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December 2009 Newsletter

ISSN: 1933-8651

In this issue we present the following articles, news, announcements, and reviews:

Articles, Essays, and Reports News and Announcements Conferences and Calls for Papers Book Reviews

Change in Small Scale Pottery
Manufacture in Antigua, West Indies

By Mark W. Hauser and Jerome Handler

potter holding a calabash for scraping and a polishing stone for smoothing

Today, in a handful of Caribbean islands (e.g., Jamaica, Martinique, Barbados, Antigua, Nevis, and St. Lucia), persons of African descent continue to manufacture earthenware pottery, generally somewhat loosely and variously referred to by modern Caribbean archaeologists as Afro-Caribbean pottery or ceramics. These small-scale industries have always played an insignificant role in insular national economies and at present they seem to have a very limited chance for long-term survival. Today they produce largely for the tourist market and are disappearing to varying degrees. Several of these industries have been ethnographically reported over the years, and these reports provide a base line from which to examine the changing demands and pressures confronting local potteries. Diachronic studies of these industries permit researchers to chart changes as these industries decline, and also provide a lens through which archaeologists can understand the ways in which local craft industries have confronted changing economic landscapes. Moreover, traditional locally made earthenware is today found in historical archaeological sites in the West Indies and ethnographic knowledge about local industries helps interpret the archaeological data. The following information on the little-known industry in the small island of Antigua, a former British colony in the Leeward island chain -- today an independent member of the British Commonwealth -- is based on limited field work, published literature, and personal correspondence with persons possessing first-hand knowledge. Synthesizing and comparing different accounts presents some difficulties including inconsistencies in identifying the number of potters, varying attention to manufacturing details, and distinct analytical agendas. [Read or download this full article here in Adobe .pdf format >>>].

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Springfield, Georgia:
A Free African American Community

By J. W. Joseph

Ninivien style molded clay pipe

Antebellum-era, free African American communities in the southern United States are an enigma, supporting groups of African Americans who had gained their freedom during the era of slavery in a social environment that challenged and limited African American liberties on multiple fronts. Despite these challenges, free African American communities existed in a number of southern cities and the history and archaeology of these communities provide insights to the roles they played in African American life and culture.

Springfield, Georgia is an important free African American community. The origins of this community are associated with the formation of a religious congregation that worshipped near a spring in a field, located north of colonial Augusta. Reverend Jesse Peters, a freedman from the Silver Bluff, South Carolina, plantation of George Galphin, preached at Springfield and other locations in the Central Savannah River Area beginning around 1783 and between 1787 and 1793 a church was formally established in the community. The land that the church was built on had been owned by Lieutenant Colonel James Grierson, a Tory who was killed in the Battle of Augusta during the Revolutionary War. The uncertain ownership status of this land after the war may have been a factor in the development of the free African American community at Springfield in the post war years. The war itself was also a factor in the increase of the free African American population, as many African Americans gained their freedom during the British occupation and were left on their own when the British abandoned Georgia. The free African American community of Richmond County and Springfield grew in the post-Revolutionary War years, increasing from 72 in 1810 to 235 by 1830 to 490 in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War. This was Georgia’s second largest free African American population, trailing only Chatham County and Savannah, which totaled 795 in 1860. [Read or download this full article here in Adobe .pdf format >>>].

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"Sex, Magic and Murder" -- A Selection from
Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination

By Richard Price

Travels with Tooy book cover

Editor's Note: Richard Price's Travels with Tooy (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the 2009 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion, awarded by the Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR) at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The SAR dedicates the Geertz Prize to "encourage excellence in the anthropology of religion by recognizing an outstanding recent book in the field." Price's work also received the 2009 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Memorial Award for Caribbean Scholarship, for the best book, in any language and in any discipline, about the Caribbean. In addition, Travels with Tooy was awarded the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing in 2008. The Society for Humanistic Anthropology bestows that award in honor of the late Victor Turner, who devoted his career to seeking a language that would reopen anthropology to the human subject, and the prize is given in recognition of an innovative book that furthers this project.

The University of Chicago Press provides a brief overview of these Travels -- "Included on the itinerary for this hallucinatory expedition: forays into the eighteenth century to talk with slaves newly arrived from Africa; leaps into the midst of battles against colonial armies; close encounters with double agents and femme fatale forest spirits; and trips underwater to speak to the comely sea gods who control the world's money supply. This enchanting book draws on Price’s long-term ethnographic and archival research, but above all on Tooy's teachings, songs, stories, and secret languages to explore how Africans in the Americas have created marvelous new worlds of the imagination."

This selection presents Rich's chapter entitled "Sex, Magic, and Murder" (pp. 94-99). In contributing this chapter excerpt for the Newsletter, the author observes: "As the opening words of the book say, 'Clifford Geertz has called anthropologists "merchants of astonishment." But for me, it's Tooy who plays that role. Some thirty-five years into my research with Saramakas I met him, and it wasn’t long before he took me through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. He has shared with me hidden worlds that, for him, make life worth living and, for me, continue to amaze and fascinate.' I hope this chapter may serve to give a taste of the whole." [Read or download this full article here in Adobe .pdf format >>>].

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Antebellum African-American
Settlements in Southern New Jersey

By Christopher P. Barton

Battle of Pine Swamp

African American archaeology has been largely overlooked in New Jersey. The study presented in this article hopefully provides a valuable contribution of historical archaeology of African Americans in a region that has yet to see a strong focus on their heritage. One of the few archaeological studies that focused specifically on African Americans in New Jersey concerned the history of Skunk Hollow, a free African American community located in the Palisades area of the state. Yet, the study of Skunk Hollow remains an isolated case, and greater commitment is needed to conduct such studies with strong collaborative engagement of the local and descendant communities of African American heritage. This article attempts to apply the practical and theoretical frameworks used to study other free communities in the United States to a project focusing on the region of New Jersey, which offers great opportunities for further exploring and understanding African American experiences and histories. [Read or download this full article here in Adobe .pdf format >>>].

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Coming to America:
The First West African Farm Exhibit in the United States

By Edmund Gabay, Jr.

Frontier Culture Museum exhibit

In the unlikely yet appropriate location of small town Virginia, a modest, state-run museum has embarked upon a most fascinating and audacious project. The staff of the Frontier Culture Museum located in Staunton, Virginia, at the intersection of State Routes 81 and 64, have spawned the concept of augmenting their inventory of frontier style exhibits by including a replica of a West African village compound. Specifically, the earthen wall dwellings are to be modeled after those built in a typical 16th to 18th century Igbo village of southeastern Nigeria. The museum directors were advised by various scholars to use the Igbo ethnic group of Nigeria since it was believed that a large number of the Africans brought to America as slaves were from that region and also based on the port of origin in Africa. In fact, modern research estimates that as much as 38% of the Africans brought to Virginia were from the Igbo ethnic group. [Read or download this full article here in Adobe .pdf format >>>].

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Folktales as Means of Transmitting Knowledge
on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Nigeria:
The Adventure of Akuye in Iyuku Community of Edo State

By Akujobi Remi

a python figure

Folklores in Nigeria have often been cited as avenues through which information relating to slavery and slave trade activities in the area could be transmitted. The broader role of oral traditions in the transmission of knowledge relating to the trans-Atlantic slave trade among the people of Nigeria, Ghana, and the Republic of Benin has already been acknowledged by Simpson. Folktales as a means of communication fall under what is today referred to as indigenous media. Folktales as patterns of communicating messages in African societies and communities represent one of the most respected, trusted, and acceptable forms of transmitting vital information in Nigeria. This article considers the nature of oral traditions, particularly folklore, with particular reference to the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade dealers in the Iyuku community of Edo State in Nigeria. [Read or download this full article here in Adobe .pdf format >>>].

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African-American Museum's
"Time Has Come," Says Founding Director

By Carol Castiel
Voice of America, Washington, D.C.
December 8, 2009

Posted online at
Copyright 2009
Voice of America

The search is on for African-American treasures buried in attics, barns and elsewhere around the United States. Undertaking the project is Lonnie Bunch, tasked with the challenge of building the collection for the Smithsonian's newest museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, art, history and culture.

Lonnie Bunch photo
Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Museum of African-American History and Culture

Mr. Bunch, who is founding director of the Museum of African-American History and Culture, recently spoke with Carol Castiel, host of VOA's Press Conference USA, and VOA television correspondent Chris Simkins, about collection efforts, fundraising, and building design three years after the museum's historic inception.

Since then, Lonnie Bunch has sought public input regarding what types of exhibits people would like to see and what they hope the museum can communicate. His pursuit of artifacts has taken him to many local African-American history museums and communities across the country. He describes the quest for collection material as "one of the most humbling things" he has done in his career.

The "Save Our African-American Treasures" program, Bunch says, is one component of the search for historical items. The program brings people and their treasures to work with conservators to preserve "grandma's shawl, or that old photograph, or that old plough sitting in the barn," which are then sometimes donated to local museums. Items that are "really something of national significance," Bunch says, are brought back to the Smithsonian's collection.

The museum will emphasize themes of reconciliation and healing that Bunch hopes will allow people to have a dialogue on race that is "still one of the most difficult dialogues we have." The museum will also strive to help many Americans and visitors from overseas "understand what race means in America and what it continues to mean."

"People are interested in how we got to this moment, how our notions of race have changed over time," says Bunch. He calls the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States a "profound change," but that "it doesn't mean the issues of race that once divided us are now gone." According to Bunch, the public reaction to the museum has been positive. He says people have told him the most important thing the museum should do is "tell the truth" about the history of discrimination, segregation, slavery, and Jim Crow, but also to capture the resiliency and the optimism in the African-American community. Most of all, says Bunch, people tell him to "have faith that Americans can handle their difficult history."

One example of the types of items they are looking for, Bunch says, is an embroidered pillow case a woman brought to the conservators. An enslaved woman gave the pillowcase to her daughter on the day she was being sold away. The embroidery read: "In this pillowcase I give you three dresses, I give you some bread, but I fill the rest of it with my love and that I may never see you again, but as long as you have this pillowcase, you will know that I've loved you."

Architects from around the world competed for the honor of designing the museum building. Ultimately, a jury chaired by Bunch chose Ghanaian architect Freelon Adjaye and his firm, whose entry Bunch calls a "very positive and upward looking building" that will "no longer allow the African-American experience to be invisible."

Technology will also be used in the museum exhibits. Bunch says the exhibits will "not be full of gadgets and gizmos" but instead will be a place that "uses technology as an interpretive and integral tool." Using thousands of oral interviews, technology will allow visitors to explore a range of African-American experiences and the depths of their culture, from music like spirituals and hip hop, to the role of hair and adornment among African-American women.

One interview in the collection, recounts Bunch, is a grandfather interviewed by his grandson. The grandson asks the grandfather, "What was the saddest day of your life?" The grandfather tells of serving as an African-American soldier in World War II, and upon returning to the United States, visiting Washington, D.C. to see the nation's capital and its monuments. At the end of the day, he went to a movie theater to see a show. He put his dollar on the ticket counter, and the ticket-taker said "Colored people aren't allowed to come into this movie."

Bunch says the interviews will let visitors learn not just about segregation, but "what it meant at that moment, for that individual, and how it stayed with him his whole life."

