A Bicentenary Inquiry

From Wednesday to Friday, I was able to attend all the daytime panel discussions, but unfortunately none of the evening activities because of my work schedule. The conference extended over a four day period, and everyday the venue changed for significant reasons. On Wednesday the Conference officially opened in Arnold Hall at the Jewish Studies Center with a reading by Lawrence Hill from his novel Someone Knows My Name.  The panel discussions included “Economics, Class, and Gender Issues” and panel 2 was on “Abolition, the law and its Evasion.”  I really enjoyed the passage that Hill read from his book and the discussion that followed.  Hill’s book was initially published in Canada under the title, The Book of Negroes, but when it came time to publish in the United States, the title was rejected because of the word Negro.  This title change is curious due to the connotations of the word negro in the US as opposed to Canada. 

On Thursday at the Avery Research Center, there were four panels; “Gullah and Creolization,” “Abolitionist Discourse,” “Resistance,” and “Slavery, Plantations, and landscape in American Visual Art.” There was also a lunch on the Gullah/Geechee Nation with Queen Quet, of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. I enjoyed everything about her presentation, her presence is commanding and her voice is strong.   She spoke of her battle to gain international recognition for the people of the Gullah/Geechee Nation from the local level, all the way to the United Nations. Her insistance to speak Gullah/Geechee when she addressed the UN when she was advised not to is inspiring.  That, to me, is making history.

At the Citadel on Friday there were again four panel discussions;  “Racism, Racial Science, and the Representation of Race,” “Maroonage, Dispersal, and the Roots of Forced Migration,” “Infrastructure and Ideology,” and the “Experience of Slavery.”  I was encouraged by two of the presenters on Friday’s panel, they were both young recent PhDs, and their research was very interesting, especially the one on “Slave Trading Entrepôts and their Hinterlands: The Continued Forced Migrations after the Middle Passage to North America” by Greg O’Malley. I was able to draw parallels from his work to mine. It is important to note that Haitian history is a history of migrations and movements that extends into modern day.  O’Malley is researching personal accounts about the passage from where the captured Africans entered into the US to their final destination  as slaves.  I see parallels between wondering what happened to those French colonists and Creoles who came to Atlantic port cities of the US and where they ended up.

This conference was important to me because I hope to pursue a Masters in Public History and do exactly this, organize and plan a conference or exhibit for the public.  Attending this conference was an invaluable experience through the discussions with the different presenters, the setting, and the extracurricular events of the conference. What I liked about this particular conference was the fact that the participants were not limited to scholars and academic papers, but the discussions where connected through an interdisciplinary idea that the International Slave Trade exists in history books and academic papers, but also in its descendants and their heritage, and their interpretations through art, literature, music, and especially their identity.

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