Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship ‘Antelope’

Jonathan M. Bryant. Norton/Liveright, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-87140-675-0
Bryant (How Curious a Land), professor of history at Georgia Southern University, centers his study on the little-known but significant Supreme Court case of the Antelope, a Spanish slave ship captured in 1820 by privateers and then seized by an American revenue cutter (an armed customs vessel) off the Florida coast. Although slavery was still legal in the U.S., the Atlantic slave trade had been outlawed for nearly 20 years. The Antelope decision would set an important precedent on questions of property rights, international law, and the very idea of natural rights. The court upheld the principle that slaves, though human beings, were also property, reinforcing the “divisions that would tear the nation apart.” Whereas the justices refused to restore the captives’ liberty, Bryant’s aim is to restore their agency by delving into the documents generated by the case and following the path of the enslaved from Africa into the “wild and lawless” Atlantic world. The nature of the sources, unfortunately, makes it difficult for him to uncover more than brief glimpses of the captives’ individual experiences. Bryant succeeds in locating American pro- and antislavery efforts within a context of events across Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean, making this a valuable piece of 19th-century history. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 07/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-62231-881-0
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-63149-077-4
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