A book of historical fiction is an arrogant attempt by a writer in a few hundred pages to recreate and inform. The best you can hope for is a glimpse, and trust that the glimpse will open a much larger window in your mind.  I couldn't possibly speak on behalf of those early people, and don't pretend to know what it was like. This book is merely a scratch at the surface.

Rayda Jacobs, in the acknowledgements for her novel The Slave Book, Kwela Books, 1998


. . . historians reach their conclusions by assembling their findings into holistic past human contexts, integral worlds specific to times and places as historical subjects could plausibly have experienced them. It is within these believable contexts that historians reconcile the chaos of evidence at hand -- its contradictions, discrepancies, silences, and falsehoods -- as best they can intuit them. It is the whole of such a reconstructed context that suggests -- may even establish -- the meaning given each bit of the information contributing to it. Historians claim meaning for what they assert out of a contextual coherence that has its primary basis in the intuitive understanding that they share with their subjects and with their audiences, out of their common humanity.

For many reasons, all of them familiar, plausibility in history (and much less likely "proof") does not arise from the experimental method of science, directly from what is observed, independent of, or even prior to, the human insight of the observer.

 Joseph C. Miller
History and Africa /Africa and History

Presidential Address

American Historical Association

Washington, DC

8 January 1999


Few of the enslaved were able to leave written memoirs describing their experience.  

The rules which govern the practice of their discipline make it difficult, if not impossible, for historians to tell us how they felt. Unless, of course, they were to venture into the field of historical fiction.

Ali A. Mazrui


  .  .  .  we artists can either reveal the truth or maintain myths; can wake up the consciousness of our audience to the realities of our world or hypnotize people into believing that beliefs are synonymous with truths.

. . . art reveals the realities of history and the status quo, and proposes a vision of a significantly altered future . . .

. . . art must look unblinkingly at the past and the present if it is to offer a clear-eyed vision of the future.

Kalamu ya Salaam

My courses provide different sorts of challenges for white students, who now make up a significant percentage of every class, in sharp contrast to my early days of teaching Afro-American history, when almost all my students were black.  

Joan, one of my white students in Comparative American Slavery, wondered (a) whether she was coming on too strong in her innovative interpretations of black history and (b) whether the black students in the class did not like her ideas. She moaned, "After all, they are black, so maybe they know something I don't?" It took me a minute to recover from this extraordinarily simpleminded statement by a brilliant student. I said I was black, and I didn't know anything about eighteenth century Brazilian slaves except what I had read, and that she seemed to be holding her own pretty well with black students.

Rhett S. Jones, 
Professor of African American Studies, Brown University, Among Family, Brown Alumni Journal