The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist

Marcus Rediker

Beacon Press, 2017

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

The little-known story of an eighteenth-century Quaker dwarf who fiercely attacked slavery and imagined a new, more humane way of life.

The Fearless Benjamin Lay chronicles the transatlantic life and times of a singular and astonishing man—a Quaker dwarf who became one of the first ever to demand the total, unconditional emancipation of all enslaved Africans around the world. He performed public guerrilla theater to shame slave masters, insisting that human bondage violated the fundamental principles of Christianity. He wrote a fiery, controversial book against bondage that Benjamin Franklin published in 1738. He lived in a cave, made his own clothes, refused to consume anything produced by slave labor, championed animal rights, and embraced vegetarianism. He acted on his ideals to create a new, practical, revolutionary way of life.

Reviews:

"Rediker provides a valuable adition to abolitionist historiography...A concise, sold biography of 'the first revolutionary abolitionist,' a diminutive man who was decades ahead of his time."
Kirkus Reviews


"Rediker...successfully rescues Lay from obscurity, arguing that the adventurous, single-minded Quaker was one of the abolition movement's forebears....Rediker adroitly describes the nuances of the Quaker faith's evolution....Lay's farsightedness and extensive advocacy deserve to be remembered."
Publisher's Weekly


“Admirers of Marcus Rediker’s splendid The Slave Ship will be delighted by this historian’s new book. Sailor, pioneer of guerrilla theater and a man who would stop at nothing to make his fellow human beings share his passionate outrage against slavery, Benjamin Lay has long needed a modern biographer worthy of him, and now he has one.”
Adam Hochschild