The Brazil LAB and the Program in Latin American Studies at Princeton University presents the 2022 Stanley J. Stein Lecture, featuring historian Ana Lucia Araujo (Howard University & Institute for Advanced Study).
Discussant: Jeremy Adelman (Princeton University)
This lecture honors the life and work of the Princeton Professor Stanley J. Stein (1920-2019), a visionary historian of Brazil and Latin America.
In the past three decades, an increasing number of organized groups and social actors, who identify themselves as descendants of enslaved people, have engaged in activities memorializing the victims of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. This lecture focuses on cultural memory of slavery, a modality of memory in dialogue with collective memory, encompassing commemoration and rituals that ultimately have the power to allow people to come to terms with the past of slavery in the present. To explore these processes, I examine two different kinds of initiatives that expose how cultural memory of slavery is also racialized. I examine commemoration activities and ceremonies around burial grounds of enslaved Africans and their descendants in Brazil and the United States. I also look at another set of more complex initiatives designated as “wall of names.” This mnemonic device, utilized in memorials commemorating the victims of Atlantic slavery and the slave trade is greatly inspired by the memorial expressions created for the victims of wars, the Holocaust, and other genocides. In many ways, the creation of “walls of names” reinforces dialogues between survivors of human atrocities and their descendants, therefore embodying Michael Rothberg’s idea of multidirectional memory in which the memorialization of the Holocaust and other genocides reciprocally shapes the memorialization of Atlantic slavery. I argue that although paradoxically drawing from ancient plantation inventories, documents that dehumanized enslaved individuals, and books recording baptisms, walls of names of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade are designed to establish a link of empathy between visitors to these memorials and the deceased victims of slavery. By naming the victims of these human atrocities, the creation of “walls of names” can be conceived as a form of symbolic reparations, here understood as “redress of physical, material, or moral damage inflicted on an individual [or] a group of individuals.” At last, even though not always accomplished successfully, by individualizing the victims of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery the creation of walls of names in sites that are historically marked by white supremacy is an attempt to rehumanize enslaved men, women, and children.
Ana Lucia Araujo is a Professor of History at the historically black Howard University in Washington DC, United States. She is currently a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute of Advanced Study. Araujo authored and edited thirteen books on topics related to the history and memory of Atlantic slavery. Her three recent single-authored books include Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past (2020), Museums and Atlantic Slavery (2021), and Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History (2017). Since 2017, she is a member of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project. She serves on the Board of Editors of the American Historical Review, on the editorial board of the journal Slavery and Abolition and on the editorial review board of the African Studies Review. She is also a member of the executive board of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide Diaspora (ASWAD) and the advisory board of the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. Araujo just completed the book manuscript Human in Humans in Shackles: An Atlantic History of Slavery in the Americas (under contract with the University of Chicago Press) and is currently working on The Gift: How Objects of Prestige Shaped the Atlantic Slave Trade and Colonialism (under contract with Cambridge University Press), funded by the Institute for Advanced Study (funding provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation), the Franklin Research Grant of the American Philosophical Society, and the Getty Residential Scholar Grant at the Getty Center by the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California.