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.