On April 6, the Beaver community hosted Dr. Rebecca Hall for a virtual fireside chat discussing her graphic novel Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts. Wake is a story about Black revolution—as well as Black joy—and it explores the haunting and brutal legacy of slavery while bringing to light powerful accounts of Black resistance.
“Take the trauma and put it front and center. It’s how we heal and understand the world around us.” – Dr. Rebecca Hall
Nala Hayden ’22 led the conversation with Dr. Hall, asking questions about her inspiration for the graphic novel and the importance of representing history.
During the conversation, Dr. Hall spoke about how using the graphic novel medium allowed her content to be more accessible to a wider audience. It was vital to select the most impactful panels; every image on the page is important in advancing the story.
The discussion focused in part on subjective versus objective history. Dr. Hall posited that there is no such thing as objective history, and that subjective perception is something everyone needs to recognize. When parsing through subjective history, honesty is important, and she shared an example from when she was researching for her dissertation and discovered that there was a lack of information about the important role of Black women in slave revolts. Because of the cultural landscape historians were working in and perceptions around gender roles in the Black community, no historian was invested in researching or establishing the power of Black women; however in her research, Dr. Hall found that women were more likely to lead and participate in revolts due to their increased mobility and access to weapons once aboard the slave ships.
“Why write if you’re not going to tell the truth?” – Dr. Rebecca Hall
More about the author: Rebecca Hall, JD, PhD, is the Author of Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts. She is a scholar, activist, and educator. After graduating Berkeley Law in 1989, she represented low-income tenants and homeless families for eight years before returning to get her PhD in history. She has taught at UC Santa Cruz, Berkeley Law, Berkeley’s history department, and as a visiting professor of law at the University of Utah. She writes and publishes on the history of race, gender, law, and resistance as well as articles on climate justice and intersectional feminist theory. Dr. Hall’s work has been supported by numerous grants and fellowships, including the American Association of University Women, The Ford Foundation, The Mellon Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. You can find out more about her at RebHallPhD.org, and on Twitter @WakeRevolt