Comparative Slavery

HIST 4XX: Seminar in Comparative Slavery
Simmons College
Spring 2017

Course Dates: 18 Jan. – 3 May

Course Description: This course will discuss some of the main themes in the history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, focusing on African and African American slavery in the western hemisphere. We will begin with a brief look at classical slavery in Africa, then proceed to a more in-depth examination of African slavery in the Americas, between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. Finally, we’ll consider emancipation and the transition to freedom in comparative perspective, including the related question of race relations after the end of slavery, and the emergence of the diaspora.

Required Readings: There are seven required books for this course, along with occasional supplementary readings posted on WebCT. We will read all of these books, and class will center around discussion of the readings. They are all available through the bookstore, third-party sources, or the library. Late receipt of books will not be grounds for a waiver of the late work policy. Please plan accordingly.


David Wheat, Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 (UNC) ISBN: 978-1469623412

Ada Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge) ISBN: 978-1107697782

Sowande M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (Illinois) ISBN: 978-0252082023

Trevor Burnard and John D. Garrigus, The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint-Domingue and British Jamaica (Penn) ISBN: 978-0812248296

Andres Rezendes, The Other Slavery: the Uncovered History of Indian Slavery (Houghton Mifflin) ISBN: 978-0547640983

Manisha Sinha, A Slave’s Cause: a History of Abolition (Yale) ISBN: 978-0300181371

Patrick Rael, Eighty-Eight Years: the Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 (Georgia) ISBN: 978-0820348391

Class Topics and Assignments

Follow this timetable and come to class, having completed the assigned reading indicated for that day. If a book title is listed, you should read the entire book, unless otherwise indicated. I strongly encourage bringing the books for the other assigned reading with you on the dates they are assigned, so that you can have them available for consultation during discussion. In addition to the readings from our assigned textbooks, we may have occasional supplementary readings posted to the course website.


Elevator Talks (15% total): Over the semester, we will periodically take time to discuss the research-papers-in-progress, as a seminar. The dates are indicated below in the course schedule. You should come prepared with a 5-10 minute talking point about your paper on these days. This can include a progress report, successes you’ve had, or even things you have struggled with. Students who are absent will only be allowed a make-up under extenuating circumstances.

Discussion Leader (15%): Each student will sign up for at least 2 weeks where they will help to lead the discussion on our readings. Sign up will take place in our first week of class. Students who miss class on a day they are scheduled to lead discussion will only be allowed to make it up under extenuating circumstances.

Response Papers (15% each): Each student will write 2, 5-page response papers for the weeks they present. The papers should respond to an issue, theme, or question raised by the reading. More than just summarizing the readings, they should engage with the readings critically. Papers should use a standard 12 pt font, be double-spaced, and use Chicago citation. Papers are due at the start of the classes in which you lead discussion.

Research Proposal (10%): The research proposal should consist of a half-page abstract describing your research topic. The topic must be of relevance to the course. Your proposal should also include a short bibliography in which you identify at least 3 secondary sources and 3 primary sources that you anticipate will be of use to you in your research. Secondary sources must be scholarly in nature. I encourage you to make an appointment with a member of the reference staff.

Research Paper Rough Draft (20%): Your draft should be at least 10-15 pages in length, and contain an identifiable, evidence-based argument. Papers should be double-spaced in a standard 12 pt font, and use Chicago citation. At this point, your paper should make use of at least 5 scholarly secondary sources, and a minimum of 4 primary sources. If you find yourself struggling, it may be helpful to contact the Writing Center for an appointment to go over your draft with you. Make sure you schedule your appointment in advance.

Final Research Paper (25%): Your final research paper will be 20 pages in length, double-spaced in a standard 12 pt font, and use Chicago formatting. Successful final drafts will be revised in response to the feedback you received on your rough draft, and carefully proof-read.

