Revealing the intentionally obliterated role of Africa in the creation of modernity, French retells the story of medieval and emerging Africa, demonstrating how the economic ascendancy of Europe, the anchoring of democracy in America, and the fulfillment of so-called Enlightenment ideals all grew out of Europe's dehumanizing engagement with the "darkest" continent.
French’s design is...to fill an Africa-size hole in conventional accounts of the Age of Discovery and the rise of the West ... French cites compelling research but falls back on his (surely correct) intuition that rival powers would scarcely have spilled so much blood and treasure in their interminable battles to control Black labor if the margins at stake were thin ... Born in Blackness is laced with arresting nuggets ... The evidence that Africans made the New World economically viable is overwhelming, but in his zeal to press his point, French sometimes goes for broke ... Born in Blackness is enlivened with personal anecdotes, but readers looking for a gripping narrative will be disappointed. French repeatedly circles back over his material like a picture restorer revealing a lost world as he calmly insists that we rewrite history. I found the book to be searing, humbling and essential reading.
Sweeping ... French dispels countless historical myths ... This meticulously researched book eloquently debunks conventional understanding of European conquest. While each page is so densely packed with facts that it sometimes feels more like a textbook than creative nonfiction, French’s underlying argument and accompanying cogent analysis make for essential reading for anyone looking to decolonize their understanding of the Western world ... A fascinating retelling of modern history that restores Africa to its rightful place.
[An] eye-opening if tendentious history ... Though French elucidates much neglected history here, especially on relations between early modern Europe and the sophisticated—and pro-slavery—polities of Africa, his claim that without slave labor Europe might have remained a 'geographic and civilizational dead end' lagging eternally behind Asia and the Islamic world goes too far, and he doesn’t fully explain why Western industries and societies kept flourishing even after slavery’s demise. Elsewhere, French assigns near-magical properties to slave-grown sugar, suggesting that it was essential to the Industrial Revolution, newspapers, and the birth of the 'modern public sphere.' The result is an intriguing yet overwrought take on the global economy’s dire origins.