The story of a massive eighteenth-century slave rebellion in the Dutch colony of Berbice (now Guyana) which had been all but forgotten. Historian Marjoleine Kars recovers the tale from the archives, including rare first-person accounts from African-born slaves.
Kars is transparent about the problematic nature of the testimonies, in which captured rebels were asked by a trio of hostile plantation owners about what transpired during the rebellion ... a sweeping, thoughtful narrative, joining a new wave of books that make visible previously dismissed Black voices ... Particularly fascinating to me were the stories on the edges of the conflict ... What Kars does so well is tell this story in such a way that all the facts are in place, but many more stories might be imagined. Coffij emerges as the brilliant, tragic hero of a lost legend that happens to be true.
... comes alive with period illustrations, as well as meticulous attention to primary sources. Kars recounts a tale of oppression, bloodshed, and some triumph; rebelling slaves held off their masters for nearly a year ... a gripping tale about the human need for freedom. It is also a story of shifting loyalties among slaves from differing backgrounds, between slaves and Amerindians, and among the Europeans themselves ... While Kars did not set out to write cultural history, readers may have trouble retaining the minutiae she so carefully presents. However, because her scrupulous research provides spellbinding detail, perhaps that is beside the point ... The story of the Berbice Rebellion begs to be told, and Kars' telling is impressive.
... deeply researched ... Meticulously sourced and careful to prioritize the perspectives of the marginalized, Blood on the River offers a fascinating glimpse of the complex history of slavery in the Americas.