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

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

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. […]


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 […]


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. […]


Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery by Adam Rothman

Adam Rothman’s new book Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery (Harvard University Press, 2015) brings to light the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children on the eve of and during the Civil War. Rothman follows the case of Louisiana’s enslaved woman Rose Herera and her three young children Joseph Ernest […]


12 Years a Slave and the Problem of Depicting Human Atrocities

The problem of portraying extreme violence is part of scholarly and public debates since the end of the Second World War. After the Holocaust, whereas some scholars considered fiction an adequate means to represent atrocities, other scholars and Holocaust survivors were opposed to these fictional representations, by underscoring the ethical problems posed by it. Theodor […]