The Great Absquatulator

By (author): Frank Mackey

Introduction by: Aly (alias Webster) Ndiaye

Alfred Thomas Wood was nothing and everything. A century before Ferdinand Demara, “The Great Impostor” of the 1961 Hollywood film of that name, Wood was the Great Absquatulator, a man who roved through the mid-19th century from Halifax, N.S., to New England, Liberia, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Montreal, the U.S. Mid-West and the South.

He self-identified as an Oxford-educated preacher in Maine and Boston, then as a Cambridge-educated doctor of divinity in Liberia, despite the fact that neither of those universities admitted black students at that time. He was almost dispatched to Australia in 1853 but missed that boat by the skin of his teeth and instead spent 18 months in an English lockup. In Hamburg in 1854, he published a history of Liberia in German.

Later, in Montreal, he styled himself the Superintendent of Public Works of Sierra Leone. He served the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois as an Oxford-educated DD, then toiled in post-Civil War Tennessee as a Cambridge-trained MD. People who knew him couldn?t wait to forget him.

In this meticulously-pieced-together biography of the Great Absquatulator A.T. Wood, Frank Mackey wittily casts new light on the momentous mid-19th-century events that shaped the world we live in today.


Frank Mackey

Frank Mackey is author of three previous works published by MQUP Steamboat Connections: Montreal to Upper Canada, 1816-1843 (2000); Black Then: Blacks and Montreal 1780s-1880s (2004) and Done with Slavery: The Black Fact in Montreal, 1760-1840 (2010). He has worked as a journalist in Alberta, Newfoundland, Montreal, Quebec City and London (Eng.) and taught journalism at Montreal’s Concordia University. He lives in Montreal.

Webster (Aly Ndiaye) is a Montreal based Senegalo-Québécois rap artist born in Quebec City. A pioneer of hip-hop in Quebec, Webster has spoken in Universities in Canada and the United States on the creative use of French in rap music. His passion for history led him to get a university education in history and to speak widely on the presence Africans and of slaves in Quebec throughout history. He is author of one hip-hop writing manual and a children?s book on the first African slave in Canada.


“Waging a one-man con game against a society that set out to crush him, Wood emerges as a flawed but fascinating historical character. (…) [an] impressively researched biography.” Kate Jaimet Canada’s History

“The Great Absquatulator is a feat of historical sleuthing, dogged archive-digging and sure-handed storytelling. It adds to Frank Mackey’s already considerable list of credits as a groundbreaking chronicler of the Black presence in 19th-century Quebec and elsewhere.” Ian McGillis, The Montreal Gazette

“Here’s a great non-fiction title from Baraka Books that will surely stand as one of my favourite reads of 2021. True crime? Check. Historical true crime? Check. International true crime? Check. Well-researched? Check. This book checks all the proverbial boxes for its genre(s). Frank Mackey has compiled a truly fascinating story of the life of Alfred Thomas Wood, a truly great imposter, but an incredibly absurd one at times.” James Fisher, The Miramichi Reader


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280 Pages
9.00in * 6.00in * .80in


May 01, 2022





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