9781324092407 198

Born in Blackness

Africa, Africans, and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War

25 October 2022


Revealing the central yet intentionally obliterated role of Africa in the creation of modernity, Born in Blackness vitally reframes our understanding of world history

In a sweeping narrative that traverses 600 years, one that eloquently weaves precise historical detail with poignant personal reportage, Pulitzer Prize finalist Howard W. French retells the story of medieval and emerging Africa, demonstrating how the economic ascendancy of Europe, the anchoring of democracy in America and the fulfillment of so-called Enlightenment ideals all grew out of Europe’s dehumanising engagement with the “darkest” continent.

Born in Blackness dramatically retrieves the lives of major African historical figures whose stories have been repeatedly etiolated and erased over centuries, from unimaginably rich medieval African emperors who traded with Asia; to Kongo sovereigns who heroically battled seventeenth-century European powers; to ex-slaves who liberated Haitians from bondage. In doing so, French tells the story of gold, tobacco, sugar and cotton—and the greatest “commodity” of all, the millions of people brought in chains from Africa to the New World, whose reclaimed histories fundamentally help explain our present world.


"[A] magnificent, powerful and absorbing book... This is not a comfortable or comforting read, but it is beautifully done; a masterpiece even..." — Peter Frankopan, The Observer

"Born in Blackness is laced with arresting nuggets... Filled with pain, but also with pride: pride at the endurance of oppressed millions, at the many slave uprisings and rebellions culminating in the Haitian revolution, which defeated ‘the idea of Black slavery itself,’ and in the cultural riches of the African diaspora... Searing, humbling and essential reading." — Nigel Cliff, New York Times Book Review

"This book is filled with countless eyeopeners… All history is, by definition, revisionist. In connecting the various dots, French is inviting us to reconsider what we understand about how we got here.... Painful and necessary… [an] infuriating and hugely enlightening book." — Dele Olojede, Financial Times



140 x 210 mm • 544 pages


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