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Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History
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Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  342 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Abina and the Important Men is a compelling and powerfully illustrated "graphic history" based on an 1876 court transcript of a West African woman named Abina, who was wrongfully enslaved and took her case to court. The book is a microhistory that does much more than simply depict an event in the past; it uses the power of illustration to convey important themes in world h ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 2nd 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Mar 03, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
In general, I found this book to be highly accessible and fun. However, after having read 60 undergrad 100-level papers which involved analyzing this as both a primary and secondary source, the dangers of doing history in this way became strikingly apparent. Students, at least mine, were unable to recognize places where it should be clear that the author is inserting his interpretation of the events. The most frustrating of these places, and I think a poor choice on Getz's account, comes at the ...more
Edward Sullivan
Mar 19, 2013 Edward Sullivan rated it really liked it
A fascinating "graphic history" based on an 1876 court transcript of a West African woman who was enslaved, escaped to British-controlled territory, and took her case to court. The graphic history is followed by an insightful historical context of the story, a reading guide reconstructing and deconstructing the methods used to interpret the story, and strategies for using Abina in classroom settings of various levels. A great study for world history course.

Nina Chachu
Apr 13, 2012 Nina Chachu rated it really liked it
A court case in Cape Coast in 1876 is brought to life as a graphic narrative. This book is obviously meant to be used in educational institutions at all levels from high school to university. I found it very interesting and challenging, yet written in such a way that is easy to understand.
Chris Gager
Feb 17, 2016 Chris Gager rated it liked it
I only skimmed and browsed this book. Don't recall where I found it. The graphic part is kind of ... average and uninteresting, probably because it was meant to be serious. The entire book is a work of history, as it examines the persistence of slavery in the Gold Coast(now Ghana) in the later 19th century. I once had a conversation with a guy from Guinea(farther north along the W. African coast) who told me that his father had slaves. That was about 1998 and the guy was almost 60, so that would ...more
Laura (booksnob)
Lots of great teaching material and court documents in this true story. I use this in my class for a unit on revolutions and graphic novel making.
Monica Edinger
Mar 18, 2013 Monica Edinger rated it it was amazing
A bit more about this on my blog.

Outstanding. This book seems to have gone under-the-radar in the broader world and it shouldn't have. I had seen something about it a while back and finally had the time to read it and it is fantastic. It is, as the subtitle indicates, a graphic history. That is, it is a history book and one unapologetically didactic. And as far as I know, pretty unique.

The book consists of several parts. The first is an illustrated "graphic history" (so described in the flap co
Apr 05, 2013 kripsoo rated it it was amazing
Readers will be captivated and inspired by this graphic page-turner of a young African girl's trial in Africa Gold Coast While Abina experience of being separated from family and friends early in life and sold to a series of slave owners was not unusual in 1876 Ghana it was extraordinary that Abina not only escaped captivity but subsequently brought her slave owner to trial Fascinating aspects of Gold Coast daily life social customs and political dynamics are presented as part of this true life ...more
May 30, 2015 Akoss rated it really liked it
This is the story of Abina Mansah, a young woman who took her former master to court for making her a slave at a time when slavery was abolished. The story took place in the Gold Coast (now known as Ghana) in 1876.
The book is sectionalized in several parts. One for the graphic "novel" depicting Abina's story in a graphic style. Another part was the actual court transcripts from back then. The other parts where the historical context, a reading guide, then a classroom guide.
This was my first time
Dec 21, 2014 Jada added it
This very earnest book that gives voice to a young woman who suffered an injustice has an innovative format and not-so-great artwork.

In 1876, after slavery was abolished in the British Empire, a courageous and bold young woman who was enslaved against her will took her case to her local court. She placed her hope in the colonial British judicial system of West Africa and like many people today, she was not able to present her case to a jury of peers but to “important men” who were not exactly sy
Haley Baker
Jun 21, 2014 Haley Baker rated it liked it
Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History is a graphic novel that I read in my History of Africa course last year. Interestingly, the text begins as a graphic novel. At first, it was challenging to understand the sequence of events because it looked like a bunch of comic strips. However, after a while I caught on to the fluency and ended up enjoying the the text! Because it is a graphic novel, it creates clear visuals for the reader. The storyline revolves around an African American woman w ...more
Jul 10, 2012 Talia rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
In the late 1800s, slavery is outlawed in West Africa by the British, but some farm owners still have slaves, mainly young girls who are assumed not to run away. A woman named Abina escapes her master and tries to sue him for her freedom, claiming that she never had free will and simply wanting to be heard and acknowledged. This graphic novel is based off of an actual court transcript that outlines Abina’s story.

Spoiler alert: this isn’t a happy story. But the story is not the important part her
I read this anticipating a graphic novel depicting the story of an African woman facing down "the Important Men" to get what she felt was her due. And I got that. But Abina and the Important Men is much more of a lesson on how to be a historian than it is a graphic portrayal of a historical event.

