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THE HARRIET TUBMAN RESOURCE CENTRE

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The Tubman Resource Centre is funded by grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Innovation Trust, IBM, and the Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History. For the structure of the Centre, see People; for a description of the digital facility, see Facility. The research program of the York/UNESCO Nigerian Hinterland Project is funded by the Major Collaborative Research Initiatives Program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; see Research. The Tubman Resource Centre is located in 202-B Founders College on the York University campus, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, M3J 1P3. e-mail: nigerian@yorku.ca.
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Research on Slavery and Abolition: Significance and Trends

        The rise and fall of African slavery in the Americas is among a handful of historical issues that have shaped the ideological parameters and social history of the modern world. From the perspective of the end of the twentieth century, the abolition of slavery both created and continues to reflect a preoccupation with human rights, economic efficiency and social identity. This conjunction accounts for its centrality in the historiography on the development of the Atlantic world since 1492 as well as an emerging fascination with African slavery and the Black diaspora among a wider public in Canada and the rest of the world. The forced shipment over several centuries of millions of Africans to the Americas where they became victims of exploitation unparalleled in human history profoundly influenced the history of American societies that employed slaves, the African societies whence they came, and the European nations centrally involved in colonising the Americas. Transatlantic slavery and the forces that produced its formal abolition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were clearly vital in helping to define for others the identity of black peoples. But they were also crucial in shaping European colonialism and imperialism and the identities of 'whites', thus creating legacies of racism and division that still have profound social consequences throughout the Atlantic world and remain the subject of research in all the social sciences as well as the humanities. While the rise and fall of the plantation complex was the rise and fall of a system of production, slavery and abolition raised and, indeed, still continue to raise fundamental issues of community and identity for people in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
       
        Africans entered the modern era through slavery and the slave trade, and hence the study of the African diaspora, as the focus of the Tubman Centre, is the study of how slavery peopled the modern world. It recognizes that the creation of the African diaspora constituted one of the most important population movements of the modern era, and resulted in the forced migration of black Africans not only to the Americas but throughout the Islamic world. Hence a study of the African diaspora not only focuses on the Americas, but also on the Sahara, North Africa, the Ottoman domains, and the shores of the Indian Ocean. The themes of study include the impact of Islam on the modern world, as well as the impact of western Europe on the Atlantic and accommodation with the indigenous environment in which Africans found themselves in the Americas. Such research also recognizes the important impact of migration and settlement on the Native Peoples with whom enslaved Africans, and especially fugitives from slavery, interacted.

        The cultural manifestations of the African diaspora are worth considering. In key areas, such as music, art and religion, the diaspora has helped to shape the modern world, its tastes and sensibilities. Pan-Africanism in its broadest sense of self-awareness and conscious expression has been a major force in exposing racism and the power of legacy. The focus of research for this Centre will be targeted at specific linkages between homeland and diaspora as well as within the diaspora. In terms of methodology and paradigms, the research agenda is intended to benefit from a range of disciplines and also contribute to the debates of the different disciplines. York faculty members are involved in exploring all of these key issues. Areas of expertise reveal several key concentrations of specialists and interests. These include literature in francophone and Caribbean contexts; linguistic issues relating to culture change and language; Underground Railroad and 19th century blacks in upper Canada; Nova Scotia and the Sierra Leone connection; Caribbean immigration and 20th century cultural revival; Islamic heartland and black Africa; ethnic and racialist theories and ideologies; archaeology and material culture; religion; artistic expression; and music.

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Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: tubman@yorku.ca

Fax: (416) 650-8173