"This is a museum whose time has come," Bunch says. He praises Congress as the museum's biggest donor and says fundraising progress around the country has been "wonderful." With these funds, Bunch continues building his staff to do the behind-the-scenes work of starting a museum: planning exhibitions, doing research and building the collection, and continuing fundraising efforts.

Bunch hopes President Obama will participate in the groundbreaking ceremonies scheduled for 2012. The Museum of African-American History and Culture will join a number of other Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, and Bunch says it is on track to open in 2015.

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Genetic Study Clarifies African and African-American Ancestry

Press Release posted online Dec. 18, 2009, at
Copyright 2009
University of Pennsylvania

Collaboration by University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University

Philadelphia -- People who identify as African-American may be as little as 1 percent West African or as much as 99 percent, just one finding of a large-scale, genome-wide study of African and African-American ancestry released today.

An international research team led by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University has collected and analyzed genotype data from 365 African-Americans, 203 people from 12 West African populations and 400 Europeans from 42 countries to provide a genome-wide perspective of African and African-American ancestry.

Tishkoff photo
Photograph by Sarah Tishkoff, University of Pennsylvania, taken during a day of data collection in a study area within Africa

The data reveal genomic diversity among African and African-American populations far more complex than originally thought and reflect deep historical, cultural and linguistic impacts on gene flow among populations. The data also point to the ability of geneticists to reliably discern ancestry using such data. Scientists found, for example, that they could distinguish African and European ancestry at each region of the genome of self-identified-African Americans.

Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at Penn, and Carlos Bustamante, a computational biologist at Cornell, led the study to analyze 300,000 genetic markers from across the genome from West African, African-American and European-American populations to see whether they could reliably distinguish ancestry.

The team found that, while some West African populations are nearly indistinguishable, there are clear and discernible genetic differences among some groups, divided along linguistic and geographic lines.

This newly acquired genetic data revealed a number of important advances, including:

* The rich mosaic of African-American ancestry. Among the 365 African-Americans in the study, individuals had as little as 1 percent West African ancestry and as much as 99 percent. There are significant implications for pharmacogenomic studies and assessment of disease risk. It appears that the range of genetic ancestry captured under the term African-American is extremely diverse, suggesting that caution should be used in prescribing treatment based on differential guidelines for African-Americans.

* A median proportion of European ancestry in African-Americans of 18.5 percent, with large variation among individuals.

* The predominately African origin of X chromosomes of African-Americans. This is consistent with the pattern of gene flow where mothers were mostly of African ancestry while fathers were either of African or European ancestry.

* A technique which can reliably distinguish African and European ancestry for any particular region of the genome in African-Americans. This could have implications for personalized ancestry reconstructions, personalized medicine and more effective drug treatments and could aid in developing more effective methods for mapping genetic risk factors for diseases common in African-Americans, such as hypertension, diabetes and prostate cancer.

* The similarity of the West African component of African-American ancestry to the profile from non-Bantu Niger-Kordofanian speaking populations, which include the Igbo and Yoruba from Nigeria and the Brong from Ghana.

* A comparison of the West African segments of African-American genomes. This is wholly in line with historical documents showing that the Igbo and Yoruba are two of the 10 most frequent ethnicities in slave trade records; however, most African-Americans also have ancestry from Bantu-speaking populations in western Africa.

* Population structure within the West African samples reflecting primarily language and secondarily geographical distance, echoing the Bantu expansion from a homeland in West Africa across much of sub-Saharan Africa around 4,000 years ago.

"Africa, which is the homeland of all modern humans, contains more than 2,000 ethnolinguistic groups and harbors great genetic and phenotypic diversity; however, little is known about fine-scale population structure at a genome-wide level," said Tishkoff, professor in the departments of genetics and biology at Penn. "We were able to distinguish among closely related West African populations and showed that genetically inferred ancestry correlates strongly with geography and language, reflecting historic migration events in Africa."

"We were also able to show that there is little genetic differentiation among African-Americans in the African portion of their ancestry, reflecting the fact that most African-Americans have ancestry from several regions of western Africa. The greatest variation among African-Americans is in their proportion of European ancestry, which has important implications for the design of personalized medical treatments."

The study focused primarily on the genetic structure of West African populations, as previous genetic and historical studies suggested that the region was the source for most of the ancestry of present-day African-Americans. The results suggest that there are clear and discernible genetic differences among some of the West African populations, whereas others appear to be nearly indistinguishable, even when comparing more than 300,000 genetic markers. The researchers note that a larger sample size would likely reveal further substructure and diversity between these populations.

Analyzing patterns of population structure and individual ancestry in Africans and African-Americans illuminates the history of human populations and is critical for undertaking medical genomic studies on a global scale. Understanding ancestry not only provides insight into historical migration patterns, human origins and greater understanding of evolutionary forces, but also allows researchers to examine disease susceptibility and pharmacogenic response, and to develop personalized drugs and treatments, a frontier in public health.

There is also strong reason to believe that high-density genotype data from African and African-American populations may pinpoint more precisely the geographic origin of African ancestry in African-Americans, the researchers said. The study appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, David and Lucile Packard and Burroughs Wellcome Foundation. Research was conducted by lead author Katarzyna Bryca and Adam Autona of the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, Cornell; Matthew R. Nelson of GlaxoSmithKline; Jorge R. Oksenberg and Stephen L. Hauser of the Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco; Scott Williams of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University; Alain Froment of the Unité Mixte de Recherche in Paris; Jean-Marie Bodo of the Ministére de la Recherche Scientifique et de l'Innovation in Cameroon; Charles Wambebe of the International Biomedical Research in Nigeria; and principal investigators Tishkoff and Bustamante.

For a related journal article, see "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans," by Sarah A. Tishkoff et al., Science, Vol. 324: 1035-1044 (May 22, 2009).

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The Legacy of an Inhuman Trade
at the British Colony of St. Helena

By Michael Binyon
The Times
December 10, 2009

Posted online at . .
Copyright 2009 Times Online
[Additional illustrations and subtitle added by ADAN editor]

Halfway between the decaying slave forts of West Africa and the overgrown plantations of the New World, on the tiny island of St. Helena, archaeologists have uncovered one of the largest slave graveyards anywhere in the world.

map of St. Helena location in South Atlantic
The British East India Company's St. Helena facility was located in the Atlantic far off the coast of Central West Africa

The bones of some 10,000 young Africans lie buried in the rocky valleys of this isolated British territory in the South Atlantic, victims of the ruthless trade that Britain dominated in the 18th century but fought to suppress after the abolition of slavery.

A team of British archaeologists uncovered the first graves last year after preparation had begun to build an access road to the site of the planned new airport on St. Helena.

Excavation of grave at St. Helena
Excavation of the grave of a captive African at St. Helena in 2008. Photo copyright by The Times.

The bodies, many of them children, were discovered where they had been buried after being brought to St. Helena between 1840 and 1874 by Royal Navy patrols hunting the slavers. The captured ships were forced into the island where the traders were arrested and their victims liberated. By then, however, many were already dead in the fetid holds where they had been packed together for the long journey.

Many of the survivors also died soon after they were brought to Rupert's Valley, near the capital Jamestown. It was used as a treatment and holding depot by the navy's West Africa Squadron. Smallpox, dysentery and other diseases claimed many of those who had endured hunger, thirst and the terrible conditions below decks.

The discovery of so many bones is of enormous importance in researching the history of slavery. Few graves have been found of captives who died before they were sold in Cuba, Brazil, the United States and other parts of the New World. The find may stimulate fresh emotional debate, especially in the U.S. and other countries involved in the slave trade until the mid-19th century.

The excavations raise very sensitive issues, not least on St. Helena itself. The island, a vital staging post on the route to India, was governed for almost 200 years by the East India Company, and slaves were used there until long after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807. Many St. Helenians are themselves descendants of these early slaves, who remained on the island after they were freed, and there is some reluctance to acknowledge that most people can trace their origins partly to slavery as well as to the early British settlers and labourers brought in from the far corners of the British Empire.

1790 engraving view of St. Helena of the East India Company
"A View of the Town and Island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean belonging to the English East India Company," engraving circa 1790.

The dig was led by Dr. Andrew Pearson, an archaeologist working on behalf of the Department for International Development and the environmental consultantcy Aecom. He said the discovery will advance understanding of the 19th-century slave trade and the political machinations behind its abolition. "It will also bring a voice to a forgotten people who died in limbo, in a place physically and conceptually between freedom and slavery."

Some 325 skeletons have been excavated. They are now being examined by a research team in Jamestown to determine their age, sex, life history and cause of death. So far, the vast majority have been males, with a significant proportion of children or young adults, some less than a year old. Often buried in groups, the individuals were occasionally interred with personal effects, jewellery and fragments of clothing, as well as a few metal tags and artefacts that relate to their enslavement and subsequent rescue. The dry conditions have led to extremely high levels of preservation and hair has been found on some skulls.

Evidence of disease or malnutrition is easy to establish. Bone specialists -- osteologists -- can also detect fractures, trauma, osteoarthritis and other conditions. Many of the young captives appear to have had a hard-working life before being shipped out of Africa. Between 1840 and 1850, 15,000 Africans were landed on St. Helena, of whom nearly 5,000 died. The liberation centre did not finally close until 1874.

Further research will be carried out in Britain, using, for example, isotope analysis to trace the signature in the bones left by groundwater. This may help to pinpoint some of the captives' origins. No one in the 19th century, however, could tell where the slaves came from. Naval officers could not speak their tribal languages, and it was hard to repatriate them to their homeland.

Some of the most striking evidence of their origins, however, comes from their teeth. Most had front teeth filed in particular tribal patterns -- either as an M or an inverted U or with a V notch cut into their front incisors. Some of the patterns were made by chipping at the teeth with stones. Often the result was infection and terrible abcesses, which left marks on the jawbones. Anthropologists may be able to relate tooth patterns to the customs of certain tribes.

The excavation in summer 2008 took 10 weeks. All the graves were found in a swath stretching a few feet on either side of where the airport road will run. Thousands more skeletons still lie in Rupert's Valley, but no more digs are planned, as there is no intention to disturb the other graves. A decision is pending whether the bodies will be reburied in Rupert's Valley, or placed within an ossuary close to their original place of burial.

An observer in 1861 described the terrible scene when a slave ship landed at Rupert's. "The whole deck, as I picked my way from end to end, in order to avoid treading on them, was thickly strewn with the dead, dying and starved bodies of what seemed to me a species of ape that I had never seen before. Yet these miserable, helpless objects being picked up from the deck and handed over the ship's side, one by one, living, dying and dead alike, were really human beings. Their arms were worn down to about the size of a walking stick. Many died as they were passed from the ship to the boat, but there was no time to separate the living from the dead."

The only consolation to those whose ancestors suffered such Belsen-like conditions is that most traders tried to keep the captives fed and fit enough to fetch good prices at the slave markets in America. The journey in sailing ships across the Atlantic took weeks, and if most had died there would have been little profit for the slavers.

The Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron was based in St. Helena and Ascension Island, settled by Britain in only 1815. It was an arduous and dangerous job catching the slavers, especially as warships rarely fired on the elusive traders for fear of killing the captives. There were too few warships to patrol an enormous stretch of coast, and most were slower than the fast American-built vessels used by the traders. Only when steam warships were used did the navy really gain a decisive advantage.

Dr. Pearson said the analysis of the bones will be completed by next May and the findings published by the Council for British Archaeology.

