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Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay

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The revolutionary life of an 18th-century dwarf activist who was among the first to fight against slavery and animal cruelty. Prophet Against Slavery is an action-packed chronicle of the remarkable and radical Benjamin Lay, based on the award-winning biography by Marcus Rediker that sparked the Quaker community to re-embrace Lay after 280 years of disownment. Graphic no The revolutionary life of an 18th-century dwarf activist who was among the first to fight against slavery and animal cruelty. Prophet Against Slavery is an action-packed chronicle of the remarkable and radical Benjamin Lay, based on the award-winning biography by Marcus Rediker that sparked the Quaker community to re-embrace Lay after 280 years of disownment. Graphic novelist David Lester brings the full scope of Lay's activism and ideas to life. Born in 1682 to a humble Quaker family in Essex, England, Lay was a forceful and prescient visionary. Understanding the fundamental evil that slavery represented, he would unflinchingly use guerrilla theatre tactics and direct action to shame slave owners and traders in his community. The prejudice that Lay suffered as a dwarf and a hunchback, as well as his devout faith, informed his passion for human and animal liberation. Exhibiting stamina, fortitude, and integrity in the face of the cruelties practiced against what he called his "fellow creatures," he was often a lonely voice that spoke truth to power. Lester's beautiful imagery and storytelling, accompanied by afterwords from Rediker and Paul Buhle, capture the radicalism, the humor, and the humanity of this truly modern figure. A testament to the impact each of us can make, Prophet Against Slavery brings Lay's prophetic vision to a new generation of young activists who today echo his call of 300 years ago: "No justice, no peace!"


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The revolutionary life of an 18th-century dwarf activist who was among the first to fight against slavery and animal cruelty. Prophet Against Slavery is an action-packed chronicle of the remarkable and radical Benjamin Lay, based on the award-winning biography by Marcus Rediker that sparked the Quaker community to re-embrace Lay after 280 years of disownment. Graphic no The revolutionary life of an 18th-century dwarf activist who was among the first to fight against slavery and animal cruelty. Prophet Against Slavery is an action-packed chronicle of the remarkable and radical Benjamin Lay, based on the award-winning biography by Marcus Rediker that sparked the Quaker community to re-embrace Lay after 280 years of disownment. Graphic novelist David Lester brings the full scope of Lay's activism and ideas to life. Born in 1682 to a humble Quaker family in Essex, England, Lay was a forceful and prescient visionary. Understanding the fundamental evil that slavery represented, he would unflinchingly use guerrilla theatre tactics and direct action to shame slave owners and traders in his community. The prejudice that Lay suffered as a dwarf and a hunchback, as well as his devout faith, informed his passion for human and animal liberation. Exhibiting stamina, fortitude, and integrity in the face of the cruelties practiced against what he called his "fellow creatures," he was often a lonely voice that spoke truth to power. Lester's beautiful imagery and storytelling, accompanied by afterwords from Rediker and Paul Buhle, capture the radicalism, the humor, and the humanity of this truly modern figure. A testament to the impact each of us can make, Prophet Against Slavery brings Lay's prophetic vision to a new generation of young activists who today echo his call of 300 years ago: "No justice, no peace!"

