Rites of August First
Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World
Thirty years before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the antislavery movement won its first victory in the British Parliament. On August 1, 1834, the Abolition of Slavery Bill took effect, ending colonial slavery throughout the British Empire. Over the next three decades, "August First Day," also known as "West India Day" and "Emancipation Day," became the most important annual celebration of emancipation among people of African descent in the northern United States, the British Caribbean, Canada West, and the United Kingdom and played a critical role in popular mobilization against American slavery. In Rites of August First, J. R. Kerr-Ritchie provides the first detailed analysis of the origins, nature, and consequences of this important commemoration that helped to shape the age of Anglo-American emancipation.
JEFFREY R. KERR-RITCHIE, associate professor of history at Howard University, is the author of Rites of August First: Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World and Freedpeople in the Tobacco South: Virginia, 1860–1900.
Praise for Rites of August First
“An absorbing and meticulous study that documents the impact of British Caribbean emancipation in 1834 on the drive to abolish slavery in the United States. . . . Kerr-Ritchie’s elision of comprehensive lists, well-selected contemporary quotation, and analytic synthesis makes his an attractive, authoritative, and highly useful text.”—Public Historian
“A valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of the abolition movement. . . . In less than three hundred pages, Kerr-Ritchie manages to put the abolition movement and the black experience itself in a wider perspective.”—Canadian Journal of History
“Groundbreaking. . . . Kerr-Ritchie has written a passionate and compelling narrative that will likely prompt other explorations into the still understudied movement of people and ideas throughout the black Atlantic.”—Louisiana History
“It is the role of August First in the North and in western Canada that most concerns Kerr-Ritchie and constitutes his most original contribution to the history of abolition.”—B.W. Higman, American Historical Review
“That Kerr-Ritchie’s fine work forces us into such wide-ranging contemplation is further indication of the fundamental value of this exceedingly important book.”—Nature, Society, and Thought
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