Natalia R.L. Bassi, Rey Desnudo, 2 (4), 2014.

"Abina and the Important Men se encuentra a la altura de sus objetivos: es una fascinante historia gráfica apoyada en un excelente análisis histórico de la transcripción judicial original y, al mismo tiempo, una interesante propuesta didáctica."

Emmanuel Akyeampong, The Journal of African History, 55 (1), 2014, 128-129.

This is an important book that takes history into the public domain in a very accessible form, combining text with graphics in the retelling of an 1876 court case over slave emancipation in the Gold Coast. ... I used Abina in my graduate class on ‘Sources, Methods and Themes in African History’. The graduate students expressed appreciation for the authors' reflexiveness about the historian's craft, the ways the book was designed with multiple audiences in mind – high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, and how it problematized slavery in the nexus of cross-cultural understandings, British and African. Was the slave defined by the act of purchase and exchange of money, by the nature of work she did, or, as Abina expressed, by the lack of control over one's physical self and life?

Sarah Hepburn, Women's History Review, 23 (1), 2013, 145-146.

"Getz and Clarke have produced an innovative work of historical writing that is simultaneously an excellent teaching resource. The graphic section of the text is an engaging way to introduce students to the history of slavery, colonialism and gender in the region. The inclusion of the court transcript will encourage students to engage in primary source analysis and explore the ways in which historical nar- ratives are constructed from often disparate and limited source materials. Getz’s reflexive approach to the ethical and methodological issues of conducting histori- cal research will encourage students at all levels to question the construction of his- torical knowledge. Getz and Clarke have thus produced a text of historiographical and pedagogical significance. They illustrate with elegance and conviction the importance and potential of forging new interdisciplinary approaches."

Maryanne A. Rhett, Journal of World History, 23 (4), 2013, 942-943.

Exceprt: "In conclusion, Trevor Getz’s Abina and the Important Men is a tremendous step forward for the world history community. Both world history as a field and graphic novels (and comic books) as a genre have been maligned by conventional academic agendas. Getz propels the field of world history forward in using the vehicle of graphic novel by authenticating the non-generalist vision of his historical work and giving thorough scholarly credence to the format."

To read more, please click here.

Michael A. Chaney, Biography, 35 (2), 2012, 375-377.

"Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History by historian Trevor R. Getz and illustrator Liz Clarke is a unique combination of educational storytelling and meticulous historical research. Touted by its authors as a new kind of historical graphic 'novel'—a graphic history—Abina in its entirety is a fascinating multipart text. It contains a pictorial translation of an engrossing historical account, the primary transcript of that account, and various textbook-like supplements for understanding and teaching the history behind the story. In the first section, lush pictures convey the all-but-forgotten legal case of Abina Mansah, who in 1874 brought charges against Quamina Eddoo, her slave master and an 'important' man in the Gold Coast's lucrative business of palm oil cultivation, for wrongly enslaving her. Her charge, of course, was based on the fact that the British had abolished slavery in all of their territories in 1834. But the complexities of the case, as the book cleverly demonstrates, arise from the difficulties faced by British 'important men' in balancing principles of abolitionist justice with the profitable necessity of allowing rich landowners like Eddoo to quietly carry on with abusive systems of indenture and slavery. Although ultimately unsuccessful in her lawsuit, the intrepid character of Abina shines through in every panel, incarnating a very different kind of colonized African woman, one that threatens to replace the historian's standard for the representative with the novelist's ideal for the exceptional. By the end, Abina voices one of the conceits of the entire project, not to exert a retrospective and largely empty justice of sympathy for those wounded in the traumatic past, but to allow their stories to be heard. 'You don't understand,' Abina says to her lawyer, with tears in her eyes and seeming to implore the reader more so than he: 'It was never just about being safe. It was about being heard.'"

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Abina Forum, H-World

"This year's forum will feature Trevor Getz and Liz Clarke's Abina and The Important Men: A Graphic History (Oxford University Press). The Forum will begin with two commentaries/reviews by Professors Jonathan Reynolds (Northern Kentucky University) and Maryanne Rhett (Monmouth University and H-World Editor). These commentaries will be followed by a response from Professor Trevor Getz, which will in turn be followed by a general H-World discussion on Abina and the issues raised by this exciting approach to learning about the past."