45 review for Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA EDELWEISS+. THANK YOU. My Review: In today's world, Benjamin Lay would be a firebrand and a demanding moral force. IMAGINE how he came across in the slave-owning times of the early eighteenth century. A dwarf...an iconoclast...an uncompromising, flinty, arrogantly sure of himself and his rightness, public speaker with a real gift for propaganda. He would be literally inescapable in this media landscape. We are the poorer for the absence of someone like him, t I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA EDELWEISS+. THANK YOU. My Review: In today's world, Benjamin Lay would be a firebrand and a demanding moral force. IMAGINE how he came across in the slave-owning times of the early eighteenth century. A dwarf...an iconoclast...an uncompromising, flinty, arrogantly sure of himself and his rightness, public speaker with a real gift for propaganda. He would be literally inescapable in this media landscape. We are the poorer for the absence of someone like him, taking on the horrors of international capitalism. The export of jobs has meant the export of problems like labor relations and environmental regulations, which no one can ever convince me was serendipity. Author and Artist Lester (The Listener and The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism are some of the other titles he's created) clearly understands the value of theater and public perception in the winning of the culture wars: He's got the entire subject of the Quaker dwarf with an outsider's grasp of the social and moral corruption around him in the economical monochrome of these spreads. Things *are* black-and-white when one reduces them to lines drawn in the sand. Using the palette he chose makes the starkness of Benjamin Lay's moral universe simply part of the experience of learning about him. It is unsurprising that, in this twenty-first century of information overload, we're needing to learn about Benjamin Lay. His brand of vegan, animal-rights activism, his uncompromising adherence to his moral understanding of the world, reminds me of Greta Thunberg. Only louder. While he had less command of the broader public's attention than she does, he used his voice, his mind's single focus on The Greatest Good, and his unique viewpoint as she has. His unswerving opposition to slavery was so broad in its intellectual base that he refused to ride horses or eat slaughtered animals. In the eighteenth century. After the Confederacy won the US Civil War in the courts, and gifted us with the Jim Crow laws and the voter suppression laws that they're succeeding in re-installing, the life of a man like Lay would've been deeply threatening to their agenda. A shining moral example? And one who took it to the extremes that Lay did...throwing fake blood on slave owners?! writing angry screeds filled with passion and yet based on reason?! blasphemy to the Capitalist Elite!...well, best to bury him again. They did; it worked. I'd never heard of him before I was granted this graphic novel's DRC by Beacon Press, that monadnock of Unitarian probity in publishing. The graphic-novel format has never been my favorite among publishing choices. I'd say that, despite this one's five-star rating, it still isn't. I've also given the full five stars to Nationalist Love, and the same reason obtains here: The only effective tool to use in bringing this story to a broad audience is the one used here. There's no way most people would pick up an all-text biography of Benjamin Lay, eighteenth-century dwarf; marry it to this format, they're more likely give it a shot. What Lay accomplished, in practical terms, was to change the hearts and minds of younger people...which is what the Ruling Elite did in the 1970s and 1980s with rampant consumerism and cheap, disposable goods. This long-buried story will make the effectiveness of that trick very obvious. Ray Bradbury, a true autodidact, famously said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." The books by and about Benjamin Lay aren't widely read today, and there's a good reason for that: Their message is still resonant, and still damaging to the System's actions and inactions. Before anyone says it to me, let me say now that I am no Benjamin Lay. I'm a meat-eating cheap-goods-buying 21st-century consumer. That does not make me insensible to the man's message; it merely means that my inner struggle, to reconcile the way I live with the way I understand the world, is apparently endless. It's never a comfortable place to be. I exist because modern exploitive capitalism created medicines that prevent me from dying. I eat because of factory farming and cheap electricity. I am not naked because the supply chain includes vast quantities of cotton goods. The chemical industry has gifted me power, shoes, soaps and shampoos and tooth-cleaning goop. I am the problem Benjamin Lay railed against: I exist inside a system that requires others to be outside its benefits in order to function. He chose the morally superior course of opting out. He chose a lifetime of rejection and excoriation and outrage heaped upon him, in the name of standing up to be counted for his beliefs. I admit: I lack that courage. That does not impair my ability to see his message and know its rightness. It makes me more willing to shout and point and wave my arms at this simple, beautiful expression of a simple, beautiful soul's purpose on this Earth. We can all aspire to be celebrated Home as was Benjamin Lay.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    I saw this graphic novel on the library’s website and later that day actually learned about the character online, albeit only as a brief mention, so it seems I had to go read the book. Because a. what are the odds and b. Lay was simply too wildly original and interesting of a character to only merit a few minutes worth of notice. A hunchbacked dwarf who stood only about four feet tall, Lay nevertheless cast a tall shadow. Propelled by a seal of devout faith and strong humane leanings, he was a I saw this graphic novel on the library’s website and later that day actually learned about the character online, albeit only as a brief mention, so it seems I had to go read the book. Because a. what are the odds and b. Lay was simply too wildly original and interesting of a character to only merit a few minutes worth of notice. A hunchbacked dwarf who stood only about four feet tall, Lay nevertheless cast a tall shadow. Propelled by a seal of devout faith and strong humane leanings, he was a Quaker who tirelessly advocated for abolition of slavery. Employing theatrics or rhetoric, he was determined to see his people, the Quakers, do away with what he considered to be an institutionalized abomination. And remarkably enough, he did. It took years and wasn’t easy, but eventually (and in no small way owning to Lay’s advocacy) the Quakers did indeed do away with slavery a long, long time before the rest of America followed the suit. Lay was a remarkable figure in many rights - a righteous man of principles who walked the walk, who produced his own food, abstained from meat and any sort of animal abuse in general, and practiced integrity he preached in all things. The man lived a surprisingly long life for the time and then ended up promptly forgotten by time. And this may be the best thing to come out of the current wave of historical revisions…the discovery of these genuinely authentic excellent and important characters who advocated for and caused real change. An admirable man, small in stature and large in spirit, Lay deserves to be known and remembered and I’m glad to have read this book. Since this is a graphic novel, it stands to mention the graphics, which here are quite unconventional. A starkly black and white imagery that puts on in mind of lithographs and etchings, it seems strongly suited for the story and the dynamics of it are absolutely fascinating in the way the artist depicts emotional states and actions. Very original. All in all, a quick read well worth checking out and an important historical person well worth learning about. Recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Shuherk

