By Jo Manby
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Text Publishing Company, Australia: 2015)
This is a timeless book that will not age, like the works of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison. ‘This is required reading,’ Morrison herself has said, in a quote that foots the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller, Between the World and Me.
Between the World and Me is written in the form of a letter addressed to Coates’ teenage son, a veritable prayer that is drenched in love and born out of struggle. It should make America sit up and take notice.
To mark International Slavery Day (23rd August), Jo Manby reviews:
The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, by Rebecca Shumway (University of Rochester Press: Rochester, NY & Woodbridge, Suffolk 2011) (Reprinted 2014)
The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade diverges from previous accounts of the relationship between Fante political history and the Atlantic slave trade, which have tended to focus on and to amalgamate Akan ancestry; the period of the gold trade (fifteenth to seventeenth century); or the era of British colonial rule, within the context of Ghana’s Gold Coast.
Instead, the focus here is on the development of ‘Fanteland’, a location of specific language and culture, the eighteenth-century political unification of Ghana’s coastal people, and the creation of a coalition government, which Shumway refers to as the Coastal Coalition.
Sin it is, no less… it puts out the sun at noon
– Herman Melville on slavery
Book review: The Empire of Necessity: The Untold History of a Slave Rebellion in the Age of Liberty by Greg Grandin (Oneworld: Great Britain, Australia & New York 2014)
Review by Jo Manby
This gripping book reads like an adventure story subtly underpinned by historical detail. It centres on a mutiny on board the slave ship Tryal whereby all its crew were killed, bar one.
On board, slave-rebels initiated a 24-hour deception, fooling the unsuspecting Captain Amasa Delano into coming aboard the apparently troubled, becalmed ship with water and supplies, finally leading to the descent of Delano’s own crew into barbaric slaughter of the slave-rebels.
Book review: Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool by Jacqueline Nassy Brown
Review by Jo Manby
Some of the books we acquire at the Resource Centre are new – others, like this one, new to us. Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool was published in 2005, and at the time, was heralded as revealing a new type of anthropology in which ‘place emerges with a cultural agency of its own’ (Anna Tsing).
Source: Hajor via Wikimedia Commons
As a race relations collection we inevitably have difficult stories to tell – of oppression, violence and inequality. How can collections such as ours do this both respectfully and powerfully?
Last week I went along to a talk given by Dr Richard Benjamin, Director of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. If anyone knows about telling difficult stories respectfully, he surely does. Based in Liverpool, once a major port of the transatlantic slave trade, and looking out over the dry docks once used for unloading slave ships, the Museum is already an emotionally charged piece of history, even before we think about its objects and exhibitions.
The Roving Reader Files
Have you seen Steve McQueen’s Oscar and BAFTA-winning film 12 Years a Slave? If yes, you’ll know two things: one, it’s based on the true story of abducted free Black American Solomon Northup in the 1840s, and two, it’s not a barrel of laughs.
So to cheer you up, as an addendum to my last post, I’d like to highlight a couple of people featured in The Skull Measurer’s Mistake who made a stand against the kind of abuse Northup was subjected to – Granville Sharp and George Cable.
The Roving Reader Files
I often wonder how books find their way into the Centre. Sometimes it’s simple, but sometimes it’s not so straightforward. I’m always intrigued when individual items bear marks which give a little glimpse of their story. Here’s an example.
A New System of Slavery. The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830-1920, by Hugh Tinker, was published by Oxford University Press for the Institute of Race Relations, in 1974. It was the first comprehensive survey of how and why populations from the Indian subcontinent were resettled around the British Empire, providing the indentured labour that produced plantation crops after slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century.