If you would like to visit H-World's "Abina Forum," please click here.

T. P. Johnson, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Oxford heavily promotes this book as a near-revolution in the pedagogy of African history. While it is not quite that innovative, it is an excellent teaching tool on Africa, slavery, women's and legal history, and historical methodology. Getz (history, San Francisco State) came across Abina's story in the Ghanaian archives. Struck by the poignancy of this enslaved young woman's 1876 bid for freedom, he resolved to present it to a wider public and enlisted the talents of Cape Town illustrator Clarke. They painstakingly researched the era in which Abina lived, creating a beautiful 75-page graphic history and publishing the trial transcript of her unsuccessful case. Abina also includes sections on historical context, guides for reading and classroom use, and extensive question sets for students at introductory, undergraduate, and more advanced levels. It greatly facilitates analysis of the authors' own admittedly subjective views, which emphasize the agency of ordinary individuals and the processes by which obscure voices are silenced in historical records. Getz and Clarke's auto-criticism actually bolsters confidence in their interpretations (despite some necessarily invented dialogue), while providing a most instructive example of how historians recapture the past. Summing Up: Essential. All collections/levels.

Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh

"The young Abina Mansah lost her 1876 suit for freedom, but her voice still resounds in the transcript of her testimony. From that dusty transcript, Trevor Getz brings her struggle graphically to life. He beautifully surrounds her sad tale with resources showing its links within West Africa and beyond. Through Getz and in the engaging images of Liz Clarke, Abina affirms the mark that each person can make on the world."

Martin Klein, University of Toronto

"This is a superb introduction to the way historians construct the past, to the history of slavery in Africa, and to colonialism. Trevor Getz tells the same story three times. The first is a graphic presentation, which simply tells a story embellished by the imagination of both author and artist. The second is the document on which the story is based. The third is an analysis by Getz of how he reads the document and the problems he had in building the narrative. In it, he displays an ability to contextualize the document, and to read it both with and against the grain."

Candace Goucher, Washington State University Vancouver

"Getz has crafted a gem, a valuable contribution to African studies and the world history classroom. The book combines a well-informed pedagogy with current historiographical trends. Its multi-layered format delves deeply and lyrically into Abina's world of image and word."

Ken O'Donnell, Associate Dean, Academic Programs and Study, California State University

"Abina and the Important Men is intellectual and accessible at the same time, and the three-level division of makes it work. Getz and Clarke make liberal-arts learning integrated, useful, and fun. The characters are all morally ambiguous, something I aim for in my own writing, and it makes this suspenseful. There's no automatic assumption the good guys will win, because it's all plausibly depicting real people, without white hats on some and black hats on others."

Heather Streets, Washington State University

"I hope this book will serve as a model to many historians with compelling stories to tell, for sometimes telling our stories only to each other just isn't enough. Most importantly, this book shows that to tell our stories in a compelling and unconventional way does not mean that rigorous scholarship needs to be compromised. Rather, it shows that rigorous scholarship can go hand in hand with speaking to multiple audiences."

Paul Lovejoy, York University

"Abina and the Important Men is an excellent introduction to history and society through an innovative mix of primary text, annotated transcription and highlighted in cartoon form that captures the imagination of new students. It is a must for adoption in first year courses."

Jeremy Rich, Middle Tennessee State University

"This is a very strong and original work. All three sections (the inclusion of the primary source, the historical context section and the reading guide) allow for a broad range of discussion topics. Students can compare the graphic novel section to the court transcript and discuss how historians develop historical narratives."

Sharlene Sayegh, California State University, Long Beach

"Abina and the Important Men addresses an important gap in the teaching of history, one that recognizes that there are a variety of learning styles."

Jonathan T. Reynolds, Northern Kentucky University

"Trevor Getz has pushed the envelope of Africanist Scholarship. With Abina and the Important Men he offers unique insight into such contentious topics as personhood, gender, slavery, and colonialism. Along the way, he provides teachers and readers with a powerful tool for investigating the process of giving meaning to historical documents and narratives. This is exactly the sort of work that will help African history escape the dark and dusty halls of academia and help make it relevant to a wider audience. This is GENIUS."

