n South African Journal on Human Rights - The Origins of African-American Interests in International Law, Henry J. Richardson III : book review

Volume 26, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



Professor Richardson's work makes important contributions on two fronts. It is a sophisticated work of both historical scholarship and critical race theory.

As historical scholarship, is a synthetic work, drawing on diverse historical sources to recount a detailed narrative of African-American claims to, interests in, and appeals to international law over approximately two centuries spanning, with occasional peeks, from the landing of the first African slaves at Jamestown in 1619 to the 1815 Treaty of Ghent, ending the war of 1812 between Britain and the United States. Regarded as such, the book is richly rewarding. Professor Richardson excavates historical source material for evidence of the claims made by people of African heritage for freedom, human dignity and self-determination. These claims were variously expressed throughout the period of the Atlantic slave trade and the enslavement of people of African heritage in the Americas, often through conduct and other means might escape a more traditional historian's gaze. Richardson gives voice to these claims as interests in international law, even if they were not always conceived of as such by their authors and even if international law - in the imperfect form in which it existed at the time - did not recognise the justiciability of the claims.

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