In this new biography, historian Marcus Rediker, author of Many-Headed Hydra and Slave Ship, documents one of the most idiosyncratic figures in eighteenth-century America, abolitionist Benjamin Lay. Lay was a Quaker dwarf who lived in a cave-like home and was known for his dramatic protests against slavery, once kidnapping the child of a slaveholder to demonstrate the evil of separating families. Lay’s zealous witness against slavery put him into conflict with wealthy slaveholders and many of his fellow Quakers, but it also won him the respect of allies like Benjamin Franklin. Rediker demonstrates how Lay’s Christianity and Quakerism informed his radicalism and inspired a later generation of abolitionists.
Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:
“A modern biography of the radical abolitionist Benjamin Lay has long been overdue. With the sure hand of an eminent historian of the disfranchised, Marcus Rediker has brought to life the wide-ranging activism of this extraordinary Quaker, vegetarian dwarf in a richly crafted book. In fully recovering Lay’s revolutionary abolitionist vision, Rediker reveals its ongoing significance for our world.”—Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition
“Lay, a lover of books, would have appreciated this one, less for the praise lavished on him than the attention given his message. As Mr. Rediker says, ‘Benjamin’s prophecy speaks to our time.”—The Pittsburgh Post–Gazette
“The unswerving eighteenth-century abolitionist Benjamin Lay, maligned when not ignored for many generations, has at last found his sympathetic biographer. In this captivating, must-read book, Marcus Rediker shows that Lay’s disfigured body contained a mind of steel and a heart overflowing with compassion for victims of the Atlantic slave trade. Lay’s place in the annals of American reform is now secure. If you’re ready to have your mind changed about received wisdom on the eccentric, lonely early abolitionist who blazed the way for later antislavery stalwarts, read this brilliantly researched and passionately written book.”—Gary Nash, author of Warner Mifflin, Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist
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