Course Schedule

Jan 18: Introduction

Jan 25: Slavery in Africa

John Quirk, “ Defining Slavery in All Its Forms,” The Anti-Slavery Project (Penn), Ch. 5
Paul Lovejoy, Igor Kopytoff and Frederick Cooper, “Indigenous African Slavery [with Commentary],” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, 6:1, Roots and Branches: Current Directions in Slave Studies (Summer/Eté 1979): 19-83
Paul Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery, Ch. 1
Sean Stilwell, Slavery and Slaving in Africa, Ch. 2
Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, “Women’s Importance in African Slave Systems,” Robertson and Klein, eds, Women and Slavery in Africa

Feb. 1: Creating the Trans-Atlantic Passage

David Wheat, Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Primary Sources:
Nzinga Mbemba (Afonso I), Letters to the King of Portugal (1526)
Pope Alexander VI, Inter Caetera (1493)

Feb 8: Slavery at Sea

Sowande M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage

Primary Sources:
John Barbot, “Predisposed of the Opinion…that Europeans are Fond of Their Flesh” (1682)
Alexander Falconbridge, “The Men are…Fastened Together By Handcuffs.” (1788)

Feb 15: Creating the Plantation Complex

Trevor Burnard and John D. Garrigus, The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint-Domingue and British Jamaica

Primary Sources:
Louis XIV (France), The Slave Codes (1685)
Venture Smith, Narrative in the Life [Excerpt]

Written Assignment:
Research proposal due at the start of class.

Due: 1st elevator talk

Feb 22: Slavery and Capitalism:

Abigail L. Swingen, Competing Visions of Empire, Ch. 1
Ed Baptist, “Toward a Political Economy of Slave Labor,” Beckert and Rockman, eds, Slavery’s Capitalism (Pennsylvania), Ch. 1
Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Pennsylvania), Ch. 5
Walter Johnson, Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Slave Market (Harvard), Ch. 1

Mar 1: Native American Slavery

Andres Rezendes, The Other Slavery: the Uncovered History of Indian Slavery
Brett Rushforth, “Slavery, the Fox Wars, and the Limits of Alliance,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 63:1 (Jan., 2006): 53- 80

Mar 8: Spring Break – No Class Meeting

Mar 15: Resistance and Maroonage

Sylvia A. Diouf, Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of America’s Maroons, Ch 1.
Jose L Franco, “Maroons and Slave Resistance in the Spanish Territories, in Richard Price, ed, Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas (Johns Hopkins)
Terri L. Snyder, The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America (Chicago) Ch. 1
Yesenia Barragan, “Christmas And Resistance To Slavery In The Americas,” African American Intellectual Society (23 Dec. 2016).
Renee Goldthree, “Gender, Slavery, and the Archive in Cuba: an Interview with Aisha Finch,” African American Intellectual Society (12 Dec. 2016).
Jason R. Young, Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery (LSU), Ch. 2

Due: 2nd elevator talk.

Mar 22: Slavery, Race, and Religion

David Brion Davis, “ Constructing Race: A Reflection,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 54:1 (Jan., 1997): 7-18
Rebecca Anne Goetz, “Rethinking the ‘Unthinking Decision:’ Old Questions and New Problems in the History of Slavery and Race in the Old South,” Journal of Southern History, 75:3 (August 2009): 599-612.
Maura Jane Farrelly, “American Slavery, American Freedom, American Catholicism,” Early American Studies, 10:1 (Winter 2012): 69-100.
David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton), Ch. 12
Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in America (NYU), Ch. 1

Primary Source:
Omar Ibn Said, The Life of [Excerpt]

Mar 29: Freedom and Unfreedom

Ada Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution

Primary Sources:
Slave Mother’s Love.

Written Assignment:
Research Paper Rough Draft is Due at the Beginning of Class

Due: 3rd Elevator Talk

Apr 5: Freedom and Unfreedom

David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (Oxford), Ch. 4
David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: the Rise and Fall of Human Slavery (Oxford), Ch. 12
Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition After Revolution (Georgia), Ch. 2
Susan Peabody, “Race, Slavery, and the Law in Early Modern France,” The Historian, 56:3 (Spring 1994): 501-510
Mark Auslander, “Slavery Traces: In Search of Ashley’s Sack,” Southern Spaces (29 Nov. 16).

