Former fellow Jori Lewis (Senegal, 2011-2013) is a 2018 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant recipient. The grant seeks to support nonfiction writers as they complete their works in progress, and hopes to “foster original, ambitious projects that bring writing to the highest possible standards.” Jori was awarded $40,000 to complete her nonfiction book in progress, Slaves for Peanuts, the captivating story of how peanut agriculture supported the rise and fall of slavery in nineteenth-century West Africa, and of the fugitive slaves who took back their freedom.
According to Literary Hub, the judges commented: This project holds great promise not only as an investigation of African slavery’s past and ongoing entanglements with what we eat and how it is grown, but how this particular form of slavery supported industrialisation in the West. Lewis’s work fuses powerful storytelling and authoritative historical research, and she is adept at framing local events against a global backdrop. Vivid individual stories braid seamlessly with a more general discussion of economic history in prose that is lively and absorbing, though exact. A highly original work of history and ethnography, Slaves for Peanuts will be a formidable addition to the historical literature and yield a detailed and enlightened story of what it has meant to raise crops on this planet.