The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin. PART 4 of 4.

Jul 04, 2017, 04:48 AM


The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin. PART 4 of 4.

Amasa Delano was a widely traveled mariner who recounted his exploits in a memoir. One of the brief, seemingly minor experiences he described was actually rather extraordinary and revealed much about racial attitudes in the early nineteenth century. In 1805, Captain Delano and his crew were hunting seals off the coast of South America. They encountered and came to the aid of an apparently damaged and distressed ship carrying a cargo of West African slaves. A few of the slaves seemed to stick surprisingly close to the ship captain, but Delano was initially prepared to see nothing amiss. Then the captain escaped the presence of the slaves and revealed the truth to Delano: there had been a slave rebellion, and after seizing control of the ship, the slaves had slaughtered most of the crew and passengers. Delano was a New Englander imbued with republican ideals and even abolitionist sympathies. Yet when he discovered the ruse, he and his crew reacted with outrage and visited extreme violence upon the rebels. Grandin, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a professor at New York University, delves into Delano’s motives and examines the broader contradictions between theoretical and actual commitment to political liberty and equality in this thoughtful and unsettling work. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to the Digital edition.

Review “Scholarship at its best . . . Compelling, brilliant, and necessary.” ―Toni Morrison

“Engaging, richly informed . . . Grandin has produced a quietly powerful account that Melville himself would have admired.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“Powerful . . . A remarkable feat of research . . . A significant contribution to the largely impossible yet imperative effort to retrieve some trace of the countless lives that slavery consumed.” ―Andrew Delbanco, The New York Times Book Review

“Engrossing, well researched, and beautifully written . . . A rigorously sourced work of scholarship with a suspenseful narrative structure that boomerangs back and forth through time. Grandin has delivered a page-turner.” ―Chicago Tribune

“A great and moving story.” ―The Washington Post

“Grandin writes with the skills of a fine novelist. . . . I am thrilled and amazed by this inventive, audacious, passionate volume.” ―H. Bruce Franklin, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Engaging, richly informed . . . Mr. Grandin ranges so freely through history that his book has a zigzagging course, like a schooner tacking constantly with the wind. But the voyage he takes us on is hardly directionless. . . . he describes his unsettling panorama in a restrained manner, avoiding exaggeration and allowing facts--many of them horrific--to tell the story. In doing so, he has produced a quietly powerful account that Melville himself would have admired.” ―Wall Street Journal

“Elegant . . . a wonder of power, precision and sheer reading pleasure . . . Grandin takes readers on a tour of the hell of the slave trade, a tour so revelatory and compelling, we readers, unlike Captain Delano, can't fail to see the truth before our eyes.” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR's "Fresh Air"

“An exciting and illuminating narrative . . . Grandin's pen is exquisite, the descriptions are lively and sensuous. But he is also deeply reflective. The book has import that extends beyond the interest of the story.” ―San Francisco Chronicle

“I can't say enough good things about The Empire of Necessity. It's one of the best books I've read in a decade. It should be essential reading not just for those interested in the African slave trade, but for anyone hoping to understand the commercial enterprise that built North and South America.” ―Victor Lavalle, Bookforum

“A remarkable story, one that unravels the American ...