Blood Legacy: Reckoning with a Family’s Story of Slavery

Alex Renton. Canongate, $25 (400p) ISBN 978-1-78689-886-9
Journalist Renton (Stiff Upper Lip) tackles difficult questions about culpability and reparations in this mesmerizing and deeply personal account of his family’s legacy of slavery. Drawing on family papers, Renton describes his 18th-century ancestors’ short-lived plantation on Tobago’s Bloody Bay and a more successful Jamaican plantation known as Rozelle. Extensive research reveals the remarkable story of Augustus Thomson, an enslaved man who escaped Rozelle and traveled to London, where he met with his surprised owner to complain about his harsh treatment by an overseer, and compensation for his stolen and burned personal belongings. (The owner sent him back to Jamaica with the promise that his previous “misdemeanour” would be forgiven.) Renton also documents his own visits to the Caribbean, where he talks with descendants of the enslaved, who provide frank insight into the continuing legacy of colonialism and outline possible steps for progress, including an official apology from the British government for the injustices of the colonial era. Renton’s sincerity and dogged persistence in combing through the historical record inform this unflinching look at how the “history of Britain and slavery” provided the “foundation of [Renton’s] comfortable, liberal life.” This earnest investigation into what it means to take responsibility for racial inequality deserves a wide readership. Agent: Jenny Brown, Jenny Brown Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/23/2021
Release date: 09/07/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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