Understanding Transatlantic Slavery and Canadian Slavery

  • October 31, 2022
  • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Zoom virtual lecture

        Charmaine Nelson, PhD  

Charmaine A. Nelson is a Provost Professor of Art History in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, and Director of the Slavery North Initiative at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, USA. From 2020-2022, she was a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University in Halifax, where she founded the first-ever institute focused on the study of Canadian Slavery. She also worked at McGill University (Montreal) for seventeen years (2003-2020).

Nelson has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, Black Diaspora Studies, and Black Canadian Studies. She has published seven books including The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016), and Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (2018).  She is actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including ABC, CBC, CTV, and City TV News, The Boston Globe, BBC One’s “Fake or Fortune,” and PBS’ “Finding your Roots”. She has blogged for Huffington Post Canada and written for The Walrus. In 2017, she was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University and in 2021 a Fields of the Future Fellow at Bard Graduate Center (NYC). 

Understanding Transatlantic Slavery and Slavery in Canada

Although Canadian Slavery transpired in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (including Cape Breton), P.E.I. and Newfoundland, Canadian participation in Transatlantic Slavery, under the French and British Empires, is little known both inside and outside of Canada. What replaces slavery in the national imagination is celebratory narratives of the Underground Railroad, the period between 1834 when the British abolished slavery by an act of parliament and 1865 when the American Civil War ended. Through this narrative, Canadians have enshrined a period of three decades, casting themselves as the liberators of enslaved African Americans. Meanwhile, the 200-year history of Canadian Slavery has been profoundly neglected.

Canadian Slavery was a part of Transatlantic Slavery which transpired for 400 years. Within this institution, only Black Africans were always deemed fit for enslavement. Therefore, Canada  – like other western nations – was founded on anti-Black racism. This talk explores the various dimensions of Transatlantic Slavery and Canadian Slavery and the nature and methods of the research of these complex histories. 

This event is part of the Fall 2022 Speaker series. Register for the Fall 2022 Event Series.

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