I learned a lot from Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Dr. Rebecca Hall. Not only is Dr. Hall the author, she is the character around whom the story revolves. In this highly graphic, graphic nonfiction novel Dr. Hall is engaged in research necessary to complete her PhD dissertation. The subject of her dissertation is women-led slave revolts in British America. It turns out that the subject is new to her faculty advisors and to the entire field of American history. Why is this? Because every recorded slave revolt was led by men. And, then as now, the historical contributions of women were not taken as seriously as the contributions of men. Also, American history books “historically” gave minimal attention to the lives of slaves. Moreover, the academic and publishing industries reflect the social environments in which they exist and thrive.
Hall’s research into her subject led her to butt heads with the social environment in which she exists. In visiting the often disorganized and dusty public records, Hall’s right to access the records that all taxpayers support is challenged by petty, and narrow-minded gatekeepers.
In search of more records to complete the picture of women-led slave revolts that occurred when Britain ruled the American colonies, Dr. Hall realizes she must go to Britain and find the slave ship logs and insurance records that were required by the British government.
The slave trade was a highly regulated industry. The ships and their human cargo were insured. The world’s largest insurer, Lloyd’s of London, began with the slave trade. Hall visits Lloyd’s and asks to see their records and she is denied access and escorted off the premises by security.
Now I feel as though I am giving too much of the story away! I will not share more details from the book here, my friends.
From Wake I learned about the research process of a historian. I learned more of the history of my African ancestors who were delivered to the Americas in dehumanizing conditions. I learned more about my African ancestors who resisted dehumanization.
In my opinion, Wake and Company of Prophets share a central theme. The theme of the survival of African people in what became the United States. A United States that has yet to fully incorporate and appreciate the contributions and humanity of women and people of color.
Thank you, Dr. Hall, for writing Wake. I needed to read this book. I needed to know the facts to fill in the hidden gaps of African American history. Thank you for finding women warriors who are reflected in just about every black woman I ever knew. Women who go forth and take care of business everyday; often against the grain of society.
Thanks for reading!
Categories: book review