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New Book

The Case Against Afrocentrism
By Tunde Adeleke
University Press of Mississippi, Cloth, 224 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-1604732931, Sept. 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Adeleke book cover
Postcolonial discourses on African Diaspora history and relations have traditionally focused intensely on highlighting the common experiences and links between black Africans and African Americans. This is especially true of Afrocentric scholars and supporters who use Africa to construct and validate a monolithic, racial, and culturally essentialist worldview. Publications by Afrocentric scholars such as Molefi Asante, Marimba Ani, Maulana Karenga, and the late John Henrik Clarke have emphasized the centrality of Africa to the construction of Afrocentric essentialism. In the last fifteen years, however, countervailing critical scholarship has challenged essentialist interpretations of Diaspora history. Critics such as Stephen Howe, Yaacov Shavit, and Clarence Walker have questioned and refuted the intellectual and cultural underpinnings of Afrocentric essentialist ideology.

Tunde Adeleke deconstructs Afrocentric essentialism by illuminating and interrogating the problematic situation of Africa as the foundation of a racialized worldwide African Diaspora. He attempts to fill an intellectual gap by analyzing the contradictions in Afrocentric representations of the continent. These include multiple, conflicting, and ambivalent portraits of Africa; the use of the continent as a global, unifying identity for all blacks; the de-emphasizing and nullification of New World acculturation; and the ahistoristic construction of a monolithic African Diaspora worldwide.

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New Book

Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora:
The Appropriation of a Scattered Heritage

Edited by Afe Adogame, Roswith Gerloff, and Klaus Hock
Continuum, Cloth, 354 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-1847063175, Jan. 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Adogame et al. book cover
This is an exploration of the rapid development of African Christianity, offering an analysis and interpretation of its movements and issues. The rapid development of African Christianity and its offshoots in the Diaspora is rooted in colonial history and resistance to oppression, exploitation and slavery. Through a range of contributions (26 chapters) from diverse regions and traditions, Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora offers new resources for the interpretation and analysis of African Christian movements. It draws attention to a number of key issues, including the translatability of the Christian faith, the process of contextualization in various cultures, the place and role of indigenous agencies, the global impact of contemporary African Christian expressions, its influence on ecumenical relations and inter-religious encounters, and its way of shaping new religious identities and landscapes in response to power relations and artificial boundaries. Topics covered include the concept of Diaspora, deconstructing colonial mission, conversion, African cosmologies, African retentions, female leadership dynamics, liberation theology, a new discourse around HIV/AIDS, transnational religious networks, pentecostal/ charismatic movements, charismatic renewal within former mission churches, dynamics of reverse mission, outreach via cyberspace, specific studies on Anglican, Baptist, Adventist and Kimbanguist missions, and the need for intercultural and interdenominational bridge building.

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New Book

The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans,
Indians and Their Shared History, 1400-1900

By Thomas Benjamin
Cambridge University Press, Cloth, 752 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-0521850995, Feb. 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Benjamin book cover
From ca. 1400 to 1900 the Atlantic Ocean served as a major highway, allowing people and goods to move easily between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. These interactions and exchanges transformed European, African, and American societies and led to the creation of new peoples, cultures, economies, and ideas throughout the Atlantic arena. The Atlantic World provides a comprehensive and lucid history of one of the most important and impactful cross-cultural encounters in human history. Empires, economies, and trade in the Atlantic world thrived due to the European drive to expand as well as the creative ways in which the peoples living along the Atlantic's borders adapted to that drive. This comprehensive, cohesively written textbook offers a balanced view of the activity in the Atlantic world. The 40 maps, 60 illustrations, and multiple excerpts from primary documents bring the history to life. Each chapter offers a reading list for those interested in a more in-depth look at the period.

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New Book

Rossi book cover
Reconfiguring Slavery: West African Trajectories
Edited by Benedetta Rossi
Liverpool University Press, Cloth, 256 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-1846311994, July 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Despite our tendencies to historicize slavery by repeatedly proclaiming its death or end, this volume shows we are mistaken in relegating it to the past, through focusing on a range of trajectories followed by slavery as an institution, as well the lives of particular groups of slave descendents. The contributions presented here show that existing studies of slavery and abolition in West Africa do not adequately portray the fragmented field, and this volume advances a new conceptual framework for understanding slavery in West Africa today by focusing on its recent reconfigurations rather than historical lineages.

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New Book

Bennett book cover
Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico
By Herman L. Bennett
Indiana University Press, Cloth, 248 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-0253353382, June 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Asking readers to imagine a history of Mexico narrated through the experiences of Africans and their descendants, this book offers a radical reconfiguration of Latin American history. Using ecclesiastical and inquisitorial records, Herman L. Bennett frames the history of Mexico around the private lives and liberty that Catholicism engendered among enslaved Africans and free blacks, who became majority populations soon after the Spanish conquest. The resulting history of 17th-century Mexico brings forth tantalizing personal and family dramas, body politics, and stories of lost virtue and sullen honor. By focusing on these phenomena among peoples of African descent, rather than the conventional history of Mexico with the narrative of slavery to freedom figured in, Colonial Blackness presents the colonial drama in all its untidy detail.

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New Book

Curry et al. book cover
Extending the Diaspora: New Histories of Black People
Edited by Dawne Y. Curry, Eric D. Duke, and Marshanda A. Smith
University of Illinois Press, Paperback, 312 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-0252076527, August 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

This groundbreaking collection addresses both new and familiar topics with fresh perspectives to produce original and thought-provoking scholarship on the diasporic histories of black peoples. Through a variety of methodologies and theoretical constructs, the contributors plumb a wide range of localities to engage many important subjects, including slavery and emancipation, transnational and diasporic experiences, social and political activism, and political and cultural identity. In doing so, they offer insightful and thought provoking studies, highlight new areas of inquiry in the African diaspora, and in many cases transcend geographical and national boundaries. The probing and meticulously woven narratives of this collection combine to show the vibrant histories of peoples of African descent.

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New Book

Mintz book cover
African American Voices: A Documentary Reader, 1619-1877
Edited by Steven Mintz
Wiley-Blackwell, Cloth, 4th ed., 264 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-1-4051-8268-3, March 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

A succinct, up-to-date overview of the history of slavery that places American slavery in comparative perspective. Provides students with more than 70 primary documents on the history of slavery in America Includes extensive excerpts from slave narratives, interviews with former slaves, and letters by African Americans that document the experience of bondage. Comprehensive headnotes introduce each selection. A Visual History chapter provides images to supplement the written documents Includes an extensive bibliography and bibliographic essay.

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New Book

Mirzai et al. book cover
Slavery, Islam and Diaspora
Edited by Behnaz A. Mirzai, Ismael Musah Montana, and Paul E. Lovejoy
Africa World Press, Paperback, 336 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-1592217052, Oct. 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Slavery, Islam and Diaspora explores slavery in the context of the Muslim world through a study of the African Diaspora. The volume identifies the enslaved population as a distinct social stratum in Islamic societies and reflects on the ways Islam has been used to justify enslavement, liberate slaves, and defend the autonomy of communities. Local perceptions of Islam are shown to have strongly influenced the way people understood slavery. A cast of talented scholars provides a rich and remarkable volume on the crucial linkages between Islam and slavery in different spaces and places, as well as historical eras, doing so to enrich our understanding of slavery and identity, religion and religious memory, historical commemoration, and the complicated contours of resistance and fiercely nationalistic values.

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New Book

ONeill and Lloyd book cover
The Black and Green Atlantic:
Cross-Currents of the African and Irish Diasporas

Edited by Peter D. O'Neill and David Lloyd
Palgrave Macmillan, Cloth, 296 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-0230228184, Dec. 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

For centuries, African and Irish people have traversed the Atlantic, as slaves, servants, migrants, exiles, political organizers and cultural workers. Their experiences intersected; their cultures influenced one another. These essays explore the connections that have defined the 'Black and Green Atlantic' in culture, politics, race and labour.

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New Book

Pinn book cover
Black Religion and Aesthetics:
Religious Thought and Life in Africa and the African Diaspora

Edited by Anthony B. Pinn
Palgrave Macmillan, Cloth, 232 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-0230605503, July 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

A great deal of attention has been given to the sociopolitical and theological importance of Black Religion. However, of less academic concern up to this point is the aesthetic qualities that define much of what is said and done within the context of Black Religion. Recognizing the centrality of the black body for black religious thought and life, this book proposes a conversation concerning various dimensions of the aesthetic considerations and qualities of Black Religion as found in various parts of the world, including the the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. In this respect, Black Religion is simply meant to connote the religious orientations and arrangements of people of African descent across the globe.

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New Book

Tishken et al. book cover
Sàngó in Africa and the African Diaspora
Edited by Joel E. Tishken, Toyin Falola, and Akintunde Akinyemi
Indiana University Press, Paperback, 376 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-0253220943, June 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Sàngó in Africa and the African Diaspora is a multidisciplinary, transregional exploration of Sàngó religious traditions in West Africa and beyond. Sàngó -- the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning -- is a powerful, fearful deity who controls the forces of nature, but has not received the same attention as other Yoruba orishas. This volume considers the spread of polytheistic religious traditions from West Africa, the mythic Sàngó, the historical Sàngó, and syncretic traditions of Sàngó worship. Readers with an interest in the Yoruba and their religious cultures will find a diverse, complex, and comprehensive portrait of Sàngó worship in Africa and the African world.

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New Book

Petley book cover
Slaveholders in Jamaica: Colonial Society and Culture During the Era of Abolition
By Christer Petley
Pickering & Chatto Ltd., Cloth, 211 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-1851969906, Sept. 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

The Atlantic slave economy was crucial to Britain's colonial enterprise during the eighteenth century but, after the 1780s, abolitionist campaigns helped to undermine the influence and power of British slaveholders. As inhabitants of the largest and most lucrative of the sugar islands in the British empire, slaveholders in Jamaica found themselves at the centre of a transatlantic conflict over the future of slavery, facing vehement political opposition from reformers in the metropole and encountering new kinds of local challenges. Slaveholders in Jamaica combines social and cultural history to explore the composition, social relations and cultural attitudes of the Jamaican slaveholding class during this era. It looks at how white colonists tried to maintain control over Jamaican society and provides a detailed account of their violent and increasingly radical efforts to defend the advantages that they enjoyed as slaveholding white men. This book is based on extensive research in British and Caribbean archives. It sheds valuable new light on the struggle for emancipation in the British empire and on the slaveholders who tried to maintain and defend a system of exploitation that has cast an enduring shadow over the modern world.

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New Book

Anselin book cover
Le Refus de l'esclavitude: Résistances Africaines a la Traite Négrière
(The Refusal of Slavery: African Resistances to the Black Slave Trade)
By Alain Anselin
Editions Duboiris, Paris, Cloth, 214 pp.,
ISBN-13: 978-2-916872-10-0, 2009.

Description from the Publisher:

Through slavers' ship logs, account books, and extensive research, Alain Anselin presents a methodical and thorough work on African resistance to slavery in Le Refus de l'esclavitude: Résistances Africaines a la Traite Négrière (The Refusal of Slavery: African Resistances to the Black Slave Trade). The author considers his book to be an homage to the refusal of slavery, which animated, on sea as well as on land, through three centuries, all the rebellions of tens of thousands African captives destined to slavery on American and Caribbean plantations. The author teaches ancient Egyptian in the Department of Language Sciences at the University of the Antilles-Guyane. He is founder of Cahiers Caribéens d'Égyptologie and an anthropologist.

