African Emigrants, Immigrants, and Refugees: America to Zambia and Mexico between 1605 and 2001

AHA Session 77
Friday, January 8, 2016: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Room A706 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level)
C. Cymone Fourshey, Bucknell University
Dennis Laumann, University of Memphis

Session Abstract

Increasing numbers of willing African immigrants to the US, Europe, and Asia has captured the attention of scholars in the last decade. Much of this work contrasts the newest wave of immigrants with the unwilling African immigrants of the Atlantic slave trade era. This panel will bring together 3 papers that cover various eras of African migrants and immigrants in a wide range of circumstances. These papers shed light not only on long distance migrations, but also on more localized internal African migrations. Spanning from 1600 to 2001, these papers take into account both the liminal state of the migrant in history to theorize on the power dynamics between migrants and their “hosts”. Whether enslaved, refugees, or opportunity seekers, migrants and immigrants can be simultaneously powerful and powerless agents in society. “Peoples on the move” is a consistent theme in history across the globe from early history to the present. As such, making sense of histories of mobility and settlement is a valuable endeavor. As transnationalism increasingly becomes a salient marker of identity for Africans and others we aim to understand how immigrants leverage their resources to balance out their lack of political and often economic power. The first paper covers immigrants to the US who came via refugee camps in Kenya after fleeing as a marginal community from the Somali civil war in the 1990s. The second paper examines the despair of Francisca Lopez. This nineteen-year-old enslaved African-descended woman was tried for blasphemy in Mexico City in 1605. Despair rather than resistance best explains Francisca’s blasphemous outburst. The third paper examines migrant labor in colonial Zambia and the acts of resistance they engaged in to combat British policies.  These papers bring together experiences of forced and willing migrants/immigrants to demonstrate the range of experiences and reactions Africans have had to the state of being an outsider. The audience for this panel includes historians of the Atlantic World, Colonial Africa, and the Somali Civil War of the 1990s. Aside from historians, those interested in issues of refugees, slavery, and migrant labor will also find this panel useful.

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