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Finding the African Voice

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Finding the African Voice: Narratives of Slavery and Enslavement

Organised by Martin A. Klein, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Toronto
and Alice Bellagamba (University of Milano-Bicocca), Carolyne Brown (Rutgers University), Sandra Greene (Cornell University)

September 2007, The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study and Conference Center, Bellagio (Como), Italy

The goal of this conference is to find and explore more African sources for the history of slavery and the slave trade in Africa. It is a response to a concern shared by most participants that existing histories of the slave trade depend overwhelmingly on European sources. We want African voices. We are particularly interested in slave voices, but are also interested in masters, traders and other observers. Recent research indicates that memories of the slave trade are buried in witchcraft beliefs, folk traditions, religious institutions and cultural forms. We will explore narratives, descriptions of rituals, songs, folk tales and proverbs. We also hope to probe under-utilized documentary sources such missionary archives, court cases, even administrative correspondence that has been hitherto ignore.

We hope to produce a critical edition of African sources on the slave trade, a book on the different methodologies used to uncover the history of slavery and the slave trade in Africa and a web-site that would make the collections of such sources a continuing process.

Because of limited space at the Bellagio Studio and Conference Center, we have limited the geographical scope of the conference to West and North West Africa. We are planning, however, to run a subsequent conference in Toronto in May 2009 to explore materials on other areas.


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