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Lost Daughters of Afrik: African Women and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

The experiences of African women on the West African coast, on board the slave ships, and on arrival in the Caribbean.

This paper explores the experiences of African women on the West African coast, on board the slave ships, and on arrival in the Caribbean, including concubinage relationships with white men. The paper critically analyses white representations of African women, including the 'sable Venus'. More broadly it considers the ways in which African women negotiated new, and deeply unequal, relationships with Europeans in the context of the profound - and traumatic - changes in their lives created by the transatlantic slave trade. Key themes are cultural continuities between Africa and the Caribbean, the dynamics of change during the Middle Passage, and the ways in which African women were forced to embrace new identities as slaves within the developing race/ gender orders that emerged with the expansion of the slave trade. The "Lost Daughter's of Afrik" - referred to sympathetically in a contemporary abolitionist poem - are the countless anonymous women slaves who made the journey of no return and are still remembered by their descendents in the African Diaspora. They experienced alienation and dislocation from kin and family but also demonstrated resilience and a capacity to resist and hold on to their personhood. Their odyssey to the Americas evokes sorrow but also the strength to resist enslavement and a desire to survive and to hold on to the cultural memory of Africa.

Barbara Bush is a Professor of Imperial History at Sheffield Hallam University. She has published widely on gender and culture in slave and post-slave societies and her most recent research has been in the area of imperial history. Her key publications include Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650-1838 (James Currey; Indiana University Press, 1990); Imperialism, Race and Resistance: Africa and Britain 1919-1945 (Routledge, 1999), ‘Gender and Empire: The Twentieth Century’ in Philippa Levine ed., Gender and Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire, Companion Series (2004) and, most recently, Imperialism and Postcolonialism (Pearson Education, 2006).


Dr Barbara Bush | talks


Date and Time:

3 May 2007 at 11:00 am


2 hours



National Maritime Museum
Park Row
SE10 9NF
020 8312 6716

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