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New Journal

Black Camera announcement image
Black Camera: The New Series
Edited by Michael T. Martin
Indiana University Press
ISSN 1536-3155.

Description from the Publisher:

Indiana University Press, in partnership with the Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive, is now the publisher of Black Camera: The New Series, edited by Michael T. Martin. Black Camera is devoted to the study of the black cinematic experience and is the only scholarly film journal of its kind in the United States. It features essays and interviews that engage film in social as well as political contexts and in relation to historical and economic forces that bear on the reception, distribution, and production of film in local, regional, national, and transnational settings and environments. In addition, Black Camera includes research and archival notes, editorials, reports, interviews with emerging and prominent filmmakers, and book and film reviews and addresses a wide range of genres -- including documentary, experimental film and video, diasporic cinema, animation, musicals, comedy, etc. While its scope is interdisciplinary and inclusive of all of the African diaspora, the journal devotes issues or sections of issues to national cinemas, as well as independent, marginal, or oppositional films and cinematic formations. Please direct questions and submissions to: Mary K. Huelsbeck, Black Film Center/Archive, Smith Research Center, Suite 180, 2805 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN. 47408, (812) 855-6041, Published semiannually; for subscriptions, contact Indiana University Press/Journals, 601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404, Toll-free: 1-800-842-6796, Email:

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Society for Historical Archaeology
43rd Annual Conference

Amelia Island, Florida, Jan. 6-9, 2010

SHA logo

The 43rd Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology will be held at Amelia Island Plantation, located just north of Jacksonville, Florida. Amelia Island is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, providing the perfect setting for this year’s conference theme, Coastal Connections: Integrating Terrestrial and Underwater Archaeology. Coastal communities of all sizes provide many opportunities for archaeological discussion on current research and theoretical approaches to the coast, but also provide an opportunity to discuss archaeological responsibilities within the profession, and with the public.

The annual forum of the African Diaspora Archaeology Network will be convened on Thursday, January 7, from 9am to 12pm, and is entitled African Diasporas in the South: A Conversation with John Michael Vlach. John Vlach is Professor of American Studies and Anthropology and Director of the Folklife Program at George Washington University. For more than thirty years, he has studied aspects of African diasporas through field research in Africa, the Caribbean, and across the American south. Author of ten books, his titles include The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts, By the Work of Their Hands: Studies in Afro-American Folklife, and Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery. Vlach will discuss subjects such as the material culture of architecture, cemeteries, and ceramics, and areas of concentration he recommends for archaeologists. Additional lead discussants include: Leland Ferguson, University of South Carolina; Kenneth Brown, University of Houston; J. W. Joseph, New South Associates; Carol McDavid, Community Archaeology Research Institute; and James Davidson, University of Florida. Leland Ferguson will respond to Vlach's suggestions from his perspective as a leading scholar in African-American archeology. Joe Joseph and Ken Brown will comment on archaeology in the southeast, and Carol McDavid will address issues of community engagement in such projects. James Davidson will discuss recent projects in Florida. Chris Fennell, University of Illinois, will moderate.

Additional events related to African diaspora archaeology include the following panels and symposia (among others): available tours of Fort Mose State Park, the site of one of America's first free black settlements, and Kingsley plantation; Behind the Scenes of Time Team America at New Philadelphia, Illinois; What's New in Plantation Archaeology; the Archaeology of Freedom; Multiplicity, Remembering, and Forgetting the Recent African American Past; "Standing the Heat," the Material Culture of Kitchens; Cosmopolitanism and Ethnogenesis, Colonialism and Resistance, Florida in Global Perspective; Re-assessing the Archaeology of Fort George Island, Florida, 1587-2009; Mortuary and Cemetery Studies; the Life and Times of Leland Ferguson: From Mississippian to Moravia; Archaeology at a Presidential Plantation, James Madison's Montpelier; Contributions to New World African Diaspora Archaeology; Current Research into Historical Landscapes; and African Historical Archaeology, Diasporic Conversations.

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Generations: Exploring Race, Sexuality, and Labor across Time and Space
2011 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, June 9-12, 2011

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The Berkshire Conference of Women's Historians is holding its next conference at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on June 9-12, 2011. 2011 marks the 15th Berkshire Conference on Women's History and the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, which was first celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and is now honored by more than sixty countries around the globe. The choice of "Generations" reflects this transnational intellectual, political, and organizational heritage as well as a desire to explore related questions such as:

- How have women's generative experiences--from production and reproduction to creativity and alliance building--varied across time and space? How have these been appropriated and represented by contemporaries and scholars alike?

- What are the politics of "generation"? Who is encouraged? Who is condemned or discouraged? How has this changed over time?

- Is a global perspective compatible with generational (in the genealogical sense) approaches to the past that tend to reinscribe national/regional/racial boundaries?

- What challenges do historians of women, gender, and sexuality face as these fields and their practitioners mature?

To engender further, open-ended engagement with these and other issues, the 2011 conference will include workshops dedicated to discussing precirculated papers on questions and problems (epistemological, methodological, substantive) provoked by the notion of generations.

The process for submitting and vetting papers and panels has changed substantially from previous years, so please read the instructions carefully. To encourage transnational discussions, panels will be principally organized along thematic rather than national lines and therefore proposals will be vetted by a transnational group of scholars with expertise in a particular thematic, rather than geographic, field. All proposals must be directed to ONE of the following subcommittees and should be submitted electronically. Please list a second choice for the subcommittee to vet your proposal but do not submit to more than one subcommittee. Instructions for submission will be posted on the Berkshire Conference website ( by November 1, 2009.

Preference will be given to discussions of any topic across national boundaries and to work that addresses sexuality, race, and labor in any context, with special consideration for pre-modern (ancient, medieval, early modern) periods. However, unattached papers and proposals that fall within a single nation/region will also be given full consideration. As a forum dedicated to encouraging innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship and transnational conversation, the Berkshire conference continues to encourage submissions from graduate students, international scholars, independent scholars, filmmakers, and to welcome a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Paper abstracts should be no longer than 250 words; panel (2-3 papers and a comment), roundtable (3 or more short papers) and workshop (1-2 precirculated papers) proposals should also include a summary abstract of no more than 500 words. Each submission must include the cover form and a short cv for each presenter. If you have questions about the most appropriate subcommittee for your proposal or problems with electronic submission, please direct them to Jennifer Spear ( Deadline for Submission: March 1, 2010. Laura L. Lovett, Secretary, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians,

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34th Annual Conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies

University of Southampton, July 7-9, 2010

SCS logo

The Society for Caribbean Studies invites submissions of one-page abstracts and a short CV by 15th January, 2010 for research papers on the Hispanic, Francophone, Dutch and Anglophone Caribbean, and on Caribbean diasporas for this annual international conference. Papers are welcomed from all disciplines and can address the themes outlined below. We also welcome abstracts for papers or for full panel proposals that fall outside this list of topics. Those selected for the conference will be invited to give a 20-minute presentation and will be offered the opportunity to publish their work as part of the Society's online series of papers.

Provisional panels: Maritime Studies; Archaeology and Material Culture; Ports of Arrival; Pedagogy and Education; The Windrush Generation; Intra-Caribbean Migration; Caribbean Popular Music; Performance; Regional Integration and the Future of Caricom; Oral History; Nature-Society Relations. To submit an abstract online, please consult the Society website:

The Society will provide a limited number of Postgraduate Bursaries for presenters to assist with registration and accommodation costs. Postgraduate researchers should indicate that they are seeking a bursary when submitting their abstract, but please note that travel costs cannot be funded. Arts researchers or practitioners living and working in the Caribbean are eligible to apply for the Bridget Jones Award, the deadline for which is also 15th January, 2010. For further queries, or alternative methods of abstract submission, contact Lorna Burns ( For more information on the Bridget Jones Award, contact Kate Quinn ( or visit the Society website.

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Bodies, Borders, and Resistance
in the African Diaspora: An Interdisciplinary Conference

Indiana University-Bloomington, April 9-10, 2010

Hudson conference image

What does it mean to be a Black person in diaspora, perpetually leaving home to recreate home someplace else? Who defines the borders that can be called home? Who determines what identities are acceptable? What parts of self do they take or leave behind each time they move or recreate? What do they resist most: remembering or forgetting?

The graduate society of the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University seeks abstracts for the seventh annual Herman C. Hudson Symposium. This year our theme is "Bodies, Borders, and Resistance in the African Diaspora." We are also excited to announce that the Honorable Cynthia Shepard Perry, former United States Ambassador to Burundi and Sierra Leone, will give the keynote address. We are interested in (but will not limit ourselves to) papers examining: the black body as a site of memory and sociopolitical capital; the intersections of class, mobility, and diasporic consciousness; the role of social institutions as resistance; the commodification of blackness in popular culture; the role of civil wars and transnational conflicts in redefining diaspora; national borders and immigration; the role of technology in creating global black communities; race, gender, and class in the 21st century; and the agency of black diasporic communities in defining borders and modes of resistance.

Interested panelists should submit a one-page abstract of an unpublished paper and a one-page CV. Presenters who are interested in displaying visual art should submit a digital CD of their work along with a one-page abstract discussing the details of their piece(s). Panel proposals should include a description of the panel’s theme, a one-page abstract from each paper, the name of the panel chair, and a one-page CV for each participant. All abstracts should include the academic affiliation of each participant. Submission Deadline: January 31, 2010. Please email abstracts and accompanying information to the attention of: Shana Riddick at If submitting a CD, please indicate this in your email. CD should be mailed to the attn of: Shana Riddick at the following address: Herman C. Hudson Symposium 2009, African American and African Diaspora Studies, Indiana University, 1021 E. Third St., Memorial Hall, M18, Bloomington, IN 47403, (812) 855-3875,

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Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space
American Historical Association Meeting
History, Society, and the Sacred

Boston, January 6-9, 2011

Araujo living history image

Call for papers for a multi-session workshop entitled Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space as part of "History, Society, and the Sacred," the American Historical Association Meeting, in Boston, Massachusetts, January 6-9, 2011. This workshop is being organized by Ana Lucia Araujo, Department of History, Howard University.

The last two decades have seen considerably increased interest in issues connected to memory and the historical past such as museums, monuments, festivals, and commemorative events. Following the World War II, Holocaust survivors became the quintessential example of victims who embodied the resurgence of memory. As witnesses of incarceration, forced labor, and genocide they were able to narrate the traumatic events they experienced. Following the emergent memorial wave of the post-WWII, slavery gradually became an object of public memory. The emergence of the public memory of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade, which some years ago could be observed mainly in North America, was slowly transformed into a transnational phenomenon now including Europe, Africa, and Latin America; allowing the populations of African descent, organized groups, governments and societies in these different regions to individually and collectively update and reconstruct the slave past. In some cases, the emergence of the memory of slavery was followed by claims of financial compensation, but frequently social and historical actors express the need for memorialization through public commemoration, museums, monuments, festivals, and holidays. Some of these initiatives led public personalities such as the Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton and the PM Tony Blair to publicly express their sorrow for the Atlantic slave trade. During the 1990s commemoration activities and official projects to promote the history and the memory of slavery became more visible in Europe, Africa and the Americas, the UNESCO's Slave Route Project being the most important initiative of this kind. At the same time, there were attempts, not always successful, to highlight and compare the Atlantic slave trade and slavery to slavery and the slave trades in African soil, the Indian Ocean and the Muslim world.