    Beautiful artwork and powerful imagery, but the the way the narrative is told leaves a lot to be desired. Would’ve worked okay as an animated short with fade to black moments, but as a reading experience very odd and not great narrative choice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    I received a free copy of this via Goodreads Giveaways. While a bit confusing at times due to scene/time jumps, this was really powerful. It's made me quite scared to see how history repeats itself, but reminds me to be more like Benjamin Lay. "Must I shock you into awareness of your own moral failings?" 9/10 I received a free copy of this via Goodreads Giveaways. While a bit confusing at times due to scene/time jumps, this was really powerful. It's made me quite scared to see how history repeats itself, but reminds me to be more like Benjamin Lay. "Must I shock you into awareness of your own moral failings?" 9/10

  5. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    Unfortunately, this book about a hunchbacked Quaker who spends his life trying to end slavery did not come across as compelling in the this graphic novel. My interest wasn't really piqued until reading the end essays of the author explaining the purpose of this novel. That most definitely should have been at the front. Where this graphic novel lacked was in the immense amount of time jumps after only being in one time period for two pages. It made it so the reader could not become invested in th Unfortunately, this book about a hunchbacked Quaker who spends his life trying to end slavery did not come across as compelling in the this graphic novel. My interest wasn't really piqued until reading the end essays of the author explaining the purpose of this novel. That most definitely should have been at the front. Where this graphic novel lacked was in the immense amount of time jumps after only being in one time period for two pages. It made it so the reader could not become invested in the story enough or with any new characters introduced. While this man lead an honorable life trying to fight a major injustice and sin against a group of people this graphic novel just does not compel the reader to look more into his life. A detail I find very important after reading a non-fiction graphic novel, to me they are made to make you want to look more into the historical figure. This book just didn't do that. I received this book for free from Goodreads and in know way affected my opinion.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bill O'driscoll

    Compelling, sometimes galvanizing graphic-history account of Lay, who in the 18th century was a vocal and ahead-of-his-time abolitionist, based on the recent bio by Rediker. Lay, born in England, was a Quaker and also a dwarf, but what's most notable is the zealousness of his devotion to the anti-slavery cause when even other Quakers were slave-owners, condoned the practice, or kept quiet about it. Lay lived the final decades of his life outside Philadelphia (with his wife, in a cave!). The book Compelling, sometimes galvanizing graphic-history account of Lay, who in the 18th century was a vocal and ahead-of-his-time abolitionist, based on the recent bio by Rediker. Lay, born in England, was a Quaker and also a dwarf, but what's most notable is the zealousness of his devotion to the anti-slavery cause when even other Quakers were slave-owners, condoned the practice, or kept quiet about it. Lay lived the final decades of his life outside Philadelphia (with his wife, in a cave!). The book contends he did make some headway against slavery in his lifetime, at least with the Society of Friends, but that the real fruits of his efforts were reaped by future generations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Hassinger

    A great idea; a great source; a confused execution. The brief essays at the end of the book by Rediker and Buhle should be read first as they inform the history and intentions of the story and art in such a way that enhances the graphic novel. This, however, proves that the graphic novel does not stand on its own. It’s a shame because it could have been such a powerful and important book. Worth a read, but it would have been better had they taken their time with the story and expanded it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liz Steinhauser

    Knew nothing about Benjamin Lay's life and found the graphic biography an effective way to his story. Did not love the art until I read the artist statement at the end and then it totally reframed my experience of it. The book made me curious to learn more about Lay and that time period, which is a great review for any book. Knew nothing about Benjamin Lay's life and found the graphic biography an effective way to his story. Did not love the art until I read the artist statement at the end and then it totally reframed my experience of it. The book made me curious to learn more about Lay and that time period, which is a great review for any book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Chapman

    I wanted to know so much more about this unheralded historical figure! And I was disappointed in the illustrations too, which would have benefited from more vivid coloring and detail. Still, an interesting micro-history of Quakerism.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chas

  12. 4 out of 5

    Clint

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura Applebee

  14. 5 out of 5

    Louis

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  16. 5 out of 5

    TK421

  17. 4 out of 5

    JC

  18. 5 out of 5

    Xavier

  19. 5 out of 5

    Will Clark

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Salant

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Webb

  25. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  27. 5 out of 5

    ApickE

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ken

  29. 4 out of 5

    Edward

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tess Marie

  31. 4 out of 5

    Douglass Abramson

  32. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  33. 5 out of 5

    Christa Colangelo

  34. 4 out of 5

    Dayna

  35. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  36. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Cunningham

  37. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  38. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Maki

  39. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Adams

  40. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  41. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  42. 5 out of 5

    Lo

  43. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

  44. 4 out of 5

    Elise

  45. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Focareto

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