Walter Hawthorne

Hawthorne’s research focuses on the upper Guinea coast of West Africa and  Brazil during the era of the slavery and the slave trade. His scholarship bridges the Atlantic in a way that is fundamental to the themes of the expressive cultures project.

Moreover, under his leadership, the digitial humanities and social sciences center at MSU has become the most important repository of digital documentation on slavery. The recent Mellon award ($1.3 m) is enabling the development of a an open source relational web platform that will also eventually house the website of this project.

Slave Biographies

  The Atlantic Database Network

Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network is an NEH-funded open access repository of information on the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World. It includes the names, ethnicities, skills, occupations, and illnesses of individual slaves. Users of the website can access data about slaves in colonial Louisiana and Maranhão, Brazil. They can download datasets, search for ancestors, and run statistical analysis.

Islam and Modernity

Alternatives in Contemporary Senegambia & Ghana

An NEH-sponsored project to create online galleries of primary oral and written sources and interpretive essays, to be published in a free website entitled “Islam and Modernity” that will enrich our understanding of Islam in the contemporary world. Muslim societies have had to confront Western domination and forms of modernity in the last two centuries. West African Muslims in Senegambia, Ghana and other areas have developed original institutions and what we call “alternative modernities” in pedagogy, gender and class opportunity, interfaith conversations, and other domains.

From Africa to Brazil

Cuture, Identity, and Atlantic Slave Trade 1600-1830

This book traces the flows of enslaved Africans from the upper Guinea coast to Amazonia. These two regions, though separated by an ocean, were made one by a slave route. Planters in northeast Brazil wanted African slaves, and especially those from rice producing areas in Africa, which explains the link across the Atlantic. The book examines why and how those sent to Amazonia were enslaved and what their Middle Passage experience was like. In diaspora the enslaved Africans shaped the labor regime, determined the nature of their family lives, and crafted religious beliefs that were similar to those they had known in Africa.

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