Marcus Rediker, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh and author of "Slave Ship: A Human History," ruefully observes that Americans hardly paid attention to the bicentennial of the elimination of the slave trade, which fell in 2008:
After a robust discussion in Great Britain in 2007 (their bicentennial), we have been mostly silent. It is a shame. Worse, it is a perpetuation of injustice.
The slave ship is a ghost ship, sailing around the edges of our consciousness. We pretend it is not there, but it haunts us.
Rediker made the comments at Mount Vernon last May after he received the George Washington Book Prize for "Slave Ship," in a speech that The American Scholar has just reprinted online. The prize honors the best books on "the nation's founding era, and especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history." Rediker noted that the people he wrote about are rarely considered to be "founders," and a roster of previous winners of the George Washington Prize would seem to back him up: Ron Chernow, for example, writing on Alexander Hamilton; Stacey Schiff, on Benjamin Franklin; Charles Rappleye, on the Brown family (of Brown University fame).
"All fine books," Rediker observed, "about people of privilege and power."
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