Tubman Talks, Thursday, September 17, 2015 2:30-4:00 [Tubman Resource Centre, 3rd Floor York Lanes, York University]

Adaptation in the Aftermath of Slavery:
Women, Property and Trade in Sierra Leone, c. 1790-1815
by Suzanne Schwarz, University of Worcester
and  Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull

The colony of Sierra Leone provides an exceptionally rich and distinctive context in which to examine how women of African origin and descent adapted to new economic circumstances in a post-slavery society. Resident in the colony in the first decade of the nineteenth century were Jamaican Maroons, women with first-hand experiences of American slave systems, as well as recaptive African girls and women released by Royal Navy patrols. For many of the women resettled in Sierra Leone, the colony presented new opportunities for economic diversification. Women developed multiple roles which adapted skills from their cultures of origins, as well as from the Americas. Entrepreneurial women and female petty traders were central to the emergence of Freetown as an ‘emporium of commerce’, and investment strategies by Nova Scotian settlers and Jamaican Maroons included the acquisition of male and female apprentices from among the newly-arrived recaptives. As a result, Sierra Leone emerged as an important site of discourse about the economic roles of women in the aftermath of slavery.

Suzanne Schwarz is Professor History at the University of Worcester, and an Honorary Research Fellow of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull. Her recent publications include Slavery, Abolition and the Transition to Colonialism in Sierra Leone (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2015) co-edited with Paul E. Lovejoy, and an article on ‘Ransoming Practices and “Barbary Coast” Slavery’ in African Economic History (vol. 42, 2014) . She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of Council of the Hakluyt Society, and Committee Secretary of Fontes Historiae Africanae, a British Academy project. She acted as an external consultant for the development of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool in 2007.

All are welcome

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