David Lester, "Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, A Graphic Novel" (Beacon Press, 2021)


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Who is the most fascinating historical figure that you have never heard of? David Lester and Marcus Rediker make a good case that it was Benjamin Lay. Based on Rediker’s 2017 The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist, Lester has created a moving, engaging, and eye-opening graphic novel. Lay embodied inter-sectional resistance centuries before the term was coined. In the 18th century he not only fought against slavery and condemned racism but supported women’s rights, criticized class disparities, and promoted the human treatment of animals. Lay was a vegetarian who lived in a humble cave with his beloved wife. He condemned the hypocrisy of the slave owning church leadership. The diminutive Lay engaged in powerful acts of guerilla theater that included smashing expensive Chinese porcelain in the public square and splashing fake blood about a Quaker meeting house. Well-known after his death as a founder of the abolitionist movement, post-Civil War white supremacists marginalized Benjamin Lay. Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay (Beacon Press, 2021) will revive the memory of this role model of speaking truth to power.

David Lester is an author and graphic artist. His work includes but is not limited to 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike, Direct Action Gets the Goods: A Graphic History of the Strike in Canada, Drawn To Change: Graphic Histories of Working Class Struggle, and The Listener, a graphic novel. He is also the guitarist for the underground duo Mecca Normal.

Marcus Rediker is a Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburg and a Guest Curator at the J. M. W. Turner Gallery, Tate Britain. He is the author of numerous books on the history of piracy, the slave trade, and the Atlantic world such as The Many Headed Hydra, The Slave Ship: A Human History, Villains of all Nations, Outlaws of the Atlantic, The Amistad, and The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf who became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist.

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

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