The Great Negro Plot: A Tale of Conspiracy and \t\t Murder in Eighteenth-Century New York

Mat Johnson, Author . Bloomsbury $19.95 (215p) ISBN 978-1-58234-099-9

Novelist Johnson (Hunting in Harlem) convincingly re-creates New York City's stratified colonial society in 1741, while reinterpreting the only historical account of the rumored slave revolt, hysteria and kangaroo trial that led to the executions of many black New Yorkers. (The uprising was also chronicled in Jill Lepore's New York Burning.) Narrated by a modern-day black man who acts as defense attorney for the executed, this account painstakingly refutes Daniel Horsmanden's 1744 book, The New York Conspiracy, in which the trial's judge, prosecutor and court recorder sought to justify the jailing of about 160 Africans, the hanging of 18 and the burning of 13 more at the stake. Johnson's strength is his ability to breathe movement and motivation into Horsmanden's witnesses, though trotting out one intimidated witness after another bogs down the latter half of the narrative. He repeatedly drumrolls an unsurprising conclusion: that 18th-century New York really was a racist and ignorant backwater. Fans of historical fiction or readers interested in the impact of slavery on African-American identity today will enjoy Johnson's daring reconstruction. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/11/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-59691-978-5
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!