cover image Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation

Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation

Kris Manjapra. Scribner, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-982123-47-5

Tufts University historian Manjapra (Colonialism in Global Perspective) delivers a sweeping study of how emancipation processes in Africa, the Americas, and Europe “aggravated slavery’s historical trauma and extended white supremacist rule and antiblackness.” Contending that the officials who implemented abolition sought to preserve the racial caste system and “withdrew justice from the historical victims and appeased the perpetrators,” Manjapra documents how the heirs of British slaveholders—rather than descendants of the enslaved—received “lucrative state-funded reparations” up until 2015; how voter suppression and convict leasing programs helped preserve the racial hierarchy in the U.S.; and how European countries “imposed an order of imperialist rule and underdevelopment” on African nations. In addition to the forces that stunted equitable emancipation, Manjapra details Black resistance movements such as the Haitian Revolution and Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Though Manjapra ranges widely across the history of the 19th century, he suffuses the narrative with vivid and often enraging details, describing, for instance, how a Union general decided to return a fugitive woman and her child to their enslaver, but “congratulated himself for at least not providing a military escort” back to the plantation. This is an essential contribution to understanding the legacy of slavery. (Apr.)