Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Africatown:
Apparently, slavery wasn’t bad enough, so the discrimination just kept going.
The story of the last slave ship to land in America and the fate of the people when slavery ended.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:
In 1850, cotton consumption worldwide was 1.5 billion pounds. By 1859, it was 2.5 billion pounds.
Fact for History Nerds:
The mortality rate on slave ships from Africa as of 1860 was 6.4%.
My Take on Africatown:
Africatown is the rare example of an epic book which gets everything right. Nick Tabor has written a book which follows the last group of slaves every brought into the United States in 1860. Tabor follows the lives of these people and then looks at the community they created up until the present day. There is so much that can go wrong when you mix history, politics, and generational conflict. Often, I find these books become too unwieldy. The politics will be too one-sided, the history will be superficial, and the dizzying number of names make it impossible for anyone to stand out. Thank you, Nick Tabor, for making me look dumb because this book is fantastic in every aspect.
The history portion of the book dealing with the Clotilda, the Civil War, and the Jim Crow era are expertly done. The reader learns about the origins of the slave trade in West Africa, the emancipation of the slaves, and how they tried to build new lives post-Civil War. Tabor creates a narrative which is short by comparison to other books on slavery but is just as effective, if not more so. If the story of Cudjo Lewis doesn’t affect you then it’s time for therapy.
Somehow, this book then slips into current state politics and does not lose steam. I generally hate reading about contemporary politics because you end up hearing a very one-sided argument. While Tabor clearly has a point of view, he never fails to point out the valid concerns of the counter argument. This is sometimes just a single line in a much larger section, but it goes a long way in the reader trusting that the author did his homework and is being realistic and fair.
Quite simply, this is a fantastic book that everyone should read.
(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press.)
A great book which covers a lot of ground. Buy it here!