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The Legacy of Slavery in the Atlantic World

Project Overview

Internationally-renowned professor of African American History Dr. Stephen Small and International Relations professor Dr. Kwame Nimako visited Carleton College to deliver a lecture on slavery and its legacy.

Identifying the Problem

Mouhamadou was disappointed to find that his fellow students were not very knowledgeable about the history of slavery. He himself had a limited understanding of slavery’s legacy, and was frustrated that, while he could learn more about slavery by taking classes in history or African American studies, he would not be exposed to the subject matter from other academic perspectives. Furthermore, he and other classmates had not been exposed to much information about the history of blacks in the United States or the rest of the world.

Creating A Solution

During Mouhamadou’s Humanity in Action Fellowship in the Netherlands, he witnessed Dr. Stephen Small give an incredibly memorable and empowering speech about the legacy of slavery in Europe. “It was illuminating,” says Mouhamadou. “Slavery and its legacy implicate so many more societies than are generally known about.” Mouhamadou was so moved by Dr. Small’s charisma and enthusiasm that he approached the professor immediately following the speech and invited him to speak at his college. Not only was Dr. Small delighted to come to Mouhamadou’s college, but his colleague, International Relations professor Dr. Kwame Nimako, wanted to come as well.

Absolutely determined to give others the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Small and Dr. Nimako, Mouhamadou spent six months coordinating with the professors via email and telephone in order to solidify the dates of their visit and lecture. After settling on dates, Mouhamadou began communicating with student organizations and members of the faculty and staff, asking them to sponsor the event.  

The lecture was attended by 25 students and faculty members, and everyone who attended gained newfound knowledge about the impact of slavery. Dr. Small focused on the legacy of slavery in the European context, and Dr. Nimako spoke about how people today use the terms “colonialism” and “slavery” as a way of eliciting psychological reactions from people who do not fully comprehend the meaning of the words. “The lecture was so important because not only is slavery rarely talked about where I live, but it’s never talked about in the European context,” says Mouhamadou. 

The question and answer session following the lecture was especially exciting for Mouhamadou, as those who had attended expressed their gratitude for learning so much about slavery from the speakers. Many in the audience wanted to know more about how they could help educate others about the legacy of slavery. Both speakers enthusiastically stressed the importance of building coalitions as an effective method of informing others about important issues affecting society. “People left feeling inspired,” says Mouhamadou. “The lecture opened their eyes.”

Indeed, the impact of Mouhamadou’s project lasted long after the event ended. The lectures had inspired several student organizations to create new programs that raise awareness about the Black Experience, and also inspired more students to take classes in African American History. A week after the lecture, students who had not previously been involved in student activism got involved during “Prison Reform Week” when they helped bring attention to the disproportionate rate of mass incarceration among the United States’ black population.

Lessons Learned

This was the first time Mouhamadou had ever organized an event like this, and while it was a huge success, he advises anyone interested in planning a similar event to collaborate with others during the planning phase, as doing it by yourself is a lot of work and can be extremely stressful. While this was a solo project, he did seek advice from other students who had brought guest speakers to campus before, which he says was very helpful. He also encourages anyone wanting to hold a similar event to not be afraid to ask for money, and most importantly, to not give up.

Get Involved!

While this lecture has already taken place, the legacy of slavery is certainly not over. Mouhamadou encourages others to get involved by fearlessly sharing their stories with others and to start building a coalition of resistance against structural oppression

Funding

The total cost of Mouhamadou’s project was $1,600, which including airfare, accommodation, honoraria and refreshments at the event. Once Mouhamadou had determined that Dr. Small and Dr. Nimako would indeed be coming to his college, he immediately began contacting student organizations, heads of various departments, and the Dean of the College to ask for funding. His project was enthusiastically supported by Carleton College’s Departments of African American studies, European studies, History, Sociology/Anthropology and Political Science. Mouhamadou also partnered with the Office of Intercultural/International Life, the Office of the Chaplain and the African Student Association in hosting this event. Mouhamadou enlisted the help of the African Student Association in publicizing his event, which included putting up posters around campus and sending emails.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2011

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