At a book-signing event Nov. 23, the Erskine community marked the recent publication of The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage by Assistant Professor of History Dr. John Harris.
Harris enjoyed celebrating with many at Erskine whom he describes as “friends and supporters” of his research and writing endeavors. He offered a few remarks at the event, thanking colleagues for their support and speaking about the process of writing the book, published in November by Yale University Press.
“It was a really special event for me, and I’m so grateful Erskine came out in support,” he says, noting that several students attended the signing, in addition to faculty and staff members.
Michele Yarbrough, store manager for the Erskine bookstore, observed that both students and staff members asked her in advance about the book signing and expressed excitement about buying a copy of the book. “Everybody was excited to celebrate,” she says. “It was a great accomplishment.”
On the day of the signing, the bookstore sold all its copies, prompting Harris to dig into his own stash. “I had to run to the trunk of my car to grab a few spares,” he says.
For Harris, the book represents about a decade of work, from concept to publication. The Last Slave Ships chronicles the rise and fall of the illegal slave trade following the abolition of the trade in the early 19th century. To complete his research for the book, Harris accessed archives on both sides of the Atlantic in countries such as Cuba, England, Portugal, Spain, and the United States.
“There are moments in any big project like this—especially as a historian when you’re facing dead ends in archives—when you wonder whether it’s all going to come together,” Harris says.
Despite the obstacles he encountered, Harris persevered and is pleased with the finished product.
“I’m delighted with how the book came out, and it was such a joy to share the moment with the Erskine community,” he says.
To purchase a copy of The Last Slave Ships, visit Amazon.com. The book will also be available through Yale University Press, but the press has currently sold all copies and is in the process of reprinting it. To learn more about Harris’s research, read this article published by Erskine in 2018.