PreCirculatedMultiSession Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space, Part 6: Slavery and Public Narratives: Comparative Perspectives in Africa and the United States

AHA Session 224
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Joshua M. Rosenthal, Western Connecticut State University
Paul E. Lovejoy, York University

Session Abstract

Focusing on the United States and West Africa, this panel aims at discussing how public narratives incorporated or excluded slavery. The comparison between the two continents allow us to understand how slavery in the United States have been remembered and integrated in the public collective memory through museums, historical sites, schoolbooks, and the internet, while in West Africa this recovery is more problematic. In order to understand the evolution of the presence of slavery in the public sphere, the panel is built in chronological order. The first paper examines the memoirs of Dorugu Kwage Adam, a Hausa from Damagaram. Salau argues that while Dorugu’s memoirs significantly described his life in Central Sudan as a freeman and a slave during the middle of the nineteenth century, the second edition of his memoirs compared some of his statements with those made by Heinrich Barth, a contemporary European explorer. By examining public memory, Barth’s memory and Dorugu’s memory in Central Sudan, the paper demonstrate that Dorugu’s account bring revisionist interpretations on the nature of slavery in the region. Rodet's paper shows that in French Sudan (present-day Mali), local colonial authorities resisted to recognize the legacy of local slavery. As a result, the memory of slavery in a slave village such as Kayes remains totally absent from public narratives. Sherman's paper deals with the intersections between memories of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade among Ghanaians and African Americans, by also making connections between the way the slave and the colonial pasts are associated in public narratives. By examining how New England's slave past is being recovered to become part of public narratives and visible in the public space, Margot Minardi argues that the history and the politic issues involved in this recovery remain absent from these public narratives. From the nineteenth century to the present and relying on a trans-continental approach, the four papers show the conflicts and the ambiguities characterizing the public narratives about slavery in U. S. and West Africa.