9:30 am to 12:30 pm
This seminar explores the historical processes by which slavery was proclaimed abolished by various national, imperial, and colonial decrees between the age of democratic revolutions (1770s-1820) through World War I. Background readings, historical texts, and visual documents have been selected in order to take advantage of the increasingly similar questions about slavery’s ending that have emerged in the historical literatures of many different countries. The course therefore takes advantage of growing interdisciplinary and cross-national scholarly research about slavery and emanipations in order to compare and contrast emancipatory processes in regions of the Caribbean (especially St. Domingue/Haiti and Jamaica), North America (especially the United State), Brazil, and West Africa (especially Francophone West Africa– Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea). Course materials can be used to explore the following questions: How have historians explained slavery’s abolition? What different social groups embraced abolitionism and how did their visions of freedom differ?; What varying roles did slaves and freeborn black people play in ending slavery and how did their visions of society after emancipation differ?; Did formerly enslaved men and women experience emancipation differently? How did abolition affect ideas about public life and citizenship? How did abolition affect conceptions of domestic and nominally private relations of household life? How was unfree labor redefined in the wake of slavery’s abolition? What contrasts distinguish the early abolitions that occurred during the American, French, and Haitian revolutions from later abolitions in the British West Indies, the United States, Cuba, Brazil, and West Africa and what questions are raised by these contrasts? Do any meaningful similarities in slave emancipation emerge from such a chronologically broad, transAtlantic cross-national comparisons? What similarities, if any, do you observe and what do you make of them? The seminar is offered in the spirit of stimulating new perspectives on familiar questions.