The revolutionary life of an 18th-century dwarf activist who was among the first to fight against slavery and animal cruelty.
Prophet Against Slavery is an action-packed chronicle of the remarkable and radical Benjamin Lay, based on the award-winning biography by Marcus Rediker that sparked the Quaker community to re-embrace Lay after 280 years of disownment. Graphic novelist David Lester brings the full scope of Lay’s activism and ideas to life.
Born in 1682 to a humble Quaker family in Essex, England, Lay was a forceful and prescient visionary. Understanding the fundamental evil that slavery represented, he would unflinchingly use guerrilla theatre tactics and direct action to shame slave owners and traders in his community. The prejudice that Lay suffered as a dwarf and a hunchback, as well as his devout faith, informed his passion for human and animal liberation. Exhibiting stamina, fortitude, and integrity in the face of the cruelties practiced against what he called his “fellow creatures,” he was often a lonely voice that spoke truth to power.
Lester’s beautiful imagery and storytelling, accompanied by afterwords from Rediker and Paul Buhle, capture the radicalism, the humor, and the humanity of this truly modern figure. A testament to the impact each of us can make, Prophet Against Slavery brings Lay’s prophetic vision to a new generation of young activists who today echo his call of 300 years ago: “No justice, no peace!”
About the authors
David Lester is a painter, graphic designer, cartoonist, and the guitarist in the rock duo Mecca Normal. His book, The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism went into a revised second printing and is taught as part of an English course on Academic Writing Stratagies at Capilano University. He has created the poster series "Inspired Agitators," archived at The Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles, and designed the popular t-shirt "Actually, I like crap." Lester also does a weekly illustration, with text by Mecca Normal bandmate Jean Smith, for Magnet Magazine. As well, his cartoons appeared regularly for a year in the San Diego Reader. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.
Paul Merlyn Buhle is a Senior Lecturer at Brown University, author or editor of 35 volumes including histories of radicalism in the United States and the Caribbean, studies of popular culture, and a series of nonfiction comic art volumes.
Marcus Rediker is an historian of the sea working in the “history from below” tradition. A Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, Rediker is known for his animated histories of early modern piracy, slavery, and plebeian rebellion.
“Moving images, a passionate script, and a compelling narrative in one.”
“David Lester’s raw, expressive visual approach perfectly delivers. Prophet Against Slavery is a crucial account of abolitionism’s religious framework, its courage and moral clarity often recast as sin or insanity, and the necessity of taking outside risks in pursuit of justice and equality.”
—Nate Powell, National Book Award–winning artist of the March trilogy about US congressman John Lewis
“The saga of Benjamin Lay is both unique and glorious. Historian Marcus Rediker and artist Dave Lester do a splendid job in bringing history to life.”
—Kate Evans, author and artist of Red Rosa, the Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg
“Do you know the story of Benjamin Lay? Neither did I. These pages constitute the graphic apocrypha of the Prophet of Slavery himself, brought to light by David Lester’s thorough research, spare language, and stunning artwork. In unflinching terms, his expressionist drawings capture the passion and commitment of his subject.”
—Jason Lutes, author of Berlin