Taking the transnational emergence of the memory of slavery in the last twenty years as a point of departure, the workshop aims to examine the particularities of this memorial wave in one or more regions of the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. Paper proposals dealing with different aspects of the public memory of slavery, here seen as the reconstruction of the slave past in the present, such as monuments, memorials, museums, exhibitions, festivals, holidays, films, television series, websites, internet forums, virtual communities, literary works, images and textbooks will attempt to answer the following questions: What political stakes encompassed the emergence of the public memory of slavery in national and transnational spaces? What aspects characterized the presence or the absence of slavery and the slave trade in public spaces of various regions of the Americas, Europe and Africa? What difficulties and problems accompanied the appropriation of the public sphere? What actors did lead (or benefit from) this appropriation? What conflicting elements did emerge from this appropriation? What elements were absent from this new presence of slavery in the public arena? How did the public memory of slavery and the slave trade contrast with private and family memories? What images of slavery and enslaved Africans were emphasized or neglected? What the emergence of the public memory of slavery can tell us about the present-day conditions of populations of African descent in the national and transnational spaces?

Please send your paper proposal no later than February 1st 2010 to: or Paper proposals must be written in ENGLISH and contain: Paper's title; Abstract (up to 300 words); Biographical paragraph (up to 250 words, no curriculum vitae, please); Correct mailing and e-mail address; Audiovisual needs, if any. Chairs and commentators, please send: Biographical paragraph (up to 250 words, no curriculum vitae, please); Correct mailing and e-mail addresses. When writing your paper proposal, be aware that abstracts of accepted proposals will be posted on the program website. The workshop will probably include several formats of panels, including sessions with precirculated papers. If your paper and panel are accepted in this kind of session, you will be invited to submit your paper in December 1st 2010, in order to allow AHA Program Committee to post your paper on the conference website.

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The Slave Voyage Database and African Economic History: A Workshop

Harriet Tubman Institute, York University, May 3, 2010

Slave Voyages database image

Call for papers for a workshop and a special thematic issue of the African Economic History journal, to be edited by José C. Curto and Paul E. Lovejoy. The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples and the editors of African Economic History announce a call for papers for a special issue on the The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database ( and its significance for African economic history. The Tubman Institute is providing a forum for discussion and debate over the relevance of the database in understanding African economic history.

The pioneering work of Philip Curtin led to subsequent expansion of the demographic analysis of the forced migration of African peoples under slavery, culminating initially in David Eltis, David Richardson, Stephen Behrendt, and Herbert S. Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), and now greatly expanded through extensive collaboration among scholars into the on-live slave voyage database. The great debt that scholars owe to the editors and compilers of this database is enormous. Under the leadership of David Eltis, and including Herbert Klein, Steven Behrendt, David Richardson, Manolo Florentino and many other scholars, the records of over 35,000 voyages have been assembled into a user friendly, open source, on-line database. The achievements of this monumental collaboration now wait to be explored and challenged.

Proposals should be submitted to and must meet the following criteria: 1. Essays must address the historical issues and methodological problems arising from the voyage database as relating specifically to African economic history. 2. Essays must use the database, subject to critique and qualified analysis. 3. Essays may be submitted in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. Accepted essays will be presented at a Workshop of invited participants at the Tubman Institute, York University, Toronto, on Monday, May 3, 2010. Accepted essays will be published in a special issue of African Economic History and subsequently as a volume in the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora published by Africa World Press.

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Searching for the African Voice:
Studying Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa

Buea, Cameroon, December 14-16, 2010

Cameroon location image

The export of men, women and children from Africa to the America lasted over four hundred years and touched most communities in Africa, directly or indirectly. We now know a great deal about this trade: its gender and age composition, the ways in which individuals and communities responded to the trade, the extent to which warfare, kidnapping, legal mechanisms, economic processes and religious institutions generated a pool of people to be bought and sold. We know about resistance, the formation of slave-trading states and the increased use of slaves within Africa. We have some autobiographical accounts by those who were literate or achieved literacy after their capture, but these are few. Most of the sources used to write the history of slavery in Africa are European, but the memories of the Atlantic slave trade remain and are embedded in African ritual, song, and memory.

We are inviting proposals dealing with the exploration of new methodologies and the re-examination of old ones. Our major objective is to make available to students and scholars African sources on slavery, enslavement and the slave trade and to improve our understanding of these documents. The conference is open to any methodology that taps African voices. Our goal is to seek out and explore new methodologies to find more African sources, and if possible, to look for the voices of the slaves themselves as well as the enslavers, and buyers and sellers on how they perceived their own actions and experiences. We also want to make these sources more widely available. We can accept sources originating from other continents only if they involve memories of Africa and the trade from Africa.

This is the third gathering on this subject. When we organized the recent Toronto conference on Tales of Slavery: Narratives of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Enslavement in Africa, we received 26 abstracts from Africa. Many of them described interesting and innovative research. We were only able to bring seven of those 26 scholars to Toronto. Our enterprise clearly was of interest to African scholars. Our goal was to find new African sources for slavery and the slave trade, and through that, to give a more varied picture of the African experience. Historians of the slave trade have depended too much on European information.

As a result, a group of us sought funding from the West African Research Association for a workshop in Cameroon, where much of the best research is being done. WARA has come through with a small grant for a workshop to be entitled Searching for the African Voice: Studying Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa. It will be held in Buea, Cameroon December 14 to 16 of 2010. That is approximately a year from today. Those interested in participating should send a title and an abstract to Denis Fomin at Denis Fomin and Idrissou Alioum ( will be handling local organization. Ibrahima Thioub and Paul Lovejoy are also involved in the planning of the conference. At present, we do not have a lot of money to fund travel. Most of the funds we have will be used to bring participants from Cameroon and Eastern Nigeria. We hope to find some additional funds, but right now, that is not guaranteed. Please feel free to communicate this call for papers to other scholars doing research on the slave trade. Organizing Committee: Denis Fomin, University of Yaounde; Idrissou Alioum, University of Yaounde; Ibrahima Thioub, Cheaikh Anta Diop University, Dakar; Paul Lovejoy, York University, Toronto; Martin Klein, University of Toronto.

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Slaves' Stories

Special Issue of Transatlantica Journal

Transatlantica image

Slaves' Stories, a special issue of Transatlantica, the electronic journal of the French Association for American Studies (Association Française d'Etudes Américaines). Guest editors Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec (Assistant Professor, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada) and Nathalie Dessens (Professor, University of Toulouse, France).

The history of slavery has increasingly revolved in recent years around life stories -- or rather lives' stories -- in a trend that is often close to micro-history. This, in part, seems to be a response to the social and cultural history of slavery -- produced from the 70s to the 90s -- that may have, in the end, by-passed the voices of the main actors, the slaves themselves. From Alessandro Stella's book to the work of Paul Lovejoy, to the various projects initiated by the Centre International de Recherche sur les Esclavages (CNRS, France), or to the way the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain was recently brought to memory, the trend has been to go back to the origins, to the slaves' lives, to their daily and peculiar lives. Now is the time, it seems, for ordinary stories, often full of contradictory emotions; now is the time, apparently, for a new historical narrative that places the fragment at the center of the story; a narrative that brings us close to the memorializing task of contemporary actors.

This "Slaves' stories" special issue explores the return to life -- or lives' -- narratives, to that new fabric of personal and familiar stories. All approaches -- empirical, theoretical, and historiographical -- are accepted in this interdisciplinary issue that will welcome studies in literature, history, or anthropology.

Although we mainly expect proposals dealing with the English-speaking world (the United States, Great Britain, and the British Caribbean), we are very favorable to proposals opening the field of investigation to other societies of the Americas concerned by slavery, for instance Brazil or the Spanish and French-speaking Americas (this list is not exhaustive), notably through comparisons.

Among subjects that could be broached are the description of the slaves' living spaces; the Middle Passage (and broader questions of migrations); the representation of the master/slave or slave/slave power relationships in the literature, daily geography, or pictorial representation of slavery; the way slavery has been depicted in movies, documentaries, or paintings. This special issue is conceived as a privileged place to present (or present again in different forms) various primary sources like slave narratives or neo-slave narratives, planters' correspondences, testimonies of previously enslaved people, judicial sources, reports of parliamentary or congressional committees, etc. Fields connected with the memorializing of slavery are not excluded from this list.

Proposals of articles, research notes, or documents with a multimedia perspective, must be sent by 15 April 2010 to Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec ( and Nathalie Dessens ( The articles (no longer than 7 000 words, including notes and short bibliography) will have to be received by 15 September 2010 to be sent out to review. Final revised versions of articles accepted after the reviewing process will have to be sent no later than 15 December 2010.

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Hauser book cover

Published by H-Caribbean, (Oct. 2009).

Mark W. Hauser. An Archaeology of Black Markets: Local Ceramics and Economies in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008. xxiii + 269 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8130-3261-0.

Reviewed for H-Caribbean by Audrey R. Dawson, University of South Carolina

Moving from "Roots" to "Routes" in the Study of Colono Ware: A Jamaican Example

In An Archaeology of Black Markets: Local Ceramics and Economies in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica, Mark W. Hauser examines the extent of the internal marketing system of eighteenth-century Jamaica through the distribution of the coarse, low-fired earthenwares known as yabbas. This pottery, he argues, "can be a venue into the cultural experiences of enslaved Jamaicans, the scales of its expression, and the historical forces that shaped it" because it is "a durable expression of the social relations that the enslaved created and operated within" (p. 4). Markets provided venues where enslaved and freed peoples of African descent could "feed themselves, accumulate cash and material wealth" (p. 2). They also provided a social setting where news, gossip, and information were exchanged. To the plantation owners, these markets were, on the one hand, economically beneficial because they provided the enslaved laborers with a way to provision themselves. On the other hand "the markets were loci of resistance, places in which the self was refashioned, and arenas for the emergence of social networks in which communities developed" (p. 2). Hauser's work shifts the conversation away from the debate over the origins of Colono ware in order to examine the social networks created through the internal marketing system in which this ware was traded.

Hauser begins chapter 1 with a brief overview of the current theoretical and methodological state of American, and more specifically Caribbean, historical archaeology and its current focus on social "actors" and matters of scale especially in relation to how the larger commodity networks affect communities. He argues that within the Caribbean the African Diaspora needs to be examined using concepts of political economy, power, embodiment, and identity. A historical context for Jamaica from its settlement by the Spanish shortly after 1493 through 1840, using these four concepts, makes up the remainder of the chapter. The section dealing with the Jamaican plantation is divided into four parts that specifically correspond to the above-mentioned concepts: The Plantation Economy, The Plantation Colony, The Plantation Community, and The Plantation in Between. Within each part, Hauser provides a review of archaeological literature dealing with the slave regime and the plantations' relationship to larger markets, the physical layout of a plantation, the villages of enslaved laborers, and the spaces used by the enslaved, which were out of view of the plantation owners.

