The Active Network


Product: Encarta Africana 2000
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: 49.99/$69.95
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features

Microsoft's Encarta has long been one of the most popular encyclopedias available on the PC. Now we finally have Encarta Africana, which focuses on the history, geography and culture of people of Africana descent worldwide. Here are some of the features:

  • More in-depth content! 3,600+ authoritative articles, 200 sidebars, 2,900+ multimedia features, and 800 web links!

  • Library of Black America! a rare collection of novels, slave narratives, poetry, and other works written by Africans and African Americans between 1773 and 1918. Includes W. E. B. Du Bois's "The Souls of Black Folk."

  • Music Timeline! Experience the evolution of African American music from ragtime to hiphop-- a new addition to the existing Africana Timeline feature that covers historical topics from 4 million B.C.E. to the present.

  • Civil Rights Chronology! Relive 125 key defining moments in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, such as Martin Luther King's inspiring "I Have A Dream" speech.

  • Africana on Camera! Exclusive celebrity videos featuring perspectives on various Africana topics. Encarta Africana 2000 includes a new video from Powell on "African Americans in the U.S. Military."

  • Virtual Tours! Great Zimbabwe and the Serengeti.


  • Historic Sites in Africa! Shot on location for the PBS/BBC television series "Wonders of the African World with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." Features in-depth coverage of sites in Ethiopia, the Swahili Coast, Mali, the Nile region, the Slave Coast, and Zimbabwe.

  • Interactive Africa Map! View maps of the African continent that illustrate geopolitical boundaries, topographical details, flora, fauna, art and architecture, and ethnicities

  • Africa to the Americas! Five detailed and interactive maps of the transatlantic slave trade and the legacies established in the New World.

Installation And Settings

Encarta Africana fits on just the two CD's compared to the full version of Encarta, which comes on a rather large 5 CD's or the single DVD. Installation is very simple, it is just a case of following through the instructions that are in the manual when you purchase it. Once the installation is complete you are ready to delve into Encarta Africana

Encarta Africana Itself

The first screen you will come across is the one shown above. From here you can access the main parts of Encarta Africana 2000:

  • Articles: Clicking here will take you to a random article in the Encarta Africana 2000 database.

  • Welcome: Shows a welcome video featuring Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kwame Anthony Appiah.

  • Features: You can access a whole load of features from here such as timelines, maps and virtual tours.

  • Library: A whole load of books.

  • Tour: just as it states, it shows you the basics on how to browse through Encarta Africana 2000.

I began my browsing via the "Find" icon at the top left of the Encarta browser, in my view this is the easiest and fastest way of finding out information, all you need to do is to enter a few words such as "Muhammad" and a number of articles relating to someone with that name will appear on the sidebar in a matter of seconds. Once I had found a name I was looking for "Muhammad Ali" for example, I would click on his name and a new contents area would load up in the Encarta Browsers main window, from here you can get to introductions about Ali, photos, web searches and Ali's great moments in sport.

Remember though that these kinds of large-scale information pieces are not just for big name African Americans, but also for lesser known people (to me) such as Sonny Liston (Another boxer) and Philip Randolph. Another point is that the large content pages are also not just for people, they can be for places, religions, sports music etc...there are a whole load of them to choose from and to read through.

The next section I visited was the "Africa On Camera" (Shown above) area, which is based in the features part of Encarta Africana. This area consists of a number of videos, which are narrated by some very famous people such as Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and Colin Powell, each video lasts 3-4 minutes and each one was very interesting to listen through.

Next we have the Civil Rights Chronology, from here you can read all about the Civil Rights Movement between the years of 1950 and 1968, again there are links to articles, video clips, music to listen to and photos to glance over in this section, yet another interesting read.

Finally we have the "Library Of Black America" (Shown Below), which is the main new addition to Encarta Africana, it contains over 140 pieces of work written by African-Americans prior to 1918 and there are pages and pages of work to read through here. The library ranges from novels, slave narratives to poetry and other works.

There are many, many more sections that you can go through that I have not mentioned in my review such as Historic Sites In Africa, African Maps, Africa To The Americas but a lot of these are similar in style to the Encarta 2000 release that came out not so long ago. As usual with Encarta there are a number of excellent links to websites that you will come across for example, if you were looking at an actors information in Encarta Africana you could click on a link that would take you to the Internet Movie Database to find out even more about that particular person.

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Ease Of Use: 90%
Articles: 91%
Design: 93%
Video: 89%
Sound: 92%
Online Access: 85%
Sound: 91%
Music: 87%
Manual: 79%
Interface: 90%
Overall: 91%


Encarta Africana is another excellent encyclopedia release from Microsoft, there is yet again so much here to go through that it would take many, many pages to talk about it all, the new additions to Encarta Africana such as the Music timelines and the Library of Black America are all worthy of a new release. Everything is well written (Despite one slight mistake that I found) and superbly designed and most importantly, easy to get to.

A great encyclopedia about African Americans that should be checked out by everyone interested in African American history.


Specs & Package
Overall Score 91%
Version Reviewed Version
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 2 CD's
1 Manual
The Good Points In-depth
Good articles
Lots of photos
Smooth running
Fast to browse
The Bad Points Should be included with the full Encarta pack
Similar To Encarta 2000
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows 98 Second Edition
128 Meg SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
DirectX 7a
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" LG Electronics Monitor
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80
Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

DVD TV Player - Pioneer DV-626D
Widescreen TV - Sony KV-28WS2U 28"
DVD-ROM: Toshiba SD-1202

PC Required  


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