1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, & Change
“The Rights of Man.” What does that mean? In 1789 that question rippled all around the world. Do all men have rights—not just nobles and kings? What then of enslaved people, women, the original inhabitants of the Americas? In the new United States a bill of rights was passed, while in France the nation tumbled toward revolution. In the Caribbean preachers brought word of equality, while in the South Pacific sailors mutinied. New knowledge was exploding, with mathematicians and scientists rewriting the history of the planet and the digits of pi. Lauded anthology editors Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, along with ten award-winning nonfiction authors, explore a tumultuous year when rights and freedoms collided with enslavement and domination, and the future of humanity seemed to be at stake.
Some events and actors are familiar: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Marie Antoinette and the Marquis de Lafayette. Others may be less so: the eloquent former slave Olaudah Equiano, the Seneca memoirist Mary Jemison, the fishwives of Paris, the mathematician Jurij Vega, and the painter Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. But every chapter brings fresh perspectives on the debates of the time, inviting readers to experience the passions of the past and ask new questions of today.
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Cynthia and Sanford Levinson
Tanya Lee Stone
Sally M. Walker
Some of my favorites essays:
The Queen's Chemise by Susan Campbell Bartoletti which shows Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, the portraitist of Marie Antoinette. I love the photos of some of Le Brun paintings of Marie Antoinette and her personal relationship with the queen. There even was some controversy over one painting that the people of France deemed 'too common' for their queen. Fascinating story.
The Fishwives Make the Rules by Tanya Lee Stone. Loved this true story of how a group of women demanded the King of France listen to their concerns of not having enough to eat. It started with one woman beating a drum and then led to hundreds of women marching to Versailles, demanding to be heard. A true story of the power of persistence.
The Choice by Marc Aronson is an interesting take on how Sally Hemings might have had a choice to leave Jefferson. When she was in Paris, she could have stayed there and been free or go back and continue being a slave. Aronson asks some intriguing questions on what might have been Hemings thoughts and concerns at this time.
The Wesleyans in the West Indies by Summer Edward goes over how impactful the Methodist church was with their belief that all would be saved by God's grace. This was a big controversy at that time, especially in the West Indies where white slave holders used some scriptures as a tool of social control. One such verse-"servants, be obedient to them that are your masters", they used in hope it would keep their slaves loyal and docile. Instead they were sadly mistaken.
There's also essays on one former slave's account of being enslaved; a white woman's life story as a Seneca elder; the true story of 'Mutiny on the Bounty, and other stories that show how change was in the air.
Engaging insight into a powerful year that planted the seed for revolution and change in the world.