Chapter 2 examines the current literature concerning internal marketing systems and the historical record to examine eighteenth-century markets in Jamaica. Because these markets were informal, the historical record is limited. Some available sources include planter journals, legal documents, and occasional drawings depicting Sunday markets in the larger urban areas. Hauser argues that the internal marketing system was not a single institution. It was a "complex array of interactions that focused around the planter, the merchant, the freeperson, and the enslaved laborers" (p. 41). Similarly, the system did not only involve enslaved peoples of African descent. In Jamaica, the internal marketing system was so entrenched in the social fabric of everyday life by the eighteenth century that "everybody in Jamaica was dependent on the internal economy" (p. 41). Regardless of its expansiveness, the markets were not favored by everyone; planters often viewed them negatively for the disorder they brought into plantation life.

An examination of the sites from which samples of yabbas were collected is provided in chapter 3. The pottery was collected from seven previously excavated sites with eighteenth-century components from both urban and rural contexts. The sites include three sugar plantations (Seville, Drax Hall, and Thetford), a provisioning estate (Juan de Bollas), the governor of Jamaica's residence in Spanish Town (Old King's House), and two urban locations from Port Royal (Old Naval Dockyard and Saint Peter's Church). The sites are spread across the island, with two sites (Seville and Drax Hall) located along the north coast, one site (Thetford) situated near the island's center, and the four remaining sites located around Kingston Harbor along the island's south coast. Historic roads and waterways connected the sites.

The following two chapters focus on pottery. Chapter 4 provides a detailed examination of the literature surrounding the coarse earthenwares of the African Diaspora commonly lumped together and referred to as "Colono ware." Often, research concerning these historic, hand-built wares focuses heavily on questions of ethnic and cultural identity.[1] Hauser argues that by viewing Colono ware "as a localized ceramic material whose production, distribution, and use are affected by the emergent Atlantic economy," the geographical extent of this ware should be extended "to include not only Brazil, the North American colonies, and the Caribbean, but also the settlements and factories located along the West African coast" (p. 97). Extending the geographic distribution of Colono ware shifts the focus away from trying to identify the "identity(ies) of the potters and their antecedents" and onto "issues of political economy, social transformations, and local responses to global colonialism and capitalism" (p. 97). Chapter 5 examines the yabbas in greater detail. Specific vessel forms and types along with information on the frequency of each form through time are presented here. Ethnographic work with a local potter, Marlene Roden, is also included in this chapter.

Chapter 6 discusses the process and results of ceramic petrography and neutron activation analysis of the yabbas from eight archaeological contexts on the seven sites mentioned above (two separate samples were examined from Drax Hall). Samples from Marlene Roden's waster pile were subjected to neutron activation analysis. Ceramic petrography uses a high-powered microscope to identify and count specific minerals in the ceramic paste. Neutron activation analysis determines the types and concentrations of elements in a sample. The results of this analysis show that pottery from the sites on the north coast (Seville and Drax Hall) was most likely made using the same recipe as pottery from the other sites in the center of the island and along the south coast. The results suggest that the coarse utilitarian wares were not produced for home or even local consumption. In fact, some wares traveled great distances, which suggests that the enslaved venders who sold these wares were incredibly mobile given the constraints placed on them by the plantation economy. This analysis also shows that Marlene Roden's recipe matches that of the eighteenth-century slipped and burnished pieces, suggesting that recipes were passed from one generation to the next.

In the book's epilogue, Hauser summarizes the work by relating the results of the petrographic and chemical analysis back to the movement of enslaved laborers and goods in Jamaica and to the creation of identity among enslaved laborers in the plantation economy. The results in tabular form for the petrographic analysis are presented as appendix A while appendix B presents the technical results from the neutron activation analysis. A comprehensive bibliography completes the book.

This book is an excellent example of applying petrographic and chemical analysis to coarse earthenwares of the African Diaspora in order to examine the social networks created by enslaved laborers on Jamaica within the larger colonial and capitalist systems. Looking past the idea that Colono ware is an ethnic or cultural marker, Hauser has highlighted the extensive social networks created among the enslaved laborers on Jamaica through the island's internal marketing system. The immense amount of research conducted by the author is evident in the comprehensive bibliography. Overall, this book is a wonderful contribution to Caribbean historical archaeology and would be useful for courses and/or people interested in African Diaspora archaeology, Caribbean archaeology and history, internal marketing systems, and/or case studies in chemical compositional analysis.


[1]. Examples of historic archaeological research concerning Colono ware as an ethnic or cultural marker include Leland Ferguson, Uncommon Ground: Archaeology and Early African America, 1650-1800 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992); James Deetz, "American Historical Archaeology: Methods and Results," Scienc 22 (January 1988): 362-367; and David L. Mouer et al., "Colonoware Pottery, Chesapeake Pipes, and 'Uncritical Assumptions,'" in "I Too, Am America," Archaeological Studies of African-American Life, ed. Theresa Singleton (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999), among many others.

Copyright (c) 2009 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes.

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Litwack book cover

Published by H-Law, (Sept. 2009).

Leon F. Litwack. How Free Is Free? The Long Death of Jim Crow. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. 187 pp. $18.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-03152-4.

Reviewed for H-Law by Christopher Schmidt, American Bar Foundation

Jim Crow's Persistence

In How Free Is Free? The Long Death of Jim Crow, Leon F. Litwack brings to print the Nathan I. Huggins lectures he delivered at Harvard in 2004. The book consists of three chapters, each centered on the black experience during a different period of American history. The first chapter begins with Reconstruction and moves through the early twentieth century, focusing on how black men and women understood and resisted racism's depraved depths during the high-water years of Jim Crow. The second chapter turns to World War II, a period marked by a combustible collision of African American optimism and the continued reality of life in segregated America. The most tightly focused of the three chapters, it offers a preview of Litwack's work-in-progress, "Pearl Harbor Blues: The Black South and Race Relations in World War II." The final chapter picks up with the late 1960s, when many black activists expressed a growing disillusionment with the mainstream civil rights movement, and then moves to more recent issues and events, including rap music, the 9/11 attacks, and Hurricane Katrina.

This is a short book that covers a great deal of ground. In contrast to his earlier major works, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (1980) and Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow (1998), here Litwack necessarily adopts an approach more impressionistic than comprehensive. His portrait of African American resilience and resistance over the past century and a half revolves around two basic historical claims. First, Litwack emphasizes that social and political rights are inadequate without economic rights. The civil rights achievements of the past century failed to truly respond to the damaging legacy of slavery and Jim Crow largely because they lacked a serious concern for economic justice. Second, he argues that white racism has been and continues to be the central obstacle to racial equality. This can be seen particularly in the unsteady commitment of the federal government to racial equality -- Litwack identifies a recurrent pattern in which progressive reforms are inevitably "compromised, deferred, and undone" (p. 4). The decades since the civil rights movement have seen racism become less flagrant, but also more insidious, more difficult to dislodge. These claims are the touchstone truths around which the book revolves, their validity assumed rather than rigorously demonstrated. (On a general level they are basically irrefutable, although Litwack's use of these arguments to explain specific historical events, particularly in the recent past, can be quite provocative.) Litwack's primary contribution in this book is in describing the ways in which African Americans have recognized and articulated these truths. He does so by drawing on a generous selection of excerpts from oral histories, fiction, poetry, and songs. This approach effectively recreates the mind-set and emotions of some of the most eloquent and insightful voices from the African American community, capturing their aspirations, their frustrations, and particularly their anger at racial inequality.

One of the most striking aspects of this book is the way Litwack allows his own voice to be subsumed by the words of his historical subjects. These words come not only from familiar sources (W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X), but also from those less known or often unknown voices that Litwack has so effectively drawn on in his previous books: sharecroppers, maids, laborers, servicemen, and anyone else whose words Litwack is able to resurrect. In conveying the language and tone of some of black America's most passionate and eloquent voices, the book pushes against the limitations of the genre of traditional historical scholarship. Litwack offers extended excerpts from novels, poems, songs, and oral histories, sometimes including just enough text to bridge from one excerpt to the next. Occasionally, he simply inserts, without introduction or identification (other than a footnote), some lines from a song or a section of poetry. The result is a distinctive mixture of historian and subject material. It is an engaging tour of African American insight, eloquence, humor, and anger in the face of racial injustice.

If there is a single overarching theme to How Free Is Free? it is persistence: the persistence of white racism, the persistence of racial inequality, and the persistence of African Americans who refuse to accept racial injustice. "It is all very different. It is all very much the same," Litwack concludes at the end of the book. "In the early twenty-first century, it is a different America, and it is a familiar America" (p. 143). This emphasis on the continuities of the African American experience means that over the course of the book, the historical actors Litwack brings to the foreground sound strikingly alike. The whites who appear in this book tend toward the ignominious end of the spectrum of racial enlightenment, somewhere between openly racist and apathetic. And the African American voices that dominate the text return again and again to several basic themes: anger and frustration at the failure of white America to follow through on progressive ideals and policies, recognition of the intransigence of white racism, and an insistence on the limitations of civil rights without sufficient attention to economic inequality.

It is worth noting, however, that Litwack's characterization of African American sentiment at any particular point is based largely on his source selection. He relies on black voices that are almost without exception demanding, uncompromising, and often simply angry. (Blacks expressing their desire to kill whites is practically a motif of the book.) These views represent an important and sometimes underappreciated slice of African American thought, one that Litwack clearly admires for its insight into the pervasive injustices faced by blacks and its ability to powerfully capture black frustration with these injustices. But to extrapolate these statements into a broader generalization of African American attitudes can be misleading. His description of the effect of World War II on black veterans, for example, points in a radical, even apocalyptic, direction: "Not only did blacks lose respect for whites, but those who had fought lost another quality which had been instilled in them over several centuries--namely, fear of whites" (p. 92). But is this attitude representative of the experiences of the thousands of black soldiers who served in World War II? Much African American activism in the years immediately following the war was notable for the way it combined civil rights militancy with patriotic fervor. Similarly, describing recent decades as a period of civil rights "rollback, backlash, and resentment," and of "growing despair" by black Americans captures an element of contemporary race relations, but hardly the complex whole (p. 138).

Yet Litwack's stated goal is not to describe the diversity of beliefs among African Americans or to diagnose the complexities of white racial attitudes. Rather, he envisions this book as a rebuttal to simplistic and ahistorical claims that the United States has moved beyond the shadow of slavery and Jim Crow and has entered some sort of colorblind or post-racial moment. How Free is Free? is best read as a historically informed work of cultural criticism with an explicit agenda. It is aimed at those who find "refuge and comfort in a highly selective memory that refused to acknowledge the experience of black people as part of the American heritage" (p. 6). "Most Americans," Litwack concludes, "reveal a continued blindness to crimes against humanity inflicted on other Americans, crimes condoned by the state and the courts" (p. 140). This book forces the reader to appreciate the harsh reality of these crimes as well as their damaging legacy, while also conveying the strength, the character, and most especially the eloquence of black America.

Copyright (c) 2009 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes.

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Gellman book cover

Published by H-SHEAR, (Sept. 2009).

David N. Gellman. Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006. xi + 297 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8071-3174-9.

Reviewed for H-SHEAR by Richard Bond, Virginia Wesleyan College

Pirates, National Politics, and the Black Voice, Oh My! Discourses about New York's Gradual Abolition Act

Over the course of the past twenty years, histories of free and enslaved black New Yorkers have appeared in increasing numbers, and recent work, inspired by the insightful archeological evidence unearthed from the African Burial Ground that lies steps from City Hall and the remarkably well-attended exhibitions mounted by the New-York Historical Society four years ago, has helped New York's slave community to attain an important place in the study of early slavery. "Yet," as David N. Gellman observes in his insightful book, Emancipating New York, while slaves' lives have garnered considerable scholarly attention, "how New Yorkers decided to abolish slavery at all is, at best, partially understood" (p. 1).

