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(Hybrid) Slaves for Peanuts: An Evening with Jori Lewis and Robin Allison Davis

Wed 6 December 2023 @ 19 h 30 - 20 h 30


The Library welcomes award-winning writer Jori Lewis and journalist Robin Allison Davis for a conversation about the human and agricultural histories of slavery.

In the preface of her book Slaves for Peanuts: A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop That Changed History (2022), Jori Lewis poses a question: “How do we tell the stories of people that history forgets and the present avoids?” Over the course of her book, Lewis works to tell precisely such a story, deftly sifting through archives to uncover the lives and experiences of people who have been systematically written out of the historical record.

Slaves for Peanuts exposes the pernicious connections between the demand for peanut oil in Europe and the persistence of slavery in Africa. Lewis shows how France continued to rely on slave labor in West Africa for the production of peanuts, even long after slavery had been officially abolished in French territories. Her work animates the complex lives of historical people, weaving them together through studies of agriculture and trade. The result is, in the words of renowned scholar Imani Perry, “a revelation” that “promises to transform our understanding of slavery and colonialism.”

This event will be moderated by Robin Allison Davis.


About the speakers: 

Jori Lewis writes narrative nonfiction that explores how people interact with their environments. Her reports and essays have been published in The Atlantic Magazine, Orion Magazine and Emergence Magazine, among others, and she is a senior editor of Adi Magazine, a literary magazine of global politics. In 2022, she published her first book, Slaves for Peanuts: A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop That Changed History, which was supported by the prestigious Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, a Silvers Grant for Work in Progress, and it won a James Beard media award.

Robin Allison Davis is an Emmy Award-winning television journalist with a passion for storytelling and the global perspective. Currently based in Paris, she brings her passion to life within the realms of international development and freelance journalism. Beyond her work in journalism, Robin is poised to release her memoir, Surviving Paris, in 2025 (Amistad/HarperCollins). This deeply personal account promises to take readers on a transformative journey through her experience with breast cancer and life lessons learned in the City of Light.

Learn more:

Last year, the Metcalf Institute hosted a webinar with Jori Lewis. Watch it here. 

For a sample of Lewis’s writing on people and plants, check out her essay on the splendor of Senegal’s baobab trees in Emergence Magazine.

Important information: The discussion will be available both online and in person. While the conversation will happen in person (Lewis and Davis will appear in the Reading Room), the Library will stream the conversation on Zoom for a live viewing experience. Both in-person and online attendees will be able to pose questions.

Attendance at this event constitutes permission for your photograph or video to be taken at the event and used by the American Library in Paris for marketing, promotional, pedagogical, or other purposes.

Copies of Slaves for Peanuts:A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop That Changed History will be available for purchase at the Library in the week leading up to this event and while the event takes place, generously provided by Smith&Son. All sales support this local independent bookstore.

Attendees will have the opportunity to have their copy signed following the conversation.

Evenings with an Author are free and open to the public (with a 10€ suggested donation)
thanks to the generous support of Gregory Annenberg Weingarten of GRoW @ Annenberg.


Wed 6 December 2023
19 h 30 min - 20 h 30 min
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(Hybrid) Slaves for Peanuts: An Evening with Jori Lewis and Robin Allison Davis
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