EDITED: Gleeson and Lewis on the Bicentennial of the International Slave Trade Bans

David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis, eds. Ambiguous Anniversary: The Bicentennial of the International Slave Trade Bans. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2012.

From University of South Carolina Press:

In March 1807, within a few weeks of each other, both the United States and the United Kingdom passed laws banning the international slave trade. Two hundred years later, Great Britain, an instigator of the slave trade and the chief source of slaves sold into continental North America, was awash nationwide in commemorations of the ban. By contrast the bicentennial
of the ban received almost no attention in the United States. Ambiguous Anniversary aims to remedy that omission and to explain the discrepancy between the two commemorative responses. Edited by David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis, this volume examines the impact that closing the international slave trade in 1808 had on Southern American economics, politics,
and society.

Recasting the history of slavery in the early Republic and the memory of slavery and abolition in American culture, the foreword, introduction, and ten essays in this volume present a complex picture of an important but partial step in America’s long struggle toward the ambitious but ambiguous goal of liberty and justice for all….

INTERVIEW: Rice x Caryl Phillips on African Atlantic Memory

Caryl Phillips / Source: Center for Creative Arts

Alan Rice. “A Home for Ourselves in the World: Caryl Phillips on Slave Forts and Manillas as African Atlantic Sites of Memory.” Atlantic Studies 9, no. 3 (2012): 363–372.
Abstract

“This interview with the black Atlantic writer Caryl Phillips focuses on his non-fiction works and interrogates his ideas on the African diaspora and memorialisation, paying particular attention to such locales as African slave forts and European museums. It also discusses his latest work – a play about the 1940s friendship between Richard Wright and C.L.R. James. The interview discusses the long view of memorialisation on the transatlantic slave trade and interrogates the importance of the bicentenary celebrations of the abolition of the trade in Britain in 2007 to new structures of feeling and curriculum developments that have made the issues raised by the slave trade and its aftermath more central to British historiography. A final section discusses African diaspora communities and their challenge to find a home space amidst the detritus of slavery. Phillips discusses the importance of a slave manilla in his quest for an anchor for memory.”

This special issue of Atlantic Studies, “The Slave Trade’s Dissonant Heritage: Memorial Sites, Museum Practices, and Dark Tourism,” included articles by Alan Rice, Johanna C. Kardux, Lubaina Hamid, Charles Forsdick, Marian Gwyn, Anne Eichmann, and Senam Okudzeto.

Full text via Taylor and Francis ($$).

REVIEW: Johnson on STN’s 18th Century French Book Trade Database

Image

“Europeans Purchasing a Slave Woman, late 18th cent.,” Guillaume Raynal, Histoire Philosophique et Politique . . . des Europeens dans les Deux Indes (Geneva, 1780), vol. 7, p. 377. (Copy at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University) Image Reference H005 as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

From The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe website:

The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe project uses database technology to map the trade of the Société Typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), a celebrated Swiss publishing house that operated between 1769 and 1794.

As the STN sold the works of other publishers alongside its own editions, their archives can be considered a representative source for studying the history of the book trade and dissemination of ideas in the late Enlightenment.

Using state of the art database, web interface and GIS technology, the project provides a user-friendly resource for use by scholars, teachers and students of French literature and history, book history, the Enlightenment and bibliography more generally…

Continue reading

BOOK: Tillet on Slavery, Citizenship, and Racial Democracy

Salamisha Tillet. Sites of Slavery:  Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

“More than forty years after the major victories of the civil rights movement, African Americans have a vexed relation to the civic myth of the United States as the land of equal opportunity and justice for all. In Sites of Slavery Salamishah Tillet examines how contemporary African American artists and intellectuals—including Annette Gordon-Reed, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Bill T. Jones, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kara Walker—turn to the subject of slavery in order to understand and challenge the ongoing exclusion of African Americans from the founding narratives of the United States. She explains how they reconstruct “sites of slavery”—contested figures, events, memories, locations, and experiences related to chattel slavery—such as the allegations of a sexual relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the characters Uncle Tom and Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, African American tourism to slave forts in Ghana and Senegal, and the legal challenges posed by reparations movements. By claiming and recasting these sites of slavery, contemporary artists and intellectuals provide slaves with an interiority and subjectivity denied them in American history, register the civic estrangement experienced by African Americans in the post–civil rights era, and envision a more fully realized American democracy.”

DUP has posted the first chapter using Scribd.   Read it here.

BOOK: Araujo on the Public Memory of Slavery

A water color by Jean Baptiste Debret (held by a museum in Rio de Janeiro); published in Ana Maria de Moraes, O Brasil dos viajantes (Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, 1994), image 469, p. 93, as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

If recent scholarship has focused on the memory of slavery in the United States, few works have dealt with the public memory of slavery from a transnational perspective. When examining the role of the African Diaspora in the reconstructions of the slave past, most authors have limited their analysis to the African American community and have overlooked the importance of the South Atlantic region, in which Africa and South America play a crucial role.

In this book, Ana Lucia Araujo argues that despite the rupture provoked by the Atlantic slave trade, the Atlantic Ocean was never a physical barrier that prevented the exchanges between the two sides; it was instead a corridor that allowed the production of continuous relations. Araujo shows that the memorialization of slavery in Brazil and Benin was not only the result of survivals from the period of the Atlantic slave trade but also the outcome of a transnational movement that was accompanied by the continuous intervention of institutions and individuals who promoted the relations between Brazil and Benin. Araujo insists that the circulation of images was, and still is, crucial to the development of reciprocal cultural, religious, and economic exchanges and to defining what is African in Brazil and what is Brazilian in Africa. In this context, the South Atlantic is conceived as a large zone in which the populations of African descent undertake exchanges and modulate identities, a zone where the European and the Amerindian identities were also appropriated in order to build its own nature.

