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Rethinking Early American Slavery from an International Perspective, 1450-1640

November 19, 2012 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of James H. Sweet outdoors in front of a dock wearing a striped shirt and brown jacket

Monday Seminar:

James H. Sweet

Resident Fellow (2012-2013)

History, UW-Madison


Many are aware that the first “20. and odd” Africans arrived in British North America in 1619. Historians of early America often treat this episode as an exceptional moment in which British colonists, unfamiliar with chattel slavery, integrated culturally pliable “Atlantic Creole” Africans into early Chesapeake society as indentured servants. Moving away from emphases on US historical “beginnings,” I argue that the British, and even Virginia’s first colonists, were intimately familiar with slavery and the slave trade. Moreover, the Angolans that arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s were not “Atlantic Creoles.” Rather, they were like the hundreds of thousands of other Central Africans distributed across the Americas in the first decades of the seventeenth century. Ultimately, there was nothing exceptional about the landing of the first “20. and odd” Africans in Virginia. On the contrary, their arrival was a predictable outcome of historical processes that began as early as the fifteenth century on the Iberian Peninsula, culminating in the variable, overlapping patterns of slaving that characterized the seventeenth-century circum-Caribbean and Atlantic world.


James H. Sweet is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests range widely across the history of Africa and the African diaspora. He is the author of two prize-winning books, Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770 (2003) and Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (2011). In addition to Diaspora’s Democracy, he is currently working on two other projects, one on a pirated slave ship in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, and another on the politics of interracial intimacy in twentieth-century South Africa.


November 19, 2012
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Categories:


University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States