New Book | Enslaved: The Sunken History

Posted in books by Editor on March 23, 2023

From Simon & Schuster:

Sean Kingsley and Simcha Jacobovici, with a preface by Brenda Jones, Enslaved: The Sunken History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York: Pegasus Books, 2023), 336 pages, ISBN: ‎978-1639362387, $29.

From the writers behind the acclaimed documentary series Enslaved (starring Samuel L. Jackson), comes a rich and revealing narrative of the true global and human scope of the transatlantic slave trade. The trade existed for 400 years, during which 12 million people were trafficked, and 2 million would die en route.

In these pages we meet the remarkable group, Diving with a Purpose (DWP), as they dive sunken slave ships all around the world. They search for remains and artifacts testifying to the millions of kidnapped Africans that were transported to Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean. From manilla bracelets to shackles, cargo, and other possessions, the finds from these wrecks bring the stories of lost lives back to the surface.

As we follow the men and women of DWP across eleven countries, Jacobovici and Kingsley’s rich research puts the archaeology and history of these wrecks that lost between 1670 to 1858 in vivid context. From the ports of Gold Coast Africa, to the corporate hubs of trading companies of England, Portugal and the Netherlands, and the final destinations in the New World, Jacobovici and Kingsley show how the slave trade touched every nation and every society on earth.

Though global in scope, Enslaved makes history personal as we experience the divers’ sadness, anger, reverence, and awe as they hold tangible pieces of their ancestors’ world in their hands. What those people suffered on board those ships can never be forgiven. Enslaved works to ensure that it will always be remembered and understood, and is the first book to tell the story of the transatlantic slave trade from the bottom of the sea.

Sean Kingsley is a marine archaeologist who has explored over 350 wrecks from Israel to America. Off the UK he identified the world’s earliest Royal African Company English ‘slaver’ ship. Dr. Kingsley writes for National Geographic and is the founder of Wreckwatch Magazine about the world’s sunken wonders.

Simcha Jacobovici is a three-time Emmy winning Israeli/Canadian filmmaker, New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally acclaimed journalist. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion at Huntington University in Ontario. Jacobovici was Showrunner/Director of the 6-part series Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, for which he has received numerous awards including two NAACP Image Award nominations. Enslaved is his fourth book. He divides his time between Toronto and Israel.

New Book | The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley

Posted in books by Editor on March 23, 2023

From Macmillan:

David Waldstreicher, The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys through American Slavery and Independence (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023), 496 pages, ISBN: ‎ 978-0809098248, $30.

A paradigm-shattering biography of Phillis Wheatley, whose extraordinary poetry set African American literature at the heart of the American Revolution.

book coverAdmired by George Washington, ridiculed by Thomas Jefferson, published in London, and read far and wide, Phillis Wheatley led one of the most extraordinary American lives. Seized in West Africa and forced into slavery as a child, she was sold to a merchant family in Boston, where she became a noted poet at a young age. Mastering the Bible, Greek and Latin translations, and the works of Pope and Milton, she composed elegies for local elites, celebrated political events, praised warriors, and used her verse to variously lampoon, question, and assert the injustice of her enslaved condition. “Can I then but pray / Others may never feel tyrannic sway?” By doing so, she added her voice to a vibrant, multisided conversation about race, slavery, and discontent with British rule; before and after her emancipation, her verses shook up racial etiquette and used familiar forms to create bold new meanings. She demonstrated a complex but crucial fact of the times: that the American Revolution both strengthened and limited Black slavery. In this new biography, the historian David Waldstreicher offers the fullest account to date of Wheatley’s life and works, correcting myths, reconstructing intimate friendships, and deepening our understanding of her verse and the revolutionary era. Throughout The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley, he demonstrates the continued vitality and resonance of a woman who wrote, in a founding gesture of American literature, “Thy Power, O Liberty, makes strong the weak / And (wond’rous instinct) Ethiopians speak.”

David Waldstreicher teaches history at the City University of New York Graduate Center and is the author of Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification and Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution. He has written for The New York Times Book Review, Boston Review, and The Atlantic, among other publications.

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From Jennifer Schuessler’s review for The NY Times:

Jennifer Schuessler, “A Fresh Look at a Pioneering Black Voice of Revolutionary America,” The New York Times (2 March 2023). A new biography places the poet Phillis Wheatley in her own time — and in the middle of the current hot debate about the American Revolution and slavery.

. . . Waldstreicher, who teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is known for deeply researched, tightly written studies, which aim to complicate any comforting idealization of the founding. . . .

His books (which include a study of Ben Franklin and slavery) and his blunt intellectual style haven’t always made him popular. Some traditionalists in the field, he said tartly, prefer to “pretend I don’t exist.”

Waldstreicher is also a longtime scourge of “Founders’ Chic,” as historians refer to reverential best sellers extolling the character of the founders (often by exaggerating their opposition to slavery). But his new book, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is itself a founder biography of sorts, treating Wheatley not only as the progenitor of the African American literary tradition but an important political voice in the creation of the nation itself. . . .

New Book | Scripts of Blackness

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on March 23, 2023

From Penn Press—and see Ellen Welch’s recent review for Journal18 . . .

Noémie Ndiaye, Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022), 376 pages, ISBN: 978-1512822632, $65. RaceB4Race: Critical Race Studies of the Premodern series

Book cover with visual reference to a costume print by Henri Bonnart depicting a woman (the print is entitled L'Afrique) partially covered by a red theater curtain and holding a dark-colored mask in her right hand away from her face.Scripts of Blackness shows how the early modern mass media of theatre and performance culture at-large helped turn blackness into a racial category, that is, into a type of difference justifying emerging social hierarchies and power relations in a new world order driven by colonialism and capitalism. Noemie Ndiaye explores the techniques of impersonation used by white performers to represent Afro-diasporic people in England, France, and Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, using a comparative and transnational framework. She reconstructs three specific performance techniques―black-up (cosmetic blackness), blackspeak (acoustic blackness), and black dances (kinetic blackness)―in order to map out the poetics of those techniques, and track a number of metaphorical strains that early modern playtexts regularly associated with them. Those metaphorical strains, the titular scripts of blackness of this book, operated across national borders and constituted resources, as they provided spectators and participants with new ways of thinking about the Afro-diasporic people who lived or could/would ultimately live in their midst. Those scripts were often gendered and hinged on notions of demonization, exclusion, exploitation, animalization, commodification, sexualization, consensual enslavement, misogynoir, infantilization, and evocative association with other racialized minorities. Scripts of Blackness attempts to grasp the stories that Western Europeans told themselves through performative blackness, and the effects of those fictions on early modern Afro-diasporic subjects.

Noémie Ndiaye is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago.


Introduction: Performative Blackness in Early Modern Europe
1  A Brief History of Baroque Black-Up: Cosmetic Blackness and Religion
2  A Brief History of Baroque Black-Up: Cosmetic Blackness, Gender, and Sexuality
3  Blackspeak: Acoustic Blackness and Accents of Race
4  Black Moves: Race, Dance, and Power
Post-Script: Ecologies of Racial Performance

Appendix: Selection of Early Modern Plays Featuring Black Characters

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