leahhaines's review against another edition

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challenging dark informative


streamthief's review against another edition

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challenging informative medium-paced


Not it. Overly religious and such a pain to get through. I'm all for it's message but this was hell to read

archytas's review against another edition

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According to historian David Olusoga, this is the earliest known African-written history of slavery in English. For this reason alone, it is extraordinary. Cugoano uses the framework of a Jeramiad to argue vociferously against slavery. Unlike most of his abolitionist contemporaries, he calls for the abolition of chattel slavery altogether, not just an end to transnational slave trade. To do this, he deconstructs the difference between biblical slavery and seventeenth century slavery, explains why African slavery is not to blame for the transatlantic trade, details his own history briefly, and does a bit of revelation-inspired prophesying of the inevitable divine retribution coming. To a modern, non-Christian audience it is likely a slow read at times, but that shouldn't downplay the remarkable achievement here.

At one point, he puts a very modern argument for full employment.
"And were every civilized nation, where they boast of liberty, so ordered by its government, that some general and useful employment were provided for every industrious man and woman, in such a manner that none should stand still and be idle, and have to say that they could not get employment, so long as there are barren lands at home and abroad sufficient to employ thousands and millions of people more than there are. This, in a great measure, would prevent thieves and robbers, and the labour of many would soon enrich a nation. But those employed by the general community should only have their maintenance either given or estimated in money, and half the wages of others, which would make them seek out for something else whenever they could, and half a loaf would be better than no bread. The men that were employed in this manner, would form an useful militia, and the women would be kept from a state of misery and want, and from following a life of dissolute wickedness. Liberty and freedom, where people may starve for want, can do them but little good."

He expresses prescient concerns about the resettlement in Sierra Leone, with more insight than the government had:

"This prospect of settling a free colony to Great-Britain in a peaceable alliance with the inhabitants of Africa at Sierra Leona, has neither altogether met with the credulous approbation of the Africans here, nor yet been sought after with any prudent and right plan by the promoters of it. Had a treaty of agreement been first made with the inhabitants of Africa, and the terms and nature of such a settlement fixed upon, and its situation and boundary pointed out; then might the Africans, and others here, have embarked with a good prospect of enjoying happiness and prosperity themselves, and have gone with a hope of being able to render their services, in return, of some advantage to their friends and benefactors of Great-Britain. Much assiduity was made use of to perswade the Black People in general to embrace the opportunity of going with this company of transports; but the wiser sort declined from all thoughts of it, unless they could hear of some better plan taking place for their security and safety.174 For as it seemed prudent and obvious to many of them taking heed to that sacred enquiry, Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?175 They were afraid that their doom would be to drink of the bitter water. For can it be readily conceived that government would establish a free colony for them nearly on the spot, while it supports its forts and garrisons, to ensnare, merchandize, and to carry others into captivity and slavery. "

And he gently disabuses Briton's of their notions of superiority
We want many rules of civilization in Africa; but, in many respects, we may boast of some more essential liberties than any of the civilized nations in Europe enjoy; for the poorest amongst us are never in distress for want, unless some general and universal calamity happen to us."

I read this on the Kindle, and the very, very excellent notes did not link to the text, forcing me to use bookmarks to jump back and forth. This substantially disrupted the reading experience, and insults the painstaking work by Vincent Carretta here.