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The Black Joke: The True Story of One Ship's Battle Against the Slave Trade (Paperback)

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Description


An essential, groundbreaking history of the Black Joke, the most famous member of the British Royal Navy’s anti-slavery squadron, and the long fight to end the transatlantic slave trade.

In this “tale skillfully teased out of the vaults” (Kirkus Reviews), His Majesty's brig Black Joke comes to vibrant life: one of a handful of ships tasked with patrolling the western coast of Africa, its dramatic, swashbuckling adventures were an integral part of the effort to end hundreds of years of global slave trading. Sailing after the spectacular fall of Napoleon in France but before the rise of Queen Victoria’s England, this ship “worth remembering” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) was first a slaving vessel itself; only a lucky capture in 1827 allowed it to be repurposed by the Royal Navy to catch its former compatriots. Over the next five years, the Black Joke would become the most feared vessel in Britain’s West Africa Squadron, capturing more ships and liberating more enslaved people than any other.

Now, in this “beautifully written book” (Library Journal, starred review), author A.E. Rooks “adds global and historical context to the travesties and tragedies that took place along the coast of West Africa in the 1800s...[and] introduces a cast of ambitious commanders, insensitive rulers and policymakers, heroic ship captains, beleaguered sailors, and heartless enslavers” (BookPage). As Britain slowly attempted to snuff out the transatlantic slave trade by way of treaty and might, enforcing these policies fell to the Black Joke and those that sailed with it. Balancing “an accessible history [and] vivid picture of life aboard the Black Joke” (Publishers Weekly) with “a wider story, both in scope and geography…full of action and heroism” (Bookworm Sez), Rooks follows in the wake of this ship’s diverse crew and dedicated commanders as the consequences of their battles with slavers, pirates, weather, politics, and each other reverberate across oceans and through history. Through the daring feats of this single ship, the abolition of the international slave trade is revealed as a contested proposition, secured by outright force and fraught negotiations, needlessly extended decades longer than it could have.

Harrowing and heartbreaking, The Black Joke is an important and deeply compelling work of history, both as a reckoning with slavery and abolition and as a lesson about the power of political will—or the lack thereof.

About the Author


A.E. Rooks hopes to always be a student of history, though that hasn’t stopped her from studying everything else. A two-time Jeopardy! champion with completed degrees in theatre, law, and library and information science—and forthcoming degrees in education and human sexuality—her intellectual passions are united by what the past can teach us about the present, how history shapes our future, and above all, really interesting stories.

Praise For…


“Adds global and historical context to the travesties and tragedies that took place along the coast of West Africa in the 1800s ... Rooks introduces a cast of ambitious commanders, insensitive rulers and policymakers, heroic ship captains, beleaguered sailors and heartless enslavers. Rooks greatly enlarges the context of the Black Joke’s legendary four-year run, delving into the maritime, economic and political issues of the day.” 
—BookPage

"Full of action and heroism."
—Bookworm Sez 

“In this beautifully written book, Rooks paints an exciting portrait of the exploits of [the Black Joke] and its crew ... a recommended read."
Library Journal, STARRED review

“Well worth a close look. A tale skillfully teased out of the vaults and made vivid by an artful narrative.”
Kirkus

“An accessible history… Rooks succeeds in capturing the human dimensions of the story. This is an enlightening take on a lesser-known aspect of the fight to end slavery.” 
Publishers Weekly

"A.E. Rooks' dynamic narrative expertly uncovers and examines the high stakes and political intricacies of Britain’s attempt to abolish the global slave trade ... This engrossing and meticulously researched account of The Black Joke is essential reading."
—Samantha Seiple, author of Louisa on the Frontlines


Product Details
ISBN: 9781982128272
ISBN-10: 1982128275
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: January 1st, 2025
Pages: 400
Language: English
ABA Admin Product Details
Data Source: ONIX
Created At: 6/12/2022 06:02pm
Last Updated At: 7/17/2022 06:00pm