March 28, 2005
Leading Historian on Slavery to Present
Leading historian on slavery Ibrahim Sundiata, Ph.D., is Whitworth's 2005 Simpson-Duvall lecturer. Sundiata will give a lecture, "African Americans and Africans: The Vagaries of a Twentieth Century Relationship," on Monday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth College. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3270.
Sundiata, who holds an endowed chair as Samuel and Augusta Spector Professor of History at Brandeis University, is one of the leading historians on slavery and forced labor and their impact on the imagination of both Africans and African Americans. He is the author of Brothers and Strangers: Black Zion, Black Slavery 1914-1940; From Slaving to Neoslavery: The Bight of Biafra and Fernando Po in the Era of Prohibition, 1827-1930; Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability; and Black Scandal: America and the Iberian Labor Crisis, 1929-1936.
Sundiata has served as a resident fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University and has also served on the advisory committee of the National Slavery Museum. He earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
Sundiata's books have received much attention and praise from the academic community, from serious readers throughout the country, and from learned critics. Wilson Jeremiah Moses, editor of Liberian Dreams: Back-to-Africa Narratives from the 1850s and Ferree Professor of American History at The Pennsylvania State University, writes of Sundiata's Brothers and Strangers, "This much-needed and long-awaited book is a godsend, not only for its courageous handling of its controversial subject, but also for the more general information that it presents in the field of Liberian history."
Another reviewer calls Sundiata's recent book "unprecedented in scope and detail," and goes on to say, "Brothers and Strangers is a vivid history of how, during the interwar years, the mythic Africa of the black American imagination ran into the realities of Africa the place."
Brothers and Strangers chronicles the "last great African American emigrationist movement," when, in the 1920s, Marcus Garvey attempted to foster the creation of an African homeland in Liberia for American expatriate blacks. Garvey's plan foundered when the Liberian elite rejected the idea; later, the U.S., building upon a 1930 League of Nations report on Liberian labor practices, began efforts to put down "conditions analogous to slavery" in that country and to "modernize" Liberia. The Liberian government, fearful of the loss of independence, turned to its international friends, including W.E.B. Dubois, who came to the country's aid. These interactions of some 80 years ago continue to influence the state of human rights, according to the reviewer, "in 21st-century African locations as disparate as Sudan, Mauritania, and Cote d'Ivoire."
Reviewer Jan M. Vansina, professor emeritus of history and anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and widely considered one of the founders of the discipline of African history, says Sundiata's From Slaving to Neoslavery "is a first. No other books exist on Fernando Po in English. The work is original and the scholarship impressive. It will be a must in studies about late slavery, contract labor, and Creoledom.
"[The book] has manifold implications. Historians usually depict the 19th century as the period in which free labor triumphed over slavery, but Sundiata challenges this notion. By examining the history of Fernando Po, he illuminates the larger debate about slavery current among scholars of Africa."
And Book News says of From Slavery to Neoslavery, "Sundiata offers a comprehensive history of labor relations on the largest West African island, from its belated colonization in the later 19th century to the virtual extinction of the native culture. He challenges the conventional model of free labor displacing slavery by examining how interactions between Africans and colonialism were influenced by the environment, disease, slavery, abolition, and indigenous state formation."
Ibrahim Sundiata is one of the country's leading interpreters of the impact of slavery on the consciousness of African Americans in the United States. His work helps all readers understand the ongoing legacy of this tragic chapter in Western history.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.
Dale Soden, director, Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning, (509) 777-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Yoder, professor of politics & history, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4432 or email@example.com.
Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.