Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts (2021)

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Part graphic novel, part memoir, Wake is an imaginative tour-de-force that tells the “powerful” (The New York Times Book Review) story of women-led slave revolts and chronicles scholar Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these women warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record.

Women warriors planned and led revolts on slave ships during the Middle Passage. They fought their enslavers throughout the Americas. And then they were erased from history.

Wake tells the “riveting” (Angela Y. Davis) story of Dr. Rebecca Hall, a historian, granddaughter of slaves, and a woman haunted by the legacy of slavery. The accepted history of slave revolts has always told her that enslaved women took a back seat. But Rebecca decides to look deeper, and her journey takes her through old court records, slave ship captain’s logs, crumbling correspondence, and even the forensic evidence from the bones of enslaved women from the “negro burying ground” uncovered in Manhattan. She finds women warriors everywhere.

Using a “remarkable blend of passion and fact, action and reflection” (NPR), Rebecca constructs the likely pasts of Adono and Alele, women rebels who fought for freedom during the Middle Passage, as well as the stories of women who led slave revolts in Colonial New York. We also follow Rebecca’s own story as the legacy of slavery shapes her life, both during her time as a successful attorney and later as a historian seeking the past that haunts her.

From: Simon & Schuster

Notes on This Title

This title depicts investigation by the author – a Black lesbian – into slave revolts led by women.




Starred Review: “An urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation.” (Source: Kirkus Reviews)

Starred Review: “Hall’s nuanced and affecting debut graphic narrative uncovers history that has either been assumed non-existent or rendered violently so by its almost complete erasure from official record.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)

“Hall has written, and Martínez has illustrated, an inspired and inspiring defense of heroic women whose struggles could be fuel for a more just future.” (Source: The Guardian)

“With its remarkable blend of passion and fact, action and reflection, Wake sets a new standard for illustrating history.” (Source: NPR)


Essence: “Rebecca Hall’s New Graphic Novel Challenges What We Know About Black Women’s Fight Against Slavery

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