Memory as a Response to the Problem of Slavery

This text is based on my intervention in the final roundtable of the 2015 Gilder Lehman International Conference held at Yale University, on October 30-31, 2015. I thank David Blight and Marcela Echeverri for inviting me to participate in the conference. As you will see, my intervention refers to several other papers presented during the conference […]

Gaspar Yanga
Yanga, Mexico
Photograph by Erasmo Vazquez Lendechy, 2008


Memory and Slavery: Chico Rei, An “African King” in Brazil

Memorializing slavery and making slavery part of official initiatives remains a problem in a country like Brazil, where slavery was outlawed only in 1888. Obstacles prevent this painful past to become visible in the public space. Moreover, even though the heritage of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade was not always recognized in official initiatives by […]

An “Evil” West African King and the Atlantic Slave Trade 1

The classic comment stating that “Africans sold Africans” during the Atlantic slave trade is very common in online forums or classroom discussions. Commentators who bring this argument, in order to downplay the magnitude of the slave trade as a human atrocity, fail to understand that during the era of the Atlantic slave trade, Africans did not associate themselves with a […]


Slavery as Caricature 2

This article is based on my newest book Brazil Through French Eyes: A Nineteenth-Century Artist in in the Tropics published by University of New Mexico Press (2015).   French artist François-Auguste Biard (1799-1882) arrived in Brazil in 1858, ten years after the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. By that time slave imports from […]

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: The Mythology of Racial Democracy in Brazil

Brazil has been in the news a great deal of late, especially in association with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The most popular images involve football, carnival, samba, sunny beaches, and tanned women in bikinis. Less well known is the history of slavery and racism, which continues to have a profound impact upon Brazilian society. […]

Philipsburg Manor, photograph by Ana Lucia Araujo, 2015.

Slavery in the Colonial North and the Philipsburg Manor

In the last two decades scholars made significant efforts to emphasize the existence of slavery in the US north. Despite these efforts and because scholarship takes time to reach the public, national and international general audiences still think that slavery was restricted to the south of the United States. The city and the state of […]

The Ark of Return: UN Slavery Memorial to be Unveiled Today in New York City

  Today, March 25, 2015, is the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, whose theme this year is Women and Slavery. As a scholar working on the history and the public memory of slavery days, like today are important landmarks to study how the slave past is remembered and reconstructed […]


A detail from a photo of slaves going to the coffee harvest with oxcar. Vale do Paraiba, Sao Paulo, 1885. The photograph is part of the Moreira Salles collection and was displayed in the exhibition Emancipação, inclusão e exclusão: Desafios do passado e do presente

In slavery matters, numbers are still relevant

Numbers are not everything, but in the case of the Atlantic slave trade they reveal the importance of the institution of slavery and the size of populations of African descent in the Atlantic world. I am surprised to see how recently published academic books still ignore the findings of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database. The database […]

Finally in Brazil: Heritage Trails of the Atlantic Slave Trade

Historians Hebe Mattos and Martha Abreu published an excellent article on their weblog (it is in Portuguese and featured on this website in the menu Digital initiatives) about the new heritage trail of Valongo Wharf, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hebe and Martha as many of you know are pioneers (along with the late Ana Lugão Rios) in […]


A New “Slavery” Museum in the United States ?

In a famous interview of 1989, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison pointed out that her book Beloved (1987) was a site of memory of slavery as sites of the slave trade like New York City and Charleston were not at all highlighted in the landscape of the United States. Since 1989, this situation dramatically changed. […]