“Alfred Thomas Wood’s life reads like a cross between the scams and impersonations of
Catch me if you can and the tribulations of Forrest Gump.” Webster on the Absquatulator
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One hundred years before the Hollywood film The Great Impostor, Alfred Thomas Wood roved through the momentous mid-19th century events, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to New England, Liberia, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Canada, the U.S. Mid-West and the South. He is the great “absquatulator.”
Posing as an Oxford-educated preacher in Maine and Boston, he claimed to be a Cambridge-educated doctor of divinity in Liberia. He spent 18 months in an English prison, then in Hamburg in 1854, he published a history of Liberia in German.
Speaking in Montreal, he claimed to have been Superintendent of Public Works in Sierra Leone. Wood served the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois as an Oxford-educated Doctor of Divinity, then toiled in post-Civil War Tennessee during Reconstruction as a Cambridge-trained MD.
Perusing the life of a resourceful but dubious “absquatulator,” Frank Mackey wittily casts new light on vital mid-19th century events.
Frank Mackey is a Montreal writer whose recent books include Black Then: Blacks and Montreal 1780s-1880s and Done with Slavery: The Black Fact in Montreal, 1760-1840. He has worked as a journalist throughout Canada and in England and taught journalism at Concordia University.
Webster (Aly Ndiaye) is a Senegalo-Québécois rap artist who has pioneered hip-hop in Quebec. He speaks widely on the history of Africans and slaves in Quebec. He lives in Montreal.
“Frank Mackey has a knack of digging up and dusting off stories that, were it not for him, would very likely have been swallowed up by time. Or to put it more metaphorically, he has forced time to cough up its children who have been buried for centuries. That’s what he did with Alexander Grant, and now it’s Alfred Thomas Wood’s turn.” Webster
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