Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation (Paperback)
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If the 1619 Project illuminated the ways in which life in the United States has been shaped by the existence of slavery, this “historical, literary masterpiece” (Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy) focuses on emancipation and how its afterlife further codified the racial caste system—instead of obliterating it.
To understand why the shadow of slavery still haunts us today, we must look closely at the way it ended. Between the 1770s and 1880s, emancipation processes took off across the Atlantic world. But far from ushering in a new age of human rights and universal freedoms, these emancipations further codified the racial caste systems they claimed to disrupt.
In this paradigm-altering book, acclaimed historian and professor Kris Manjapra identifies five types of emancipations across the globe and reveals that their perceived failures were not failures at all, but the predictable outcomes of policies designed first and foremost to preserve the status quo of racial oppression. In the process, Manjapra shows how, amidst this unfinished history, grassroots Black organizers and activists have become custodians of collective recovery and remedy; not only for our present, but also for our relationship with the past.
Black Ghost of Empire will rewire readers’ understanding of the world in which we live. Timely, lucid, and crucial to our understanding of contemporary society, this book shines a light into the gap between the idea of slavery’s end and the reality of its continuation—exposing to whom a debt was paid and to whom a debt is owed.
About the Author
Kris Manjapra was born in the Caribbean of mixed African and Indian parentage. He grew up in Canada and completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Harvard. He has lived in the USA ever since. He is a professor of history at Tufts University, and a recipient of the 2015 Emerging Scholar Award by Diverse magazine. He has held fellowships at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and at UCLA. The author of Black Ghost of Empire, he has also written Colonialism in Global Perspective, Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals Across Empire, M.N. Roy: Cosmopolitanism and Colonial Marxism, and Cosmopolitan Thought Zones of South Asia.
"Black Ghost of Empire is a historical, literary masterpiece, which feels like the wrong word to describe a book so tangibly useful and appropriately terrifying. This book, as much as any I've ever read, is superglued to my consciousness, and literally changes how I understand every move in my life. This is different, and so so so necessary."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
"In this powerful retelling of the long story of emancipation, Kris Manjapra reveals why and how European and American nations worked to ensure that the end of slavery would deliver neither equality nor justice. It is a must-read that shatters self-flattering national myths."
—Craig Steven Wilder, author of Ebony and Ivy
“Brilliant, bold, and wise, Black Ghost of Empire is a groundbreaking intervention on the long history of global Black reparations for racial slavery. Spanning emancipationist histories in North America, Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia, historian Kris Manjapra offers a tour de force about the international and local implications of racial slavery’s afterlife. With careful attention to the way in which a global Black emancipationist project has offered humanity a way out of the dead end of white supremacist history and politics, Black Ghosts of Empire is an essential global history of the deep roots behind our contemporary racial and political reckoning.”
—Dr. Peniel E. Joseph, author of The Sword and The Shield
"This book will be celebrated as the first deep drill into emancipation legislations.... The architects of these legislations were skillful craftsmen who sought to build walls to contain the freedom they did not wish to create. It was intended to be a project of delusion and deception....The Black Ghost of Empire is a massive contribution to the evidentiary basis for reparations. It shows that the enslaved blacks never surrendered; were never given the emancipation they demanded; never received the justice expected; and that their case for justice remains!"
—Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies
“Kris Manjapra's Black Ghost of Empire illuminates the global systems of coloniality and the persistence of colonial empires' logics as they animate our present. At the crux of Manjapra’s sedulous accounting is Black peoples’ always present radical confrontations with enslavement and provisional freedom. Also detailed are the juridical and narrative modes used by white supremacist states to delay, to alter, to get around demands for full reparation and accountability. Then and Now.”
—Dionne Brand, author of A Map to a Door of No Return