Reviews of the book


Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America

“A fascinating biography of one of history’s most extraordinary and underappreciated explorers. . . . This book will certainly prove to be a much more accurate source for those who study Esteban than previous works on his life and the significance of his travels.”
—Andrew Husa, Historical Geography

“How have African slaves been included [in early histories]?....Usually not at all....That fascinating tale [about Esteban]  is recounted in detail, and very engagingly, by Herrick....This [Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America] is therefore a highly readable book....[Herrick] has a keen instinct for identifying confirmation bias, for a distorted or invented or prejudicial interpretation or supposed fact, thereby lending this book a consistent thread of skeptical inquiry. He quickly spots Eurocentrism in the traditional narratives, but unpacks it carefully, without recourse to rhetoric or rant....And he explains why Esteban's death at the hands of the Zuni seems unlikely, without leading us into a conclusion for which there is no direct evidence [for either side]. A highly readable book by a writer who has spent a lifetime writing clear, enjoyable prose. . . . Herrick’s ability to sweep the reader along while still managing to question every old detail simply makes Esteban all the more welcome.”
—Historian Matthew Restall, The Journal of Arizona History

" 'The first white man our people saw was a black man.' That quote by [the late] Dr. Joe S. Sando, historian from Jemez Pueblo, begins this biography as an epigram, and captures the enigma of a man and his story....Dennis Herrick mines the original Spanish documents [in Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America]. He tells the tale anew here as a biography of the slave Esteban....Herrick takes on several themes in the exploration of this fascinating life—the racial bias not only of Esteban's first historian, Cabeza de Vaca, but the racism of historians that followed over hundreds of years."
--Pete Warzel, The Historic Santa Fe Foundation

"Esteban was a Moroccan slave who was one of the only four survivors of the Narváez expedition in 1527. Although 16th-century Spanish historians sought to erase his legacy by only citing him in one sentence in the expedition account, he is posited to be the first (Black) African to explore America. In this biography, Dennis Herrick shines a light on Esteban in an attempt to place this remarkable man in his rightful place in history."
--The New Arab

"History leaves a lot of question marks about the storied 16th-century man named Dennis Herrick addresses many of the questions in his new and thought-provoking biography, Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America....Herrick asked rhetorically, 'Why was Esteban's reputation based on negative assumptions and why are there so many different versions of his fate?....He's been treated unfairly for 500 years. It really piqued my curiousity. What's the other side of the story?'  ”
—David Steinberg, The Albuquerque Journal

“Herrick successfully illustrates the complexity of Esteban during the years of Spanish conquest and his role in reaching the region presently known as the American Southwest.”
—Historian Albert S. Broussard, New Mexico Historical Review

“Herrick’s book . . . uses every type of source, from Spanish records to French recollections and the recollections and opinions of modern-day Pueblo historians and African American opinion leaders, to help reconstruct the world of Esteban and his connection with the Cabeza de Vaca expedition and others in the New World.”
Wagon Tracks, newsletter of the Santa Fe Trail Organization

“Coalesces a great deal of information and offers interesting insights.”
—Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“A well-crafted and thorough synthesis of the existing documentary evidence and the most recent scholarly speculations regarding the life of the black African Moor who played a pivotal role in the earliest Spanish reconnaissance of what is now the southern United States and northwest Mexico.”
—Historian Richard Flint, author of No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada

“Dennis Herrick has written a book that offers a fresh perspective on one of the most elusive men in early American history....Herrick shifts the emphasis of this epic journey from Cabeza de Vaca to Esteban, giving him the credit denied him by generations of Eurocentric scholars....Herrick argues persuasively that the Odyssey of Cabeza de Vaca was also the Odyssey of Esteban.”
Roundup, the magazine of the Western Writers of America

"Dennis Herrick's Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America takes a new approach to understanding the importance of Esteban. His masters obscured and distorted his history and contributions because he was a slave. He was the indispensable man, a healer and ambassador, in Cabeza de Vaca's 16th-century journey from Florida to Sonora .... Clearly, he was a hero and nort a villain."
--Doug Hocking, in True West magazine

"Books about the history of the American West have ignored Esteban or belittled his importance, often using his slave nickname, Estebanico. What little we know about Esteban comes from Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and other Spanish chroniclers, whose condescension toward the African slave has carried over into most history books. In this work Herrick dispels the myths and outright lies about Esteban. His biography emphasizes Esteban rather than the Spaniards whose exploits are often exaggerated and jingoistic in the sixteenth-century chronicles. He gives Esteban full credit for his courage and his skill as a linguist and cultural intermediary who was trusted and respected by Indians from many tribes across the continent."
--Skylight Books, Los Angeles

"Recent books of interest to African American scholars [include] Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America."
--The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

"Some of the best books in Western history and fiction are published in the last quarter of the year. They are just in time for the holidays but not early enough to be reviewed. Here is a selection I recommend: Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America by Dennis Herrick.
--Best of the West magazine

"[This book's] research concerning the first black explorer of North America, and the first non-Native American to enter today’s Arizona and New Mexico, is the most comprehensive examination yet of the facts and myths surrounding this important figure in American history."
—James MacDougald, author of The Pánfilo de Narváez Expedition of 1528

"I really enjoyed this book. While reading, I eagerly awaited the chronicles of Esteban’s life as an explorer in North America. After a few chapters that laid the foundation for his adventures, I was captivated reading about Esteban’s life and his involvement in the exploration. Herrick's’ book aims to chronicle Esteban’s role in our history and to portray a more accurate picture of Esteban."
--Craig Carter, Amazon reviewer

"In his diligently researched biography, Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America, Dennis Herrick demonstrates how the powerless don’t get much acknowledgement in history. Esteban, who became the first person from the Old World to enter what is now the American Southwest of Arizona and New Mexico, is certainly a worthy historical figure....The biography is a product of scholarship that should be required reading in university studies of the American Southwest and Latin America. For non-scholarly readers, the story of the African slave teaches that strength of mind and body, diligence and the willingness to learn, combined with fortuitous good fortune, can propel achievement beyond expectations."
--Tim Coder, author of War Without End, Amen

 "I love your book [Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America]. You've done such great research there, checking out Morroccan histories, etc. That book is bound to become a key resource on that subject."
--Lawrence R. Gustin, author of David Buick's Marvelous Motor Car and of Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors