OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Marcus Rediker

Portrait of Marcus Rediker

Marcus Rediker is a Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into sixteen languages. The most recent is The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (2017). He is the producer of the prize-winning documentary film Ghosts of Amistad: In the Footsteps of the Rebels, based on his book The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (2012) and directed by Tony Buba. Rediker is currently writing a play, The Return of Benjamin Lay, with playwright Naomi Wallace, and working as guest curator in the J.M.W. Turner collection at Tate Britain.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture, based on my forthcoming book on Lay (September 2017) chronicles the transatlantic life and times of a singular and astonishing man—a Quaker dwarf who became one of the first ever to demand the total, unconditional emancipation of all enslaved Africans around the world. He performed public guerrilla theater to shame slave masters, insisting that human bondage violated the fundamental principles of Christianity. He wrote a fiery, controversial book against bondage that Benjamin Franklin published in 1738. He lived in a cave, made his own clothes, refused to consume anything produced by slave labor, championed animal rights, and embraced vegetarianism. He acted on his ideals to create a new, practical, revolutionary way of life.
*Ghosts of Amistad*, directed by Tony Buba is based on Marcus Rediker's *The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom* (Penguin, 2012). The film chronicles a journey to Sierra Leone in 2013 to visit the home villages of the rebels who captured the slave schooner *Amistad* in 1839, to interview elders about local memory of the incident, and to search for the long-lost ruins of Lomboko, the slave trading factory where their cruel transatlantic voyage began. The filmmakers rely on the knowledge of villagers, fishermen, and truck drivers to recover a lost history from below in the struggle against slavery. The American Historical Association awarded the film the 2015 John E. O’Conner Prize as the year’s best historical documentary.