In 1741, New York City was thrown into an uproar when a sixteen-year-old white woman, an indentured servant named Mary Burton, testified that she was privy to a monstrous conspiracy against the white people of Manhattan. Promised her freedom by authorities if she would only uncover the plot, Mary reported that the black men of the city were planning to burn New York City to the ground. As the courts ensnared more and more suspects and violence swept the city, 154 black New Yorkers were jailed, 14 were burned alive, 18 were hanged, and more than 100 simply "disappeared"; four whites wound up being executed and 24 imprisoned. Even as the madness escalated, however, officials started to realize that Mary Burton might not be telling the truth.
Expertly written by the acclaimed author of Drop and Hunting in Harlem, The Great Negro Plot is a brilliant reconstruction of a little-known moment in American history whose echoes still reverberate today.
Mat Johnson is the author of the novels Hunting in Harlem and Drop. He received his M.F.A. from Columbia and now teaches at Bard College. He lives in New York's Hudson Valley with his family.
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Published December 1, 2008
by Bloomsbury USA.
History, Political & Social Sciences.