An International Conference at
Livingston Campus, Rutgers University, New Jersey
February 16-17, 2001
The Rutgers Department of History and Center for African Studies in collaboration with the UNESCO/SSHRCC Nigerian Hinterland Project of York University, Canada, are sponsoring an international conference, Fighting Back : African Strategies Against the Slave Trade.
This conference is unique in its topic and scope, and constitutes the first scholarly attempt to consolidate scattered information about the various dimensions of African people's resistance to the slave trade. Scholars will present research that will open up new directions for studies in African history, as well as the history of the Atlantic World, African-American history and the history of the African Diaspora. It will challenge widely-held myths of African passivity and complicity in the slave trade by using history, literature, oral tradition, psychology, the arts, traditional cultural forms and political science to show that resistance to enslavement and involvement in the slave trade was much more pervasive than acknowledged by the orthodox interpretation of historical literature.
While most studies of the slave trade focus on the volume of captives and on their ethnic origins, few concentrate on the strategies Africans used to protect themselves and their communities. Moreover, most scholarly references to this crucial topic are dispersed among a variety of specialist studies, where they are often treated as marginal to the broader theme of the slave trade. However, no picture of the slave trade, across the Atlantic, the Sahara, or the Indian Ocean, or indeed within Africa itself, can be complete without a systematic study of the ways in which men and women responded to the threat and reality of enslavement. Individuals, families, communities, and states used a variety of strategies. They included, but were not limited to: the defensive planning of settlements, architectural design, the establishment of refugee villages, and the relocation of villages. Others involved the redemption of captives, the use of occult protection, religious interdiction against sale, attacks on slaving forts and entrepôts, and revolts by captives.
The papers presented at the conference will cover a wide area of Western and Central Africa from the 16th to the 20th centuries. As a group, they will offer an unusually comprehensive and historically accurate narrative of a critical chapter in the global story of the slave trade.
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