“Denmark Vesey’s Garden,” a book written by two Fresno State history professors, rose to the top of six “best of 2018” book lists, including “Janet Maslin’s Favorite Books of 2018,” published by The New York Times.
A book that strikes at the source of the recent flare-ups over Confederate symbols in Charlottesville, New Orleans and elsewhere, “Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy” reveals the deep roots of these controversies and traces them to Charleston, South Carolina, where almost half of the slaves brought to the U.S. stepped onto the shore.
Fresno State faculty Dr. Ethan Kytle and Dr. Blain Roberts published the book in April 2018 and received positive reviews from the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.
Both professors say they wrote the book to share their thoughts on recent examples of racial injustice throughout America but also to share how the nation perceives slavery. The title refers to Charleston’s most famous black revolutionary, Denmark Vesey, who in 1822, after being prevented from legally freeing his wife and children, plotted a massive slave uprising for which he and more than 30 co-conspirators were hastily tried and executed.
Other “best of” lists the book appeared on, include: “John Warner’s Idiosyncratic List of Books for the Year,” published by the Chicago Tribune; “The Best Civil War books of 2018” and “Best Black History Books of 2018.”
“Most of these lists are generated for and by people who are not scholars,” Kytle said. “It feels good to know that, not only are people reading it, but a wider range of people are reading it and enjoying it.”
Kytle and Roberts said that each “best of” list their book is a part of validates all of the years they worked on the book.
Both want to continue writing books or pieces that engage scholars as well as the general public. They want to continue shaping public conversations with those who are not historians.
“A visual artist that works in African American art with historical themes tweeted that he loved the book and how it helped him with his projects,” Roberts said. “It’s a conversation we would have never had if our book was tailored towards fellow American historians.”
Kytle and Roberts said the support for faculty research at Fresno State and specifically within the College of Social Sciences was instrumental in writing the book.
For the book’s full list of honors, visit denmarkveseysgarden.com