Jason Ripper, Everett Community College

"Academia has finally woken up to the interests of students and Oxford University Press is a willing partner in this awakening. Bravo!"

"This book takes college-level course material in a fresh and invigorating direction. The story – images included – is engrossing, addresses themes regularly featured in our courses, and provides needed insight into a people who still get too little treatment even in world history courses. Also, the author's added commentary on the source material and the general historical context ensure that when students have the book with them at home, they will still recognize the academic qualities of the volume."

Erin O'Connor, Bridgewater State University

"This is an innovative approach to teaching social history and colonialism in Africa. The graphic history contains beautiful and compelling artwork, and the text closely follows historical documentation. Furthermore, the inclusion of the actual document transcription and historical context make it possible to teach this book on many different levels, getting students to think deeply about and probe the process of how history is made (both in the past and by historians). It would work well in courses on either African history or world history."

Tiffany F. Jones, Cal State-San Bernardino

"This is a pioneering work in the narration and representation of African History and will appeal to students of all levels. The book engages in the actual historical process and makes it very evident for students the processes historians go through when compiling such a document. The fact that Abina and the Important Men highlights the difference between primary and secondary documents, and talks in detail about representation and translation, makes it particularly valid for all history classes."

Alicia D. Decker, Purdue University

"This is an excellent project! It is fresh, engaging, and historically sound. I would definitely use this text in my Modern Africa and African Women's History classes. I really like the way that the author and illustrator have divided the book into sections for different levels of analysis. Beginning students can focus on the graphic novel, while more advanced students can also discuss the production of historical knowledge and the larger historiography."

Paul S. Landau, University of Maryland

"This is an important departure for Oxford University Press and an excellent combination of research and pedagogy. It is a fine work and I will use it in my teaching."

"Students today do not easily grasp the difference between a primary and secondary source. This text merges that appreciation – for how historians work – into the fabric of the book."

Maxim Matusevich, Seton Hall University

"The project's originality is its main strength; it certainly stands out among other texts on slavery. It also makes the experience of enslavement more immediate, more visual, in other words, it brings it to life."

Nicola Foote, Florida Gulf Coast University

"I think this is an extraordinarily original and ambitious project. This is a very interesting experiment in using the graphic novel as a means to deliver the life-story of someone who is only known to the author through archival material, and in doing so to think more profoundly about how histories are created."

Kwasi Konadu, City University of New York

"This is a remarkable feat in scholarship. It tells an equally remarkable story with creativity, historical context, and a deep compassion for the humanity of its subjects. This graphic history charts a new ground for excavating African lives, especially of the seemingly less "important men," (and women) and should be read widely by scholars, students and the general reading public. Trevor Getz and Liz Clarke should be praised, and Abina should be pleased."

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare, Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley

"Am I free? Abina and the Important Men recovers the compelling courtroom drama of a young woman who demanded this question in West Africa in 1876. Seized from her family as a teenager, forced to carry heavy loads, and sold into domestic slavery, Abina wanted to have control over her own life again. She brought her case to a colonial court, where a British magistrate leaned on African merchants and kings to decide Abina's fate. This is a universal story of deception and truth that will appeal to anyone who has sought greater independence from the obligations of family, employer, or government. Abina's legal battle comes to life in the graphic novel. A section on historical background explains the complexities of early British occupation in West Africa when a young woman could be simultaneously free and enslaved.

Abina and the Important Men engages with thorny issues in World History—human trafficking, colonialism, cultural autonomy, and women's rights. While the stories preserved over time are often those of male leaders, this book brings to life the concerns of a young woman at a pivotal moment in African history. Slavery becomes a contested terrain, as cultural practices interface with an emerging wage economy and British officials turn a blind eye to the presence of underpaid domestic workers in the households of African merchants. Through the multiple voices of a forgotten heroine and a cast of African, European, and Euro-African men, it shows the many perspectives that helped shape our concepts of freedom and independence."

ORIAS 2011 Summer Institute for K-12 teachers
Absent Voices: Experience of common life in world history

Summarized by Timothy Doran, Ph.d.

"Abina and the Important Men: Engaging students in reversing the silences of history."
Professor Trevor Getz, History, San Francisco State University

To view the full PDF document, please click here.

Copyright 2011 Trevor R. Getz. All rights reserved.
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