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Conference Announcement

Fighting Back: African Strategies against the Slave Trade

The Rutgers Department of History and Center for African Studies in collaboration with the UNESCO/SSHRCC Nigerian Hinterland Project of York University , Canada, sponsor a conference, scheduled for February 16-17, 2001 at Rutgers University to explore the strategies used by the Africans to protect themselves from the trade in slaves.

Little is known about this topic, and what is known is scattered among a variety of specialist studies and in obscure corners of studies focusing on other issues. However, no picture of the slave trade, whether 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 Africans responded to the threat and reality of enslavement and sale.

Africans used a variety of strategies to express their opposition to enslavement and alienation through sale. There were personal, familial, communal and state strategies, which sometimes were in contradiction with one another. Tactics included but were not limited to: the redemption of captives, occult protection, psychological defense, defensive planning of settlements, architectural design, use of caves, captive revolts, establishment of maroon and refugee villages, religious interdiction against sale, written and oral denunciations of sales, attacks on forts and slaving entrepôts, diversion of rivers, relocation of villages, covenants between communities for protection, tributes, revolts, and other armed resistance.

Despite this evidence of open resistance to involvement in international slavery, it is generally assumed that Africans were passive victims of the slave trade, except for those few merchants and rulers who collaborated in the enslavement and deportation of their fellow beings.

The presupposition of African passivity and inactivity needs to be challenged. An exploration of history, literature, oral tradition and traditional cultural forms reveals that the responses to the slave trade were more pervasive than is usually thought.

The contributions will be subsequently published in an edited collection.

Please send an abstract by April 30, 2000 to:

Dr. Sylviane A. Diouf
Research Associate
Center for Historical Analysis
88 College Avenue
Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick NJ 08901
Tel: (732) 932 8701
Sylviane@okcom.net