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Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic Historyby Trevor R. Getz
Synopses & Reviews
Abina and the Important Men is a compelling and powerfully illustrated "graphic history" based on an 1876 court transcript of a West African woman named Abina, who was wrongfully enslaved and took her case to court. The book is a microhistory that does much more than simply depict an event in the past; it uses the power of illustration to convey important themes in world history and to reveal the processes by which history is made.
The story of Abina Mansah--a woman "without history" who was wrongfully enslaved, escaped to British-controlled territory, and then took her former master to court--takes place in the complex world of the Gold Coast at the onset of late nineteenth-century colonialism. Slavery becomes a contested ground, as cultural practices collide with an emerging wage economy and British officials turn a blind eye to the presence of underpaid domestic workers in the households of African merchants. The main scenes of the story take place in the courtroom, where Abina strives to convince a series of "important men"--a British judge, two Euro-African attorneys, a wealthy African country "gentleman," and a jury of local leaders--that her rights matter. "Am I free?" Abina inquires. Throughout both the court case and the flashbacks that dramatically depict her life in servitude, these men strive to "silence" Abina and to impose their own understandings and meanings upon her. The story seems to conclude with the short-term success of the "important men," as Abina loses her case. But it doesn't end there: Abina is eventually redeemed. Her testimony is uncovered in the dusty archives by Trevor Getz and, through Liz Clarke's illustrations, becomes a graphic history read by people around the world. In this way, the reader takes an active part in the story along with the illustrator, the author, and Abina herself.
Following the graphic history in Part I, Parts II-V provide detailed historical context for the story, a reading guide that reconstructs and deconstructs the methods used to interpret the story, and strategies for using Abina in various classroom settings.
About the Author
Trevor R. Getz is Professor of History at San Francisco State University. He is the author of Modern Imperialism and Colonialism: A Global Perspective (2010) and Slavery and Reform in West Africa (2004). He is also the editor for the new Oxford University Press series, African World Histories, the first volumes of which will appear in 2012.
Liz Clarke is a professional artist and graphic designer based in Cape Town, South Africa.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Part I: The graphic history
Part II: The transcript
Part III: Historical context
The Gold Coast, c.1876
The British Civilizing Mission
The Civilizing Mission in the Gold Coast
Slavery in the Gold Coast
The Atlantic Slave Trade and Abolition
Abina Mansah and the Important Men
Part IV: Reading guide
Whose Story is This?
Level One: A staircase of voices
Level 2: Silences
Level 3: Representation and Translation
Is this a "true" story?
Level 1: Reconstructing Abina's story
Level 2: Deconstructing the courtroom transcript
Level 3: Reconstructing Abina's "truths" or constructing our own?
Is this "authentic" history?
Level 1: Local forms of history-telling
Level 2: The personal and the collective authentic
Level 3: History as a forum or a temple
Part IV: Abina in the classroom
Abina for the world history classroom
Abina for the African history/African studies classroom
Abina and colonialism
Abina and the history of slavery
Gendering Abina's story
Introductory questions, for students at all levels
Questions for students at the university or college level
Additional questions for advanced undergraduate and graduate students
Timeline of Events
Slavery and Abolition on the Gold Coast
About Colonialism and the Gold Coast
General histories of Africa
Imperialism and Colonialism
Gender and African History
List of maps and images
1) Location of Gold Coast, 16th-18th century
2) Language distribution in Ghana today
3) Asante c. 1700
4) Asante and the Gold Coast in the 1870s, showing sites of Abina Mansah's enslavement
5) Page of transcript from Regina v. Quamina Eddoo Further readings
What Our Readers Are Saying
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