Emancipating New York helps rectify that problem. Through a sustained analysis of the debate over the end of slavery, Gellman argues that abolition in New York revealed deep disagreements "about citizenship, the proper dimension of the public sphere, the regional and partisan identities of New Yorkers, and the political economy of prosperity, poverty, and productivity" (p. 1). Gellman focuses throughout his work on the participation of New Yorkers in a larger public discourse that shaped the initial resistance to and eventual acceptance of the 1799 "Act for the gradual abolition of slavery." By tracing ongoing print disputes, drawn mainly from newspapers, he showcases the multiple voices of free whites, black citizens, and slaves as partisan persuaders, economic opportunists, and metaphorical discursive subjects on the page. And he also shows how the debate over slavery shaped and was shaped by debates over other early national concerns, including the meaning of citizenship, the growth and development of governmental institutions and policies, the profitable pathways to economic vitality, the ongoing fears of piratical activities, and the meaning of the "black voice." In the end, Gellman argues that the articulation of the ideologies of "white supremacy" and "egalitarianism" that emerged during New Yorkers' debate over slavery prefigured "the prolonged debate over slavery" that occurred throughout the following six decades (p. 10).

In part 1 of his three-part book, Gellman aptly summarizes many of the conclusions that historians of colonial and early national slavery have reached regarding the growing urban port town. Gellman insists that the American Revolution played the most significant early role in the eventual destabilization of the slave regime. The author does acknowledge that, superficially, New York's slave population witnessed few changes following the war, best exemplified by the 1777 state constitutional convention's rejection of a gradual abolition proposal. Yet the large-scale national changes incited by the war's successful cessation all helped to lay the groundwork for later transformations.

The central analytical thrust of Gellman's book is part 2. Six chapters tell two interrelated stories. First, Gellman analyzes how New Yorkers, spurred on by the New York Manumission Society, embraced gradualism as an effective strategy for abolition, and second, he shows how slavery became identified with a number of early national causes. Gellman begins his analysis in 1785 when the newly constituted state legislature debated a possible abolition bill. While the bill garnered some initial support, particularly in rural counties, this early attempt at abolition foundered. Ultimately, New York's council vetoed the bill and described it as "internally contradictory"; council members noted that the bill's drafters were unable to reconcile how potentially freed slaves would fit into the polity (p. 50).

Further legislative debates over gradualism would reappear during the following decade (and would culminate in the passage of the 1799 act). Gellman's analytical focus is not social activism, however. While he does examine the actions of the New York Manumission Society and its members' grudging acceptance of gradualism as a tactic to advance their agenda, Gellman's strengths lie elsewhere. Throughout the core chapters of part 2, he expertly traces the ways in which discourse about slavery frequently intersected with a number of seemingly disconnected debates that occurred simultaneously with the march toward gradual abolition. The goal here is twofold. First, Gellman seeks to demonstrate that abolition's advocates and enemies did not rest on their laurels following the defeat of the 1785 bill; rather they injected their political ideologies into a number of public debates to gain adherents to their cause. Second, Gellman uses these debates to contextualize the 1799 gradual abolition debate and explain how abolition partially won the day. He insists that the emphasis abolitionists placed on the importance of sentiment, the creation of a fair political economy, and the use of state power in order to protect the innocent during these debates help to explain how and why New Yorkers accepted the gradual abolition of the state's enslaved population.

Chapter 5 focuses on how pro- and antislavery discourses were inserted "into a wide variety of debates and discourses that otherwise had seemingly little to do with domestic slavery" (p. 78). In particular, Gellman elucidates how slavery's assailants and apologists "attach[ed] the language of slavery to specific social problems," specifically capital punishment, debt imprisonment, Mediterranean pirate attacks, the burgeoning New York maple sugar industry, and constitutional ratification (p. 80). In each case, the author shows how debates about slavery helped to shape the public discourse surrounding these unrelated issues. For example, antislavery advocates utilized the moral outrage produced by "stories of American sailors kidnapped on the high seas by Algerian pirates" in order to "draw attention to the evils of African bondage in America" (pp. 82-83). Alternately, Gellman also explores how William Cooper's foray into domestic maple sugar production in upstate New York led to comparisons between the "purity" of northern sugar and the "poison and filth" produced through the enforced labor of West Indian slaves (pp. 92-93). Thus, such debates were recast within the rhetoric of free labor's superiority over slave labor helping, Gellman insists, to build the case for abolition.

Chapter 6 continues this line of analysis, though the author shifts his focus from the content of these debates to their form. Gellman places the "black voice" at the center of his analysis and links questions about the efficacy of the black voice to the place of future freed blacks within the polity. Newspaper writers might have used the derisive black voice, founded on assumptions of cultural and intellectual inequality, to lampoon legislative proposals and, by doing so, confirmed for readers that "blacks could not serve usefully as citizen-speakers" in the new Republic (p. 111). Yet "other parts of the newspaper," Gellman maintains, "imagined the words of Africans in a manner that allowed the black voice to contend for respect in the public sphere" (p. 115). In this case, poetical "dramatized sentimentality" stressed a "fundamental human identity," thus leading readers to realize that "black and white conditions should be judged by the same criteria" (p. 120). Admittedly, both renderings of the black voice were "controlled" via the manipulations of white literary marionettes, but such examples still confirmed for New York's newspaper readers that the potential equality of the state's black actors remained an open question.

Gellman turns his attention in chapter 7 to the larger political drama that gripped the nation in the 1790s. Arguments between Federalist and Republican sympathizers also embroiled them in the politics of gradual abolition, according to Gellman. At times, both Federalists and Republicans used the discourse of slavery "to make political hay," particularly in debates over the qualifications of John Jay, long an associate of the New York Manumission Society, for political office (p. 131). Moreover, events during the period, from the Haitian Revolution to the Jay Treaty, allowed New Yorkers to construct a regional identity that pitted a self-consciously constructed mild form of northern slavery against the "negative impressions of southern racial bondage" filled with tales of violence (p. 144). Such characterizations of regional identity, coupled with the power of the black sympathetic voice and the numerous ancillary debates into which slavery was inserted, ensured that when "gradual abolition returned to the state legislative agenda" at the end of the decade, it did so "in a transformed political geography [that] opened the way for success for antislavery activists committed to bringing New York into the fold of an abolitionizing North" (p. 151).

These three chapters represent the most insightful contributions that Gellman offers historians interested in slavery's end, either in New York or in the nation more broadly. By studying the discourses that surrounded and informed slavery's debates, he convincingly shows that pro- and antislavery factions frequently inserted the language of slavery and their own ideological positions into a surprising number of contexts. While white and black New Yorkers continually wrestled with how to shape their new republican polity, to identify who could wield rights, and to mark who did and did not belong within their society, many also struggled to define slavery's future. Or, better stated, many New Yorkers came to realize that slavery and citizenship were interrelated; slavery was, or could be placed at, the heart of innumerable issues of the day. Consequently, Gellman's monograph becomes more than a study of gradual abolition, but a study of the terms that early Americans used to define the core concept of freedom itself.

Yet, while these chapters showcase Gellman at his best, they also raise a number of questions about the extent and limits of the discourse that he analyzes. The source base, for example, relies mainly, though not exclusively, on newspapers. There is little doubt that newspapers functioned as important elements within the emerging public space of the nation. However, one wonders if slavery infringed on other forms of public discourse to the extent that Gellman traces in newspapers. How frequently was the language of slavery employed in the numerous oral addresses being given at this time or in the public performances and demonstrations that many scholars have studied? To ask a different question, did the language of slavery that surfaced in public discourse play a part in the private discourse of the era? Public language is necessarily performative and persuasive, as Gellman notes with the black voice. Might an alternate rhetoric of slavery and racism emerge in private discourse? Can we find a different understanding of citizenship asserted in other places?

While such questions remain purely speculative, more troubling for Gellman's analysis is that he, at times, conflates multiple languages of abolition, specifically a discourse about the ending of the slave trade with one about the manumission of slaves. Gellman is right to note that both languages were circulating throughout 1790s New York, but the question remains whether a discourse concerning the abolition of the slave trade was as instrumental in the move toward black freedom as the author suggests. For instance, Gellman draws on a poem that appeared in a 1788 newspaper to highlight ways in which the black voice drew sympathetic attention to the potential destruction of a black family. Yet the poem's female protagonist weeps for the forced enslavement of her brother along the African coast. Gellman cogently notes that such portrayals of the devastation that slavery visited on black families were designed to arouse "feelings of human fellowship [which] made the best argument against slavery" (p. 120). These arguments were later used to cement a more widespread acceptance for gradual abolition in the late 1790s than existed in 1785. Yet, if the poem's setting remained in Africa, would the poem necessarily resonate with the issue of slavery's abolition? Might such examples indicate a desire to end the external slave trade instead? Might the above example be used with equal aplomb by proslavery factions? Might the discourses at work be even more numerous than Gellman notes?

Reception is a difficult issue for any author to trace, and some of the speculative questions I am raising may be impossible to answer. However, Gellman does base his causal argument on reception by claiming that "an antislavery discourse ... produced a 'structure of opinion' against slavery. This structure of opinion sustained an environment in which white New Yorkers came to regard gradual abolition as plausible, desirable, even necessary" (p. 8). In the end, though, a causative link is impossible to prove definitively. Did the "structure of opinion" encourage legislative representatives to be more supportive of the gradual abolition bill in 1799? Do increasing numbers of New Yorkers embrace abolition because of public discourse, or because of other factors, such as immigration or intrastate rivalries? Do we see changes in the editorial positions of newspapers throughout the region, or increased numbers of articles for or against slavery over the decade? These remain tantalizing questions that are never fully answered.

In the final two chapters in the book, Gellman turns his attention to the passage of the 1799 statute and the ways in which later New Yorkers "sort[ed] out the further implementation of abolition as well as the meaning of abolition's cultural and political legacy" (p. 10). In 1799, the bill's proponents were faced with a serious challenge: to surmount "economically oriented reservations about black freedom and interracial citizenship" (p. 154). By linking various facets of the "optimistic banner of nationalist economic ambition," including the "maple sugar-boosterism of William Cooper" and "the denunciations of Algerian enslavement and debt imprisonment," antislavery apologists hoped to create a culture in which freedom and equality were real possibilities for black slaves (pp. 155-156). Additional pressure was further applied by white reformers and by free and enslaved blacks, who ran away to create independent African churches and who launched lawsuits to protect their own freed status. Yet, while the passage of the bill grew increasingly assured, the realities of black freedom renewed older tensions about "abolition's financial and public welfare implications" (p. 171). Consequently, the final version of the 1799 law "emerged from a context in which finances and ideology, racism and antislavery interacted to shape the final outcome" (p. 183).

