Humanities Lab Will Explore Representations of Race and Freedom in the African Diaspora

From Slavery to Freedom

The Franklin Humanities Institute announces its newest humanities laboratory, to run Fall 2018 to Spring 2021: “From Slavery to Freedom: Representations of Race and Freedom in the African Diaspora.” Named after John Hope Franklin’s groundbreaking 1947 history of African Americans, and directed by faculty members Richard J. Powell, Jasmine Nichole Cobb, and Lamonte Aidoo, the lab will examine the life and afterlives of slavery and emancipation, linking Duke University to the Global South.

Planned projects include: a web source on primary sources on slavery in Duke University Libraries archives, featuring linkages to slavery in Carolinas and the Global South; a major art exhibition in the Nasher Museum of Art, on sculptural works related to the abolition of slavery; and a provision ground—the land typically set aside on plantations for enslaved people to grow their own crops—at Duke Campus Farm, as a “living monument” to represent the land’s history as a plantation.

Fall 2018 courses associated with the lab will include “African Art: Court/Marketplace” (ARTHIST 345), “Intro to African American Studies” (AAAS 102), and “Race and Sex in Brazilian History” (ROMS89S).

“Rick, Jasmine, and I are excited to collaborate with students, faculty, and the greater Durham community to examine the painful, yet rich histories of slavery and freedom in the African Diaspora,” said Lamonte Aidoo. “The vestiges of slavery are yet present, and we envision our lab as a space to reflect collectively not only on its enduring impact as an institution, but think critically on how the legacies of resistance throughout the African Diaspora might help us to work toward liberation, inclusion, and social justice in the present. Now is the perfect time to for members of the Duke community to explore the cultural aftermaths of slavery—whether visual, literary, social or sentient—and the routes to freedom that link Durham to the Global South.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome the From Slavery to Freedom Lab,” said FHI Director Ranjana Khanna. “It felt like an important choice in this juncture in our history. The proposal acknowledges the specificity of local concerns in context of the larger history of slavery in the Global South, and they proposed fantastic projects. They are bringing in other areas of the university, like the John Hope Franklin Research Center at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Nasher Museum of Art, and the Duke Campus Farm.”

“I’ve been thinking about grappling with its legacy as a former plantation since I started working at the farm,” said Saskia Cornes, Duke Campus Farm Manager and Assistant Professor of the Practice at the Franklin Humanities Institute. “Bringing in new partners to think and act on that legacy is the necessary thing to do, and the lab is the perfect context to explore such a complex and embedded problem.”

Originally posted on the Franklin Humanities Institute website

Francesco Pezzicar, L’emancipazione dei negri (“The Freed Slave”), 1876. Image: The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University