Getz does an admirable job---in my admittedly non-historian perspective---of showing how historians do their work: looking at primary sources of several varieties, piecing together the context for those
Oct 28, 2016 Bookwarrior rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This graphic novel is a well-written story about a slave, Abina, and her attempt at becoming a free woman in the eyes of the British colony's court in West Africa. The pictures are good and thoroughly explain the story in an easy to read manner. The story is based off of a court transcript, so after the graphic novel part they have (in 2nd edition at least) the actual transcript, a section on historical context, a reading guide, and engaging Abina with reading questions, further resources, and a ...more
I found this rather enjoyable. I thought that the graphic portion of the novel was perhaps the weakest point, but it was still well constructed. My favorite part of this was the structure of the book. It starts with the graphic portion (secondary source), then goes to the court transcript (primary source), followed by sections on historical context, a reading guide, and a guide on how to go about teaching Abina in the classroom. Overall, I thought this was very refreshing, and the story was incr ...more
Joe Moss
Dec 28, 2015 Joe Moss rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in Africa and/or history
Recommended to Joe by: University of Minnesota Institute for Global Studies
Readers interested in history, Africa, and especially those who value the story of those whose voices have been silenced or were never heard in the first place would enjoy this book. It combines a graphic novel story about slavery in 19th Century Gold Coast (now Ghana) with a lesson in how historians interpret and share the stories of the past. The graphic novel part of the book can serve as an easy reader for young readers, and the rest of the material makes it useful as an alternative textbook ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Sharon added it
A "graphic history" presentation of an 1876 case in which a young woman takes her former master to court for enslaving her. The book presents an illustrated version of the story, followed by the actual court transcript, summaries of the historical period and a discussion of how the reader decides who to believe in historical matters. Written to be used for discussion in a high school class. Would also be very useful for homeschooling.
Sydney Bollinger
Good book for historical context-- tells an typically unheard story and promotes discussion on European imperialism/colonialism & its effects on native civilizations to current African nations. Highly recommend, even though author & artist took a lot of license with the graphic novel portion (although this section really humanizes the people involved).

**Read this for Survey of World History (Honors)
Angel Mojica
I really like this book. I like this book because Getz really shows how Abina went through the court case. Also i like how he put all of his information of Ghana in that time of Abolished slavery and how it effected the people of Ghana. The book was an awesome way of explaining Abina because she was a slave girl after slavery and wanting to get away from her master and I like the fact that Abina loses in the end because it really shows that not all of history has to be about famous people.
Jan 04, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
This is an unusual approach to telling history. The combination of graphic novel with primary source documents and scholarly interpretation yields a rich understanding of the situation and events that lie at the heart of the book. This work would serve a non-researcher well, but I would not recommend it for research, as the authors are not consistently clear on where their interpretations go beyond the primary source evidence in the graphic novel section of the book.
Jun 12, 2012 P. rated it liked it
Shelves: comics, nonfic
To be accurate, I read the comic portion of the book and not the transcription or other textual aspects (which take up about half the book itself). Not because I didn't want to read them, but because of time constraints. I think the idea for this project is great! I love primary sources, and it's a good idea to find ways to spread the love. Abina's story doesn't get neatly wrapped up, and that's a good discussion point for history students of all ages.
Conor Wilkinson
Very good and very important graphic history. Unfortunately the revisions of the Second Edition seem to have been rushed, as the updated version is filled with typographical errors. Still, it's a must-read for students of history in general, as well as for anyone interested in the graphic form, the work that historians do, and histories of colonialism and gender.
Aug 23, 2013 Tanya rated it liked it
Part graphic novel, part court transcript, and part history of Ghana this book covers the story of a girl who runs away from her master on the Gold Coast and then goes to court to get her freedom. It's pretty cool to get to read the actual court transcript from the 1876 and the graphic novel is a easy-to-read version of the actual events.
Sep 27, 2015 Joyce rated it really liked it
The artwork's really good, so is the story--definitely gets you thinking about who tells the story--I didn't read the documentation and other stuff in the books. I suppose there's a lesson in there that if you stand up for what is right, it's not wasted, because you never know what difference it might make. Like us reading about it now.
Stacey Marie
Aug 18, 2014 Stacey Marie rated it liked it
Ok. So the historical stuff and the fact this is based on a true story was pretty cool. The artwork however... was for the most part, terrible. Also half this book is written in non-fiction prose, since it includes context chapters etc. But if you're going to make a graphic novel you shouldn't need to include a novel explaining the novel. You know?

Anyway, still worth a read.
Isaiah McCoy
May 17, 2016 Isaiah McCoy rated it really liked it
The author did good with this book. I like tyke book because it is interesting. The book is about abina. Abina was a slave to a person. She goes to court to fight for her freedom. I like this book because it is a graphic novel and has pictures. I would recommend this book . I would recommend it to anyone that has spare time to read it
Chrislyn Ruddy
Jan 20, 2015 Chrislyn Ruddy rated it really liked it
Interesting. It is a clever way to show history to students and is backed up with credible sources and a historical context. It's a good way to brig history into the classroom to engage those that wouldn't you ally write off a lecture. It's good for asking questions about who tells history and why we know what we know. Do we know enough?
Sep 02, 2013 Alexandra rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, for-class, paperback
I read this for my history class, The Making of Modern Africa. It was a quick, enjoyable read and I'm quite intrigued by the story. It definitely made me think. We'll be discussing it in class this week, and even acting out a trial (so I believe--and yes, this is a college class), so I might come back later to say more once I've digested/analyzed it a bit more. Overall, though, quite interesting.
Mar 26, 2012 Barrett rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful read - history through a graphic novella (and a woman's perspective, no less) with the process for coming up with that representation in thoughtful written sections behind the novella.
Leah Coffin
Feb 25, 2014 Leah Coffin rated it liked it
The graphic novel part of this was fine; the academic tome, less so. The author seems to be unfamiliar with the concept of "show, don't tell," as well as with the idea that readers of graphic novels might not overlap that much with readers of academic texts.
Oct 06, 2015 Kelsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent tool in connecting with audiences in a historical manner. The telling of the story was a tad heavy-handed, but the other parts to the story, such as the historians' discussion and layers of intent, more than made up for it.
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