Project Director: Paul E. Lovejoy
Freedom Narratives focuses on the enforced migration of “Atlantic Africans,” that is enslaved Africans in the Atlantic world during the era of the slave trade, through an examination of biographical accounts of individuals born in West Africa who were enslaved between the 16th and19th century. The focus is on the voices of individual Africans through personal testimony. The Project seeks to use an online digital repository of autobiographical accounts and biographical data of Atlantic Africans to analyze patterns in slavery and society in West Africa, specifically in terms of where individuals came from, why they were enslaved, and what happened to them. The Project focuses on people born in Africa and hence in most cases had been born free rather than on those who were born into slavery in the Americas. The contribution concentrates on individuals who remained in West Africa but also those who experienced the “Middle Passage,” i.e., the Atlantic crossing, which is often seen as a defining moment in the slavery experience. The accounts are often included in the genre referred to as “slave narratives” but because those who were born in Africa were free until they were enslaved, we can more accurately call their stories “freedom narratives” because most individuals whose accounts have survived subsequently regained their freedom. Freedom Narratives focuses on biographical testimony as the fundamental unit of analysis, whether text arises from first person memory or via amanuensis, and whenever possible is supplemented with biographical details culled from legal, ecclesiastical, and other types of records.