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The Empire of Necessity and the African Slave Trade



Author: Greg Grandin

Full Title: The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

Format(s): Hardcover, paperback, kindle, 2014,

Genre: The history of the Atlantic slave trade

***Fascinating note: Professor Grandin teaches history at New York University. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He was, also, the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center. His writing credits extend to works published in the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and The New York Times.

Synopsis: Readers, prepare yourselves for this book. Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) was the romantic pilgrimage of a family from slavery to freedom. There is little romance in Grandin’s The Empire of Necessity (2014). I was, however, reminded of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776) as I read the authentic and chronicled treatise of the African slave trade by the author, Grandin. The Atlantic slave trade was a purely profitable and inhumane business of transporting human cargo and carcasses across the Atlantic to fuel a European economy. The legacy of this business is raw, ruthless and splendidly vivid in the work of Greg Grandin. Readers ride in chains in the bowels of the slave ships, encounter mutinies, pirates, profiteers, and scoundrels of every manner. You suffer with the slaves from thirst, hunger, filth, and cramped quarters, chained to the dead and dying. Yes, in this book you become the prey and you are helpless against the organized predators of the Western world. Greg Grandin is masterful in illustrating and conveying the full extent of slavery in South America. He focuses upon the Spanish role in the slave enterprise, but every European nation was involved in this illicit trade. And Grandin, also, illustrates the commanding presence and contributions of Africans in the development of the life and culture of South America.
But, the contributions of most slaves were involuntary. Blacks forged lives in South America because of the necessity of survival against all odds. Starved, beaten, neglected, and downtrodden, the African slaves survived until freedom came. Black slaves joined revolutionary armies in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and the Andes to rid their new homeland of the Spanish.

Greg Gandin tells the story of slave uprisings and eventual nation uprisings in South America. His research and contributions to the chronicling of the African slave trade in South America are extraordinary. This book should be in every library in North America, South America, Central America, Spain, Portugal, and Africa. This is the untold story that is finally revealed to the world.

Critique: I was shaken and stunned by the facts presented in this book. I was told many years ago, by a historian, that the Portuguese were the most inhumane slavers. Yet, to see everything depicted authentically on the pages of this text……was astonishing. Greg Grandin is a great writer. He lifts you into the world of his text. He permits you to be part of history as it unfolds. This is a book that I will read over and over again. I was recently in Colombia, South America for a conference. I wish that I had read this book before I travelled. I saw the presence of Africa and Africans in Colombia, but this book told the full history of the people. Now, I truly understand the importance of Africans in the history of Colombia. I thank Greg Grandin for augmenting my Colombian education.

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