Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, which offers comprehensive summaries by persons of African descent about persons of African descent throughout the world, appeared in 1999, but its origins have eluded scholars. They attribute the project’s idea to W. E. B. Du Bois. But archival evidence tells us the conception of such an encyclopedia emerged independently of him. Proceeding from an effort contemporaneous to Du Bois’s project backward to a much earlier conception of this publishing goal reveals that the idea to publish an encyclopedia of the African diaspora was not handed down by members of its intellectual elite but bubbled up to meet the needs of their ordinary lives.