Encarta Africana is an absorbing interactive exploration of the history of African culture. From early man's appearance 4 million years ago on the African continent to Sir Mix-A-Lot explaining the technology behind making a rap recording, this comprehensive CD-ROM tackles a massive amount of cultural history, fully utilizing its multimedia format to make the information educational, entertaining, and enlightening. The program's introduction reflects the ambitious scope of Encarta Africana; the rich harmonies of Zulu choral music swell as a montage flashes across the screen: Nelson Mandela, art from 4000 B.C., and a raised fist are among the images. These pictures are superimposed over a patterned background that, upon closer inspection, is actually a diagram of a slave ship, jam-packed with human cargo.
The program itself is divided into nine sections: a library of black America; a history and music timeline; a civil rights chronology; a section entitled Africana on Camera, in which famous blacks discuss different issues; historic sites; an interactive map; a section called Africa to Americas that tracks how Africans were dispersed throughout the Americas; virtual tours; and Topic Treks, a feature that allows users to explore various topics in greater depth. Each of these sections (with the exception of the library) is vast, easy to explore, and filled with articles, photos, sounds, dates, and facts. Though the library doesn't serve up pictures or sounds, it does include the complete texts of 160 poems, essays, and novels about the experience of being of African descent in America.