The Black Joke (The True Story of One Ship's Battle Against the Slave Trade) - 9781982128272

ISBN: 9781982128272
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An essential, groundbreaking history of the Black Joke, the most famous member of the British Royal Navy’s anti-slavery squadron, and the long fight to end the transatlantic slave trade.

In this “tale skillfully teased out of the vaults” (Kirkus Reviews), His Majesty's brig Black Joke comes to vibrant life: one of a handful of ships tasked with patrolling the western coast of Africa, its dramatic, swashbuckling adventures were an integral part of the effort to end hundreds of years of global slave trading. Sailing after the spectacular fall of Napoleon in France but before the rise of Queen Victoria’s England, this ship “worth remembering” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) was first a slaving vessel itself; only a lucky capture in 1827 allowed it to be repurposed by the Royal Navy to catch its former compatriots. Over the next five years, the Black Joke would become the most feared vessel in Britain’s West Africa Squadron, capturing more ships and liberating more enslaved people than any other.

Now, in this “beautifully written book” (Library Journal, starred review), author A.E. Rooks “adds global and historical context to the travesties and tragedies that took place along the coast of West Africa in the 1800s...[and] introduces a cast of ambitious commanders, insensitive rulers and policymakers, heroic ship captains, beleaguered sailors, and heartless enslavers” (BookPage). As Britain slowly attempted to snuff out the transatlantic slave trade by way of treaty and might, enforcing these policies fell to the Black Joke and those that sailed with it. Balancing “an accessible history [and] vivid picture of life aboard the Black Joke” (Publishers Weekly) with “a wider story, both in scope and geography…full of action and heroism” (Bookworm Sez), Rooks follows in the wake of this ship’s diverse crew and dedicated commanders as the consequences of their battles with slavers, pirates, weather, politics, and each other reverberate across oceans and through history. Through the daring feats of this single ship, the abolition of the international slave trade is revealed as a contested proposition, secured by outright force and fraught negotiations, needlessly extended decades longer than it could have.

Harrowing and heartbreaking, The Black Joke is an important and deeply compelling work of history, both as a reckoning with slavery and abolition and as a lesson about the power of political will—or the lack thereof.

This book title, The Black Joke (The True Story of One Ship's Battle Against the Slave Trade), ISBN: 9781982128272, by A.E. Rooks, published by Scribner (September 1, 2025) is available in paperback. Our minimum order quantity is 25 copies. All standard bulk book orders ship FREE in the continental USA and delivered in 4-10 business days.

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Product Details

A.E. Rooks
Scribner (January 31, 2023)
Release Date:
September 1, 2025
5.5" x 8.375" x 1"
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