7 books to read after watching CBC's Enslaved
Led by actor and activist Samuel L. Jackson, Enslaved is a six-part series that sheds new light on 400 years of human trafficking from Africa to the New World. Each episode follows three separate story lines: the quest for a sunken slave ship, a personal journey by Jackson and a historical investigation led by investigative journalists Simcha Jacobovici and Afua Hirsch.
Finished watching Enslaved and looking for a Canadian book with similar themes? Here are seven books by Canadian authors that explore the enduring legacy of slavery and human trafficking across the African diaspora.
The Book of Negroes is a portrayal of the brutal realities of the slave trade told through one woman's life. Aminata Diallo is kidnapped from her village in Niger and brought to South Carolina to work as a slave when she is 11 years old. After eventually winning her freedom, Diallo goes on to face decades of struggle and adversity, but later becomes a driving force in the abolitionist movement in Britain.
Lawrence Hill is the author of The Book of Negroes, which won CBC's Canada Reads in 2009 and was adapted into a six-part TV series for CBC. The Book of Negroes received the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. His previous novels include Some Great Thing and Any Known Blood.
The Hanging Of Angelique tells the story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave woman convicted of starting a fire that destroyed a large part of Montréal in the 1700s. The work challenges the idea of a slavery-free Canada by way of documenting cases of legally and culturally endorsed slavery in the country.
Afua Cooper is a Jamaican-born Canadian historian, multidisciplinary scholar, artist and poet. Cooper is a professor of sociology and social anthropology at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She has published several books of poetry, including the recent collection Black Matters, which she co-created with Wilfried Raussert.
Elijah of Buxton is a middle-grade novel about 11-year-old Elijah Freeman who lives in Buxton, Ont., which was originally a refugee camp for slaves who escaped to Canada through the Underground Railroad. Elijah was born in Buxton, making him the first person living there to never have been a slave. He makes a trip to the United States and learns more about slavery and the value of freedom. Elijah of Buxton won the 2008 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.
Christopher Paul Curtis is an American-Canadian author known for writing historical fiction for young readers. His other books include The Journey of Little Charlie, which was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text. Curtis currently lives in Windsor, Ont.
I Am Still Your Negro is a poetic homage to the work of American author and thinker James Baldwin. Inspired by the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which was based on an unfinished 1979 manuscript by James Baldwin called Remember the House, the film looks at issues of anti-Black racism and Black history, all central to James Baldwin's writing. I Am Still Your Negro is a poetry collection influenced by Baldwin's work and highlights the scars and trauma of slavery, sexism and colonization in the present day.
Valerie Mason-John is a Vancouver-based poet, educator and public speaker. Her work highlights issues of the African Diaspora and the Black, female, queer identity.
Policing Black Lives traces the underreported modern and historical realities of anti-Blackness within a Canadian context. Maynard examines the fact that slavery occurred in Canada for more than 200 years and that enslaved Indigenous and Black individuals were responsible for developing infrastructure for white Canadian settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries — and how that legacy has defined institutionalized racism today.
Robyn Maynard is a Montreal-based Black feminist writer, activist and educator. Maynard's writing and work focuses on documenting racist and gender-based state violence.
Washington Black tells the story of 11-year-old Washington Black, a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. His master is Englishman Christopher Wilde, who is obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. The two develop a bond, but when a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Washington's life — and the choice results in an unforgettable adventure around the world.
Esi Edugyan is the Calgary author of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning Washington Black. Washington Black was also a finalist for the 2018 Man Booker Prize and the 2018 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Edugyan is also the author of the 2004 novel The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and the 2014 work of nonfiction Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home.
At the full and change of the moon is a novel about Marie Ursule, queen of a secret society of militant slaves in 1824 Trinidad, who is planning a revolt by mass suicide. The novel features interconnected stories of the African diaspora, defiance, oppression and intergenerational trauma told through the eyes of six generations of Marie Ursule's descendants.
Dionne Brand is an award-winning poet and novelist. She won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Trillium Book Award for her 1997 collection Land to Light On. Her collection thirsty won the 2003 Pat Lowther Award. In 2009, she served as the poet laureate of Toronto. Her novel What We All Long For won the City of Toronto Book Award in 2006. She won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries and in 2017, she was named to the Order of Canada. Her latest books include the novel Theory and the poetry collection The Blue Clerk, which was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.