This book shows that the public memory of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in the South Atlantic is plural; it is conveyed not only by the descendants of the victims but also by the descendants of perpetrators. Although the slave past is a critical issue in societies that largely relied on slave labor and where the heritage of slavery is still present, the memories of this past remain very often restricted to the private space. This book shows how in Brazil and Benin social actors appropriated the slave past to build new identities, fight against social injustice, and in some cases obtain political prestige. The book illuminates how the public memory of slavery in Brazil and Benin contributes to the rise of the South Atlantic as an autonomous zone of claim for recognition for those peoples and cultures that were cruelly broken, dispersed, and depreciated by the Atlantic slave trade.

via Cambria Press.

Journey Stories Exhibit: “To Freedom: Tracing the Journeys of Enslaved African Americans”

Discussions about slavery continue to stir emotions. This exhibition examines the journeys experienced by enslaved Africans brought to the United States. From the journey into bondage, travels while enslaved, and escaping to freedom, voyages — forced and voluntary — shaped the way slavery evolved and, ultimately, ended in America.

via Journey Stories | Browse Exhibits.

Profhacker has a post on Omeka, the free and open-source software used to create this exhibit and others.  Read it here.

WEB: Levy on Failure of the Freedman’s Bank and the Gilded Age (LOC Webcast)

ACLS Mellon Fellow Jonathan Levy discusses the failure of the Freedman Savings and Trust Company at the Library of Congress:

In 1865, Congress chartered the non-profit “Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company,” a savings bank designed for a population of four million newly emancipated American slaves. By 1873, it had received a staggering $50,000,000 in deposits. But the banking house Jay Cooke & Co. was charged with investing the freedpeople’s savings, and when Jay Cooke & Co. failed during the panic of 1873, so did the Freedman’s Bank. Liberated from their former masters, the freedpeople had very suddenly come face to face with the frenzied finance of the Gilded Age.

View it here.

Mitchell: Portrait or Postcard? The Controversy over a “Rare” Photograph of Slave Children

For those of us who work with historical photographs (particularly images from the nineteenth century, when the medium was still in its infancy) there are few things more thrilling than stumbling on an image we didn’t know existed. But finding and then identifying historical photographs with any certainty, particularly the subjects in them, is tricky business. Retrieving the story behind the image—who took it, of whom, and why—can often be near impossible.

So I was surprised last week to see an AP story about a “rare” photograph of slave children. The accompanying image—purportedly of two boys, either enslaved or just recently freed, from North Carolina taken in the 1860s dressed in ragged clothes, seated on a wooden barrel, posed for the camera—intrigued me for several reasons. For one, my own reading of the image was quite different from what was described in the wire article and subsequent reports (recent sleuthing by collectors supports my suspicions, as I’ll explain). Second, the eagerness to accept the authenticity of this image as a reflection of daily life in the South in this era is based on, at best, a shallow reading of the history of black children in the photography of this period. Finally, the shock the image of “slave children” seemed to give reporters and readers, and even some experts, makes it clear that the picture of antebellum slavery most people hold in their heads is an outdated one. If they imagine Southern plantations were sustained largely by the sweat and blood by enslaved adults, the work of recent historians has brought another view to light, one in which young people made up the majority of the enslaved…

Read the rest at the History News Network: Portrait or Postcard? The Controversy over a “Rare” Photograph of Slave Children.

Conservator Helps Salvage Haiti’s Cultural Material

“ANNAPOLIS, Md. AP — It is slow, deliberate, frustrating, yet fulfilling work trying to preserve a peoples culture.Vicki Lee, senior conservator at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, already has made two trips with teams of experts trying to mend Haitis cultural heritage following the devastating January earthquake, and is itching to return.

“It’s so sad,” she said in an interview at her office off Rowe Boulevard after returning from the stricken island nation about two weeks ago. “There is so much work to do. We need thousands more people to do it.”

On the other hand, the Chesapeake Beach resident and her colleagues — who have made trips to Haiti under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Institute for Conservation‘s Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) — see cause for hope.

“I think the chances for recovery are quite good, but it will take a lot of time,” said Hugh Shockey, an object conservator at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum who worked on the same team as Lee.

“To be quite honest, what gives me the most amount of hope is that the Haitians were recovering materials from the rubble rather than just throwing them out,” Mr. Shockey said. “They saved what they could. If I am going to put the pieces back together, I have to have the pieces.”

He said it is evident the Haitian people clearly value their cultural material.

“It could have all been scooped up by a bulldozer and sent on a truck to be dumped,” Mr. Shockey said….”

Read the rest at the  Washington Times.

McGill Tours Slave Cabins to Preserve History – TheSunNews.com

“Joseph McGill spent Saturday night in a place where slaves slept – in a cabin at Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown.

As a preservationist, his intent is to bring attention to the endangered structures.

“African-Americans have lost a lot of the buildings that can help interpret their stories,” McGill said. “This is a great place to start in helping to save those buildings.”

He also plans to use his tour in the coming months to speak about the realities that led to the Civil War. He has already had sleepovers at four other slave cabins throughout the state, with another planned for next month on Morris Street in Anderson, “the largest slave alley left in Upstate South Carolina.”

“This is important now because we are about to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War,” said McGill, a program officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “I plan to develop a lecture about my experience in the cabins and hopefully convince some of the naysayers that slavery played a vital role in the cause of the Civil War…”

Read the rest at TheSunNews.com.