A book that strikes at the source of the recent flare-ups over Confederate symbols in Charlottesville, New Orleans, and elsewhere, Denmark Vesey’s Garden reveals the deep roots of these controversies and traces them to the capital of slavery in the United States: Charleston, South Carolina, where almost half of the slaves brought to the U.S. stepped onto our shores.
It’s a book written by two Fresno State History professors that rose to the top of six “Best of 2018” book lists, including “Janet Maslin’s Favorite Books of 2018,” from the New York Times.
Dr. Ethan Kytle and Dr. Blain Roberts published Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacyin April of 2018 and received a lot of praise for the book along with great reviews from the Chicago Tribuneand the New York Times.
Both professors say they wrote the book to share their thoughts on recent racial injustice events happening throughout America but also share how the nation perceives slavery. The title refers to Charleston’s most famous black revolutionary, Denmark Vesey, who in 1822, after being prevented from legally freeing his wife and children, plotted a massive slave uprising for which he and more than thirty co-conspirators were hastily tried and executed.
Other “Best of” lists that Roberts and Kytle are a part of include: John Warner’s idiosyncratic list of books for the year, The Best Civil War books of 2018and Best Black History Books of 2018.
“Most of these lists are generated for and by people who are not scholars,” Dr. Kytle said. “It feels good to know that not only are people reading it, but a wider range of people are reading it and enjoying it.”
Kytle and Roberts said that each “best of” list they are a part of trickled in since the Thanksgiving break and both were excited to be a part of each list because it validates all of the years and work they put into writing the book.
Moving forward, a goal for both is to continue writing books or pieces which engage scholars but also the general public. They want to continue shaping public conversations with those who are not historians.
“A visual artist that works in African American art with historical themes tweeted that he loved the book and how it helped him with his projects,” Dr. Roberts said. “It’s a conversation we would have never had if our book was tailored towards fellow American Historians.”
Dr. Kytle and Dr. Roberts would like to thank the College of Social Sciences and the University for providing funding to conduct research across the country, course releases and sabbaticals which gave both the time to write the book. Both appreciate the support for faculty research and know it is invaluable.
For the full list of each “best of” click here.