Prophet Against Slavery by David Lester

From the Vancouver-based cartoonist who brought us 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike comes a new book about one of my personal favourite figures in history: Benjamin Lay. If you know anything about the Quakers you may have heard that they were early advocates for the abolishmment of slavery in America, but that wasn’t always the case. In the mid 1700s Benjamin Lay was an outlier. He campaigned passionately and dramatically to turn the Quakers against slavery, and against oppression and cruelty of all kinds. It became his life’s work, and indeed it took his entire life to even begin to turn the tide of opinion in just his own community. But the work Quakers would do between the American Revolution and the Civil War might never have happened without Benjamin Lay shaming and haranguing Quaker slave-owners for decades.

Prophet Against Slavery follows the life and work of Benjamin Lay, detailing how he came by his radical views, the roots of the Quaker movement and why one might feel frustrated that a movement founded on truth and equality could fall so far from those ideals, and the dramatic protest tactics that made Benjamin’s campaign ultimately succeed. David’s sketchy drawing style is perfectly suited to the subject matter, reminiscent of a notebook or a journal from a past century. The book comes out from Beacon Press in November.