Gender and Enslavement in Atlantic Africa Seminar and John Akomfrah Exhibition

Gender and Enslavement in Atlantic Africa Seminar and John Akomfrah Exhibition

1st November 2017, 16:00 to 19:30

Presentation: Seminar Room 1 & 2, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 4pm

Followed by a drink reception at Talbot Rice Gallery, providing an opportunity to see the work of renowned filmmaker John Akomfrah.


Over the course of the Atlantic slave trade from the early 16th to the mid-19th centuries, approximately one-third of the Africans trafficked to the Americas were women. Even more women than these approximately four million were enslaved during this era, perhaps most retained in Africa as workers and wives, relatively fewer others channeled into trans-Saharan slaving routes. The production of women for the Atlantic trade therefore involved two processes: their initial enslavement, followed by a decision to consign some to overseas sale.

This presentation both syntheses existing studies and draws on primary accounts to consider these two aspects of the enslavement of women for forced export from West Africa. While accounts by slave traders and survivors of slavery tell us only little about enslaved women who were retained in Africa, some of them poignantly reveal the circumstances that banished female captives to the Americas and the particular vulnerabilities of women throughout Atlantic Africa in the era of the overseas slave trade. To consider gender is thus to better understand the process of turning African people into Atlantic commodities and, moreover, to reconceptualize the Atlantic slave trade as a whole.


Lisa A. Lindsay’s research centres on the social history of West Africa, particularly Nigeria, and on links between Africa and other parts of the world. Although over time her primary focus has moved from gender to slavery, in all of her work she endeavors to understand large-scale processes through human-scale experiences, and to attend to African particularities as well as points of larger comparison and connection. Her most recent project is the contextualized biography of a South Carolina freedman who in the 1850s migrated to modern-day Nigeria, making trans-Atlantic connections that his descendants and their American relatives maintain to this day. She is also beginning work on a history of women and gender in the Atlantic slave trade.

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