Primary Sources:
Toussaint Louverture, Dictatorial Proclamation (1801)
Frederick Douglass, What to a Slave is the Fourth of July? (1841)

Apr 12 : Abolition

Manisha Sinha, A Slave’s Cause: a History of Abolition, Part 1

Primary Sources:
Pick and read 3 sources (your choice) from the Abolition Project
Mary Prince’s Narrative [Excerpt]

Apr 19: Abolition

Manisha Sinha, A Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, Part 2

Primary Source:
Slave Narratives, Read Sojourner Truth. [Excerpt]

Due: 4th Elevator Talk

Apr 26: End of Slavery

Patrick Rael, Eighty-Eight Years: the Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865

May 3: Diaspora

James H. Sweet, Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (UNC), Ch. 7
Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (UNC), Ch. 7
Toyin Falola, “The Slave Mutiny of 1839: the Colonization of Memory and Spaces,” in Falola, The African Diaspora (Rochester, 2014).
Brian Wheeler, “Descendents of Gullah Geechee Fight for their Land,” BBC News (5 Dec. 2016).

Watch: Vice – A Vanishing History

Written Assignment: The Final Research Paper is Due at the Beginning of Class

Due: 5th Elevator Talk

Class Expectations:

Attendance: Attendance is required for this course. In the event you are unavoidably absent, it is your responsibility to get the notes from a classmate, then follow up with me if you have specific questions. Absent students are still responsible for timely submission of the work they missed. Absence will not be grounds for an automatic excusal of the late policy. Habitual absence and/or unpreparedness will negatively affect your grade. Students who need miss class due to religious observations will be accommodated, but it is your responsibility to notify me in advance.

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to know and adhere with all Simmons policies concerning academic honesty. You should submit only your own work. Work may not be recycled from other courses. Students who are uncertain about citation practices should seek assistance from the Writing Center or Library Staff. Not knowing will not be considered a valid excuse for improper citation.

Checking Email: You should get in the habit of checking your Simmons email regularly, and ensuring that your WebCT profile is linked to an email account you use. I sent announcements, assignments, and other course materials via email. Students are responsible for knowing the contents of those emails. Please note that due to federal privacy laws and institutional policies, I cannot discuss grades over email.

WebCT: Please make sure that you visit the course site regularly, to check for announcements, and also to access readings.

Late Assignment Policy: Students are responsible for making sure they understand all expectations and keep track of deadlines. Each student is eligible for a one-time 24-hour, no questions asked grace period on one written assignment. You need to email me before the assignment is due to indicate that you are using your 1 late pass. Your paper will then be due exactly 24 hours after the original deadline. After that, assignments will be accepted up to three days (including weekends) after the original due date for a 1/2 grade penalty for each day late. Waivers of the late penalty are only considered under extenuating circumstances, such as a hospitalization. I reserve the right to ask for documentation.

Incompletes: Incompletes are awarded only for extenuating circumstances that are beyond the student’s control. I reserve the right to ask for documentation.

Classroom Citizenship: The classroom is a professional environment. Uncivil conduct towards other students or the professor is a violation of the student code of conduct and will not be tolerated.

Technology: Computers are not infallible, and printers have a way of running out of ink at inopportune times. It is wise to save a second copy of your paper somewhere you can access it if your computer fails, or you need to print it elsewhere. Failures of technology are still subject to the late policy.

Communication: Email is the fastest way to reach me. I respond to all messages within 24 hours of receipt, Monday through Friday. I check email occasionally on weekends, but may not respond quite as quickly. Please allow sufficient time for me to respond before emailing again.

Grades: Most assignments will be graded within two weeks. As a general rule, grades are only changed in the event of a mathematical error. When graded assignments are returned, please take the time to read your feedback before coming to me with questions or concerns about grades. If you still have concerns about your grade after reading your feedback, please write me a memo, which includes a paragraph-length response that directly addresses each of your concerns raised by your feedback, using the assignment guidelines, and explaining why it merits a re-grade. I will take your concerns seriously, but there are no guarantees that your grade will be changed, and all decisions are final. Please note: I can only assign grades based on the quality of the final product, and cannot take effort, life circumstances or other factors into consideration. If you are unclear on the expectations for an assignment, it is your responsibility to ask for clarification in advance of the assignment’s deadline. You should bring any concerns about your grade to my attention within a week of receiving the graded paper back. Queries made thereafter will not be entertained.

Statement on Disabilities: Students with letters from the Disabilities Services Office should make me aware of their accommodations as early in the semester as possible. I am happy to arrange a time to speak to you about your accommodations. All conversations are confidential. If you believe you might be eligible for accommodations but have not yet registered with Disability Services, you can contact them at 617-521-2474 to make an appointment. Regrettably, I am unable to offer accommodations without a letter from Disability Services, and accommodations are not retroactive.