Transnational Memory of Slave Merchants: Making the Perpetrators Visible in the Public Space

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 8:50 AM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Ana Lucia Araujo , Howard University, Washington, DC
During the last twenty years the emergence of a new interest in various elements related to the the past emerged in Europe, the Americas and even in Africa. Slavery and the Atlantic slave trade were commemorated and remembered through monuments, memorials, museums, and festivals. The majority of the initiatives highlighted the memory of slavery shed light on victimhood. Monuments, museums and memorials promoted the memory of the victims and their descendants who were enslaved, and deported to the Americas. However, along with these initiatives, the descendants of perpetrators and other collaborators with various political agendas also started occupying the public space to formulate public apologies, although these actions are rarely followed by any kind of financial or material compensation. If the public apologies constitute a further step towards reconciliation, some of these initiatives are also contributing to rehabilitate the memory of the perpetrators, their descendants and other individuals who directly or indirectly benefited from their activities. By considering this complex configuration this paper examines the public memory of three slave merchants—Joaquim Pereira Marinho (1816-1887), Francisco Félix de Souza (1754–1849), and Robert Milligan (c1746–1809)—in three different societies located in three different continents (Brazil, Bénin and England), deeply in involved in the Atlantic slave trade. This paper tries to understand how after the various official international projects aiming to promote the memory of the victims of the Atlantic slave trade, the memory of these perpetrators continue occupying a prominent place in the public space, where they are almost never depicted as slave merchants, but rather as benefactors and great businessmen.