Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

From History Book By Book
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Age of Revolutions

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts
Author: Hall, Rebecca
Buy at Amazon | BookShop.org

Time Period: Age of Revolutions
Time Frame: 1708-2002
Geographic Area: Africa, North America
Country: United States
Topics: Racism, Atlantic Slave Trade, Slave Revolts
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age:Young Adult, Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Published: 2022

Content Warning
mentions of rape and torture, suicide

American History > African American History

A Best Book of 2021 by NPR and The Washington Post

Part graphic novel, part memoir, Wake is an imaginative tour de force that tells the “powerful” (The New York Times Book Review) story of women-led slave revolts and chronicles scholar Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these women warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record.

Women warriors planned and led revolts on slave ships during the Middle Passage. They fought their enslavers throughout the Americas. And then they were erased from history.

Wake tells the “riveting” (Angela Y. Davis) story of Dr. Rebecca Hall, a historian, granddaughter of slaves, and a woman haunted by the legacy of slavery. The accepted history of slave revolts has always told her that enslaved women took a back seat. But Rebecca decides to look deeper, and her journey takes her through old court records, slave ship captain’s logs, crumbling correspondence, and even the forensic evidence from the bones of enslaved women from the “negro burying ground” uncovered in Manhattan. She finds women warriors everywhere.

Using a “remarkable blend of passion and fact, action and reflection” (NPR), Rebecca constructs the likely pasts of Adono and Alele, women rebels who fought for freedom during the Middle Passage, as well as the stories of women who led slave revolts in Colonial New York. We also follow Rebecca’s own story as the legacy of slavery shapes her life, both during her time as a successful attorney and later as a historian seeking the past that haunts her.

Illustrated beautifully in black and white, Wake will take its place alongside classics of the graphic novel genre, like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. This story of a personal and national legacy is a powerful reminder that while the past is gone, we still live in its wake.

Emily's Review

One of my favorite things is a graphic novel that is part memoir and part history. I also really love reading about hidden histories. This book was so moving and powerful.

Told from the perspective of African-American historian, Rebecca Hall, you follow her through her research as she works to uncover the hidden history of women-led slave revolts. It was fascinating to watch her peel back the layers of history.

What I found most frustrating was the fact that it was so difficult for her to conduct her research because so many people do not want to uncover their past connections to slavery. This in part, is what this book is about - the fact that as a country, we haven't given black people the time to process their trauma. We want to hide it, push it under a rug and pretend it didn't happen or that it was so long ago that it no longer affects us. So instead we are haunted by it.

The art was very powerful as well - I found that it was sometimes hard to look at, which I think is the point. We want to turn away but this book forces us to see it.

If you have an older teen that is studying American History, I highly recommend adding this to their curriculum.

Other Similar Books

Other suggestions on the subject of Atlantic Slave Trade.