From the Publisher
“Gripping...Superb...As Marcus Rediker’s new book reminds us, the place of the [Amistad] rebellion in popular memory hasn’t always been secure.”The Nation
“The great strength of this work—aside from rediker’s vivd style as a writer and meticulous research—is that he brings the Amistad Africans back to center stage where they have often been pushed to the side.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Vividly drawn…this stunning book honors the achievement of the captive Africans who fought for—and won—their freedom.”—The Philadelphia Tribune
“Spectacularly researched and fluidly composed, this latest study offers some much needed perspective on a critical yet often overlooked event in America’s history.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A totally enthralling account of the Amistad rebellion and its place in the broader American story of revolt against a great threat to liberty."--Booklist (starred review)
"A first-rate example of history told from the bottom up."Kirkus (starred review)
"Rediker takes a fresh approach to the Amistad rebellion by focusing on the Africans who revolted rather than on the American political and judicial response, which takes the central place in most previous works."Library Journal
Historian Rediker (The Slave Ship) focuses on the individual captives in this ambitious retelling of the famous 1839 Amistad uprising. He relies on numerous articles about and interviews with rebellion leader Cinqué and his fellow captives to detail their abduction, voyage, and stateside imprisonment. Their trial brings out prominent legislators, including Roger S. Baldwin and former president John Quincy Adams, as well as political activists like Lewis Tappan, turning the already sensational upheaval aboard the slave ship Amistad into a national spectacle of antebellum America. Rediker renders the struggle of progressive newspapersto portray, in both word and image, the refugees as romantic heroes, while proslavery outlets labeled them “beastly” pirates. He also describes the Africans’ and Americans’ mutual attempts to understand one another’s language and customs, in order to better communicate throughout the hearings. As the Supreme Court solidified its position on the captives’ fate, the reader feels America further split in its own attitudes on slavery. Following the verdict, Rediker trails the freed captives as they tour the country and return to their native homelands, while the effects of the court’s landmark ruling reverberate throughout the nation. Spectacularly researched and fluidly composed, this latest study offers some much needed perspective on a critical yet oft-overlooked event in America’s history. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra. (Nov.)
The 1839 Amistad slave rebellion is well known, but George Washington Book Prize-winner Rediker uses newly discovered information to tell the story anew, giving greater depth to the Africans' background and highlighting individuals, whether rebel, captor, or abolitionist.
Rigorous account of a slave-ship rebellion that altered American and African societies. In The Slave Ship (2007), Rediker (History/Univ. of Pittsburgh) provided a macro view of the ugly business of transporting slaves. Here, he examines what happened on one ship, the Amistad. The 1839 rebellion on the Amistad was one of the few successful uprisings while a slave ship was under sail. The story unfolds from the bottom up, as Rediker pieces together the lives of several dozen men and women forcibly captured in what is now Sierra Leone. Other books about the rebellion focus on what occurred after the slaves broke their shackles and committed high-seas murder (off the coast of Cuba) before eventually being arrested near Long Island, N.Y. The jailing of the slaves and legal proceedings constituted the obvious, easy story to tell. Rediker, however, dug deeply to document the personal histories of the rebellious slaves. When captured, none of the slaves could speak or understand the English language. A lengthy search in the United States for an interpreter broke the logjam to some extent, allowing at least a partial narrative to be written during the 1840s and in later generations. Rediker does not ignore the Supreme Court decision in the convoluted case of international law as applied to murder on the high seas; the decision, given the biased backgrounds of quite a few Supreme Court justices, seemed almost miraculous at the time, and the slaves headed home to Sierra Leone. A first-rate example of history told from the bottom up.