia. The time line also offers sections including Prehistory and Antiquity, Kingdoms of Africa, Exploring Africa and Exporting Africans, Abolition and Emancipation, Color Line and Colonialism, Civil Rights and Independence, and The Face of the Future.

Preparing for Today's World and Multicultural Education

Research shows that students remember five times more information when it is presented in a multimedia context. Dovetailing with the increased focus on African-American studies and other multicultural disciplines in today's classrooms, Encarta Africana gives students, educators and parents an unprecedented research tool through its comprehensive collection of information on black history.

"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, 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."

Gates and Appiah have also developed more than 20 lesson plans to help teachers integrate Encarta Africana into their curricula. The lesson plans, which include titles such as A Great Leader and His Country - Understanding South Africa Through Nelson Mandela, and Myths and Realities - Truth and Distortion in News Coverage About Africa, can be found on the Encarta Schoolhouse Web site at http://www.encarta.MSN.com/schoolhouse/ , along with other lesson plans submitted by teachers around the world.

Encarta Africana Donated to 8,000 Schools, Universities and Libraries

Microsoft plans to donate 8,000 copies of Encarta Africana, a $560,000 retail value, to K-12 schools, the country's historically black colleges and universities, and the Gates Library Foundation recipient public libraries throughout the southern United States. As part of the company's commitment to providing outstanding software to schools, students and educators, Microsoft intends to donate 2,000 copies of Encarta Africana to urban schools through the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 53 of the nation's largest urban public school systems serving some 6.2 million students, and to the 104 historically black colleges and

universities around the country. In addition, the Gates Library Foundation plans to donate 6,000 copies of Encarta Africana to public libraries that are part of its program.

Pricing and Availability

Microsoft Encarta Africana, for the Microsoft Windows® 95 operating system or later and the Windows NT® 4.0 operating system or later, is currently available in stores for an estimated retail price of $69.95 ($94.95 CDN). A $20 ($30 CDN) mail-in rebate is available*; users can visit http://encarta.MSN.com/africana/ for a list of store locations, or place product orders through http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ online or via a toll-free number, (877) ENC-AFRI (362-2374). Customers can also obtain a seven-day trial version of Encarta Africana for $5.95 (which includes shipping and handling)** through this toll-free telephone number. Volume discounts may apply for schools running Encarta Africana over a network. Those interested should see an authorized academic reseller for more information.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

* Rebate offer expires Dec. 31, 1999.

** Offer valid in the United States and Canada and expires Dec. 31, 1999.

The information contained in this press release relates to a prerelease software product that may be substantially modified before its first commercial release. Accordingly, the information may not accurately describe or reflect the software product when first commercially released. The press release is provided for informational purposes only, and Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the press release or the information contained in it.

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