Jori Lewis


Slaves for Peanuts

Expected Publication Date: 
To be published by The New Press

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.

Jori Lewis is an independent American journalist based in Dakar, Senegal, where she reports on the environment and agriculture. She has reported for numerous publications and media outlets, including PRI’s The World, Discover Magazine, Nova Next, and Aeon. She was a fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs, where she wrote about food systems and agriculture in West Africa, and a contributing reporter to the series Early Signs: Reports from a Warming Planet, which won a George Polk Award.

The grant jury: This project holds great promise as an investigation not only 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 industrialization 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.