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Fighting Back : African Strategies Against the Slave Trade

An International Conference at
Livingstone 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 onthe 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.


CONFERENCE PROGRAM

FRIDAY

9:00 – 9:30 Opening Remarks

9:30 – 12:00 : THE LANDSCAPE AS STRATEGY

  • Slave raiding and Defensive Systems South of Lake Chad  from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century

Thierno M. Bah, Yaoundé University, Cameroon

  • Lacustrine Villages in South Benin as Refuges Against the Slave Trade

Elisée Soumonni, Bénin University, Benin

  • The Myth of Inevitability and Invincibility: Resistance to Slavers and the Slave Trade in Central Africa in the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Dennis Cordell, Southern Methodist University

  • Impact of the Slave trade on Cayor and Baol: Mutations in the Habitat And Land Occupancy

Adama Guèye, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal

12:00 – 1:30 : LUNCH BREAK

1:30 – 3:30 : DEFENDING ONESELF AND ONE’S GROUP

  • Ritual Artworks as Defense Mechanism Against Enslavement

Baldwin Chika Anyasodo, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Nigeria

  • The Story of Nbena, 1817-1819: From Unlawful Enslavement to Freedom in Central Angola

Jose Curto, York University, Canada

  • Herstory or History? The Legacy of Women Resistance To the Slave trade in Igboland

Ndu Life Njoku, Imo State University, Nigeria

3:30 – 3:45 : COFFEE BREAK

3:45 – 6:00 : PROTECTING THEIR OWN: FAMILIAL AND COMMUNAL STRATEGIES

  • Igboland, Slavery and the Drums of War and Heroism

John Oriji, California Polytechnic State University

  • Protection Against Enslavement at the Slave Port of Old Calabar in the Late 18th Century

Paul Lovejoy, York University, Canada

  • The Last Resort: Redeeming Family

Sylviane A. Diouf, Rutgers University


SATURDAY

9:30-12:00 : FIGHTING FROM WITHIN: SLAVE RESISTANCE AND REVOLT

  • Slave Revolt In Yorubaland: The 'Oyo' Uprising in Ile-Ife, C.1850

Olatunji Ojo, York University, Canada

  • Liberation without Freedom: An Analysis of Slave Resistance in Hausaland c. 1880-1897

Ibrahim Hamza, York University, Canada

  • ‘A Devotion to the idea of Liberty at Any Price’: Rebellion and Antislavery in 18th and 19th Century Upper Guinea Coast

Ismail Rashid, Vassar College

  • Slave Resistance and Class Formation in Early 20th Century Igboland

Carolyn Brown, Rutgers University

12:00 – 1:30 : LUNCH BREAK

1:30 – 3:30 : CASE STUDIES

  • Black Loyalists Against the Slave Trade in Sierra Leone

Sylvie Kandé, New York University

  • Resistance to the Slave Trade on the Guinea Coast, 19th Century

Djibril Tamsir Niane, UNESCO Slave Route Project, Guinea

  • ‘We shall rejoice to see the day when slavery shall cease to exist': The Gold Coast Times and the British Abolition of Slavery in Colonial Ghana, 1874-75

Kwabena Akurang-Parry, Shippensburg University

3:30 – 3:45: COFFEE BREAK

3:45 – 6:00 : STRATEGIES OF THE STATE AND THE STATELESS

  • Transforming a Stateless Society: Balanta Response to the Slave Trade

Walter Hawthorne, Ohio State University

  • Defensive Strategies: Wasulu, Masina and the Slave Trade

Martin A. Klein, University of Toronto, Canada

  • The Struggle against the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: the Role of the State

Joseph Inikori, Rochester University

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The conference is free and open to the public. Please register by fax: (732) 932 8708 or email: rcha@rci.rutgers.edu; providing your name, affiliation, address, telephone number, and specifying the day(s) you will attend.