Michael Ralph has an undergraduate degree in Africana Studies from Morris Brown College, a doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is a tenured professor at New York University, where he teaches "Histories of Capitalism," "Hip Hop and Politics," "Digital Humanities," and "Armed Resistance." And he has just sold a graphic novel Before 13th drawn by Nia Palmer and Laura Molnar in a six-figure deal. Patrik Henry Bass of Amistad bought world rights to the book.
Before 13th uses original archival research to revise the scholarly consensus concerning convict leasing, demonstrating that it did not begin with the 13th amendment but several decades prior in a Kentucky Penitentiary through a unique labour experiment involving new approaches to agriculture, labour, skill, gender, and expertise, and is narrated by Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells, Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman who escaped slavery in Maryland, becaming a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, famous for his oratory and antislavery writings. Wells was a famous activist, orator, suffragist, author and journalist, who launched an attack against the lynching of black people and helped found the NAACP in 1909.
Michael Ralph's agent Anna Olswanger at Olswanger Literary says that Before 13th employs little-known details about a feud between Wells and Douglass to delve into "an untold story about the history of slavery and incarceration" and that it "demonstrates that convict leasing, the system in which Southern states leased prisoners to private railways, mines, and large plantations, was not created through the 13th Amendment" that abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, "but started several decades prior at a prison in Kentucky that eventually held both white and Black people, and people of all genders,"