As Gellman readily acknowledges, the history of the road to freedom for New York's black population did not end in 1799, or even in 1827. Debates concerning the place of freed blacks within the polity remained, and new debates over the historical memory of slavery and its meanings emerged. While Gellman may overstate antislavery activists' commitment to black equality, as opposed to black freedom, he deftly insists that gradual abolition may have "gotten away" from its proponents. As the realities of black freedom became increasingly clear to everyone, and a number of solutions were proffered regarding the place of blacks within the national polity, ranging from outright incorporation to wholesale removal, white lawmakers constructed a history of slavery and an ideology of race that privileged white citizenship and sought to control black political actions. However, black New Yorkers remained undeterred; the author ends with the 1827 holiday celebration and the founding of Freedom's Journal. Throughout both the varieties of celebratory gatherings and speeches made on that memorable day and the pages of the nation's first black newspaper, black New Yorkers seized the moment of abolition to shape their own historical memory, an act that would become "a crucial part of [their] struggle to shape the future" (pp. 218-219).

In the end, Gellman invites readers to consider a number of fascinating questions about the role of public discourse, the active participation of black actors in the public sphere, the meaning of national citizenship, and the central place of slavery in early national politics. His informed analysis and fascinating insights ensure that any reader will benefit from spending some time with Emancipating New York.

Copyright (c) 2009 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes.

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Adams et al. book cover

Published by H-Southern-Lit, (Dec. 2009).

Jessica Adams, Michael P. Bibler, and Cécile Accilien, eds. Just Below South: Intercultural Performance in the Caribbean and the U.S. South. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007. viii + 285 pp. $59.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8139-2599-8; $22.50 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8139-2600-1.

Reviewed for H-Southern-Lit by James H. Watkins, Berry College

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Just Below South, the latest entry in the University of Virginia Press's New World Studies series, is a substantial addition to an ongoing critical conversation that has energized U.S. southern studies in recent years. Beginning in the mid-nineties with groundbreaking works, such as Barbara Ladd's Nationalism and the Color Line (1996), and spurred on by international scholarly conferences; special issues in the Mississippi Quarterly, American Literature, and the Southern Quarterly; and a host of excellent books, such as Look Away: The U.S. South in a Global Perspective, coedited by Jon Smith and Deborah Cohn (2004), the global approach to the study of the literature of the South has clearly established itself as the dominant emerging trend in the field.[1] In doing so, it has been especially fruitful in deploying critical reconsiderations of various forms of U.S. nationalisms to challenge lingering assumptions of regional exceptionalism in southern studies. This ambitious, eclectic collection of essays circumnavigates a broad spatial area that extends, in the words of geographer Bonham Richardson, from "'Little Rock at the northwest corner [to] French Guiana at the southeast..., [incorporating] the eastern rim of Central America as well as the Bahamas'" (pp. 2-3). Along the way the ten critical essays in Just Below South trace other circular routes, beginning and ending with intercultural interrogations of canonical U.S. texts (Uncle Tom's Cabin [1852] and Absalom, Absalom! [1936], respectively) but with less familiar ports of call, ranging from translation issues in contemporary Creole Louisiana poetry to the postcolonial politics of Trinidadian Carnival dance traditions. The breadth and range of cultures, locales, and art forms considered by the contributors is impressive.

The introduction by coeditor Jessica Adams, whose monograph Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory, and Property on the Post-Slavery Plantation was published last year, offers a concise introduction to the study of the U.S. South in a global perspective and a lucid rationale for the book's focus on performativity as a critical lens through which intercultural circulations between the U.S. South and the Caribbean can be explored. However, readers hoping for a comprehensive overview of the major publications in global southern studies will need to look elsewhere, since the introduction gives only glancing attention to notable contributions to the field, aside from a sustained discussion of Martinican critic, novelist, and poet Édouard Glissant's writings. Adams is most adept when discussing the book's methodological emphasis on performativity and its usefulness in linking the U.S. South to the Caribbean. While some of the essays focus on literary works and others on nondiscursive, even nonverbal, practices, she argues, they all focus on exploring material aspects of transhistorical and intergeographic relationships, the location of specific pasts and presents in human bodies and their ongoing physical consequences -- that is to say, how they are performed. And it is in the multiplicitous, decentered circulation of cultural elements that the U.S. South and the Caribbean form a regional interculture -- a space defined not so much by a shared set of geographical boundaries or by a single, common culture as by the weave of performances and identities moving across and throughout it.

Just Below South is divided into three sections. Each of the four essays in the first section, titled "Embodied Experience and Circulation of Signs," examines intersections of language, embodied subjectivity, and cultural identity in order to explore the ways in which "languages have developed within and as part of histories of contact and conflict in the New World" (p. 12). The first essay in section 1 -- and one of the strongest in the entire collection -- is Carolyn Vellenga Berman's "Impersonating the Creole: The American Family and Its Lines of Flight." Berman foregrounds the Louisiana setting of the majority of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which, she argues, Harriet Beecher Stowe used persuasively to link the impact of U.S. territorial expansionism to the growth of the interstate slave trade and to fears of insurrection. Berman is particularly effective in examining the subversive role of Legree's Creole Haitian slave, Cassy, and the diminishment of Cassy's importance in successive theatrical adaptations in the decades following the novel's publication. The second essay, translation studies specialist Anne Malena's "Louisiana's Translated Selves: The Poetry of Deborah Clifton and Sybil Klein," is commendable for its attention to two relatively unknown contemporary poets. Malena argues convincingly that the two self-described Creole poets adroitly "exploit the complex linguistic, cultural, and racial situation of Louisiana to the fullest because they recognize the need to establish communication with the American world that surrounds them and to which they belong" (p. 51). While the remaining two essays in the first section, coeditor Cécile Accilen's "Haitian Creole in a Transnational Context" and Don E. Walicek's "Farther South: Speaking American, the Language of Migration in Samaná," will be of interest primarily to linguists rather than literary scholars, both consistently illuminate the interrelationships between language practices, cultural identity, and hemispheric politics.

Literary scholars may initially find the second section of the book, "Colonial Property, Proper Colonies, and Postcolonial Resistance," of least direct relevance to their areas of interest, since all of the essays in this section focus mainly on nondiscursive cultural forms; however, these essays offer the most provocative analyses of the creation of cultural identity through performance. In "The Allure of Origins: Neo-African Dances in the French Caribbean and the Southern United States," ethnomusicologist Julian Gerstin meticulously compares George Cable's exoticized post-Reconstruction-era account of former slaves in New Orleans's Congo Square performing the Kalenda, an African dance, to more recent, though in some ways equally romanticized, accounts in Martinican tourist literature of the Kalenda's origins. Gerstin then goes on to discuss the ways in which contemporary Martinican Kalenda revivalist organizations simultaneously resist and reenact these colonialist depictions of the dance's origins. "Trinidad Sailor Mas," by Trinidadian playwright Rawle Gibbons, examines the parodic dimensions of a Carnival dance tradition, in this case the Sailor mas, or masquerade, in which performers dressed as American sailors burlesque the foreign visitors who were ubiquitous on the island during the WWII era. Of the three essays in section 2, Kathleen Gough's "Plantation America's 'Alienated Cousins': Trinidad Carnival and Southern Civil War Reenactments" draws the clearest connections between U.S. and Caribbean cultural performances, comparing the ways in which two governmental organizations, the U.S. Civil War Centennial and Trinidad's Carnival Development Committee (both founded in 1957), each promoted spectacles that "script[ed] a story of the 'nation' that could then be performed by and for those who lived within the borders of the nations' 'imagined communities'" (p. 167).

The three essays in the book's third section, "Imagining Region and What Lies Beyond" (the only section devoted exclusively to literary texts -- all by canonical U.S. southern writers), together offer the most sustained consideration of the U.S. South and the Caribbean as a single transnational entity. In "'This Is the Horse. Will You Ride?' Zora Neale Hurston, Erna Brodber, and Rituals of Spirit Possession," Shirley Toland-Dix analyzes Hurston's critical methodologies in her two ethnographies, Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938), and her memoir, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), in order to lay the groundwork for her reading of Brodber's novel Louisiana (1994), whose protagonist, a Depression-era American anthropologist engaging in field research in Jamaica, bears more than a passing resemblance to Hurston. Toland-Dix compares Hurston's and Brodber's shared concern with "legitimating alternative epistemologies" through both scientific and imaginative discourse (Brodber is a sociologist as well as novelist) in order to link those concerns to an awareness and legitimation of other forms of "forbidden knowledge" (p. 195). In the case of Brodber's novel, that knowledge leads to the protagonist's discovery of the extensive transnational, circum-Caribbean appeal of Marcus Garvey's pan-Africanist movement and an increased appreciation of its relation to other modes of diasporic cultural and political resistance.

In one of the strongest essays in the collection, "Making a Real Phony: Truman Capote's Queerly Southern Regionalism in Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Short Stories," coeditor Michael P. Bibler offers fresh new insights into Capote's work by arguing that each of the stories in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) "negotiate[s] the problems of difference, identity, and classification by focusing especially on the overlapping discourses of regionality and nationality" in ways that encourage us to "rethink the structures of regional and national identities by also looking at the way Capote joins these structures to a de-essentialized model of sexual identity" (p. 212). Although Bibler offers illuminating readings of the other three stories in Breakfast at Tiffany's, he focuses primarily on the title story and its impishly enigmatic protagonist, Holly Golightly, whose self-fashioning as cosmopolitan ingénue (which involves a brief engagement to a Brazilian playboy who aspires to the presidency of his home country) depends upon her concealment of her provincial southern rural background. Ultimately, he argues, Holly's radical indefinability exposes a broader pattern in Capote's work in which he resisted classification as both regional writer and gay writer: "With the convergence of the queer sexuality and southern regionalism at the novel's climax, we can see how both Holly and the novel exists as 'real phonies' who occupy middle categories simultaneously and imperfectly" (p. 235).

The book concludes with another illuminating reconsideration of a canonical U.S. southern text. In "Antillean Detours through the American South: Édourd Glissant's and Jamaica Kincaid's Textual Returns to William Faulkner," Jana Evans Braziel contextualizes Absalom, Absalom! through Glissant's reading of that text in Faulkner, Mississippi and Kincaid's depictions of maternal affiliations in The Autobiography of My Mother (both published in 1996) in order to underscore the centrality of Haiti to the goings-on at Sutpen's Hundred and, through a reconsideration of Clytie's role in Absalom, "to shift from Faulkner's genealogical preoccupation with illegitimate sons to a consideration and reevaluation of the genealogical role of disinherited black daughters in the Americas" (p. 241).

Taken together, the essays in Just Below South serve as encouragement to a new generation of scholars in the field of U.S. southern studies by offering a remarkably wide range of truly interdisciplinary approaches to understanding collective and individual cultural performances in a variety of contact zones throughout the circum-Caribbean region. From the present vantage point, the trend in U.S. southern studies toward global perspectives holds the promise of a continued reassessment and expansion of the canon and sustained revitalization of critical inquiry into the commonalities of the U.S. South with other plantation cultures within and without the Western Hemisphere.


[1]. See Mississippi Quarterly 57, no. 1 (Winter 2003/2004); American Literature 78, no. 4 (December 2006); Southern Quarterly 43, no. 4 (Summer 2006); Southern Quarterly 44, no. 3 (Spring 2007); and Southern Quarterly 46, no. 3 (Spring 2009). For additional noteworthy books in the field, see Helen Taylor, Circling Dixie: Contemporary Southern Culture through a Transatlantic Lens (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000); Caroline Field Levander and Robert Levine, Hemispheric American Studies (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2008); and Robert Brinkmeyer, The Fourth Ghost White Southern Writers and European Fascism, 1930-1950 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009).

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