Daily Archives: January 17, 2022

African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa: Michael Gomez

Pick up almost any book on early and medieval world history and empire, and where do you find West Africa? On the periphery. This pioneering book tells a different story. Interweaving political and social history and drawing on a rich array of sources, Michael Gomez unveils a new vision of how categories of ethnicity, race, gender, and caste emerged in Africa and in global history. Focusing on the Savannah and Sahel region, Gomez traces how Islam’s growth in West Africa, along with intensifying commerce that included slaves, resulted in a series of political experiments unique to the region, culminating in the rise of empire. A radically new account of the importance of early Africa in global history, African Dominion will be the standard work on the subject for years to come.


“Winner of the ASA Book Prize (Herskovits), African Studies Association”

“Winner of the Martin A. Klein Prize, American Historical Association”

“One of Choice Reviews’ Outstanding Academic Titles of 2018”


“[A] groundbreaking study.”―New Yorker

“Richly researched.”―Howard French, Times Literary Supplement

“An extraordinarily rich and exciting narrative. This short review cannot do justice to the variety of insights African Dominion brings to our understanding of West African history. . . . I imagine that Michael Gomez’s achievement will set the standard for scholarship on West Africa’s empires for years to come.”―Myles Osborne, Medieval Review

“Michael Gomez’s survey of this long period more than updates the older synthesis, it revolutionizes it, transforms it, and will surely replace all that has come before it. . . . It is a signal achievement. . . . [A] model of scholarship and interpretation.”―John Thornton, International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Important. . . . [E]ngaging and insightful.”―T. M. Reese, Choice

From the Back Cover

“A masterful account of early West African history, this authoritative book fills a major gap. It will long remain one of the most important works on–and be essential to debates about–precolonial West Africa.”–Andreas Eckert, Humboldt University of Berlin

“Utterly original and elegantly narrated, African Dominion provides a more complete, complex, and comparative picture of West Africa than previously available. It will have radical implications.”–Mamadou Diouf, Columbia University

About the Author

Michael A. Gomez is the Silver Professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. His books include Black Crescent: African Muslims in the Americas, Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora, and Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South.

  • Publisher: ‎ Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (August 27, 2019)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Paperback: ‎ 520 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0691196826
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0691196824
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.55 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎ 6.14 x 1.16 x 9.21 inches

African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty and Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic (The Early Modern Americas): Herman L. Bennett

As early as 1441, and well before other European countries encountered Africa, small Portuguese and Spanish trading vessels were plying the coast of West Africa, where they conducted business with African kingdoms that possessed significant territory and power. In the process, Iberians developed an understanding of Africa’s political landscape in which they recognized specific sovereigns, plotted the extent and nature of their polities, and grouped subjects according to their ruler.

In African Kings and Black Slaves, Herman L. Bennett mines the historical archives of Europe and Africa to reinterpret the first century of sustained African-European interaction. These encounters were not simple economic transactions. Rather, according to Bennett, they involved clashing understandings of diplomacy, sovereignty, and politics. Bennett unearths the ways in which Africa’s kings required Iberian traders to participate in elaborate diplomatic rituals, establish treaties, and negotiate trade practices with autonomous territories. And he shows how Iberians based their interpretations of African sovereignty on medieval European political precepts grounded in Roman civil and canon law. In the eyes of Iberians, the extent to which Africa’s polities conformed to these norms played a significant role in determining who was, and who was not, a sovereign people—a judgment that shaped who could legitimately be enslaved.

Through an examination of early modern African-European encounters, African Kings and Black Slaves offers a reappraisal of the dominant depiction of these exchanges as being solely mediated through the slave trade and racial difference. By asking in what manner did Europeans and Africans configure sovereignty, polities, and subject status, Bennett offers a new depiction of the diasporic identities that had implications for slaves’ experiences in the Americas.


“At the core of Bennett’s book is the argument that the fierce competition between Portugal and Spain over the African Atlantic, which was significantly mediated by the Church, was crucial to the creation of the modern nation-state and of what became modern European nationalism. Early national identities in Europe were forged, to a substantial extent, on the basis of competition over trade and influence in Africa. And this, Bennett says, gets completely lost in Western histories that fast-forward from the conquest of the Canary Islands to Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.”—New York Review of Books

“Bennett engages a wide historiography and offers new perspectives on early Atlantic legal culture, political and religious authority, pageantry, and slavery. Bennett complicates the narrative that Europeans rendered Africans into property and capital through Roman law and Christian theology . . . .African Kings and Black Slaves is one of the boldest and most successful attempts yet to engage the fields of African studies, history, and critical theory equally.”—Hispanic American Historical Review

African Kings and Black Slaves is an impressive work that fundamentally challenges current understandings of slavery, empire and modernity, and will likely be the cornerstone of a new body of scholarship it invites.”—Bulletin of Spanish Studies

“The book is short but packed with Bennett’s analyses of the work of previous and current theorists and scholars. His judgments are acute, and . . . [h]e examines a prodigious amount of theory, using those parts of the corpus and the arguments that are pertinent and demolishing those he deems mistaken or misleading . . . The book is a major accomplishment and a testament to Bennett’s wide reading. All those working on Atlantic slavery will need to take it into account.”—Renaissance Quarterly

“An immensely thought-provoking book. In his sophisticated reconsideration of late-medieval European characterizations of sub-Saharan Africans, Herman L. Bennett troubles the traditional account of the rise of the West.”—David Wheat, Michigan State University

“Herman L. Bennett’s indispensable study alerts us to the political and intellectual consequences of flattening the history of Europe’s relations with Africa by overlooking the Iberian experience. He ably shows how recuperating the notion of African sovereignty, abundantly recognized in early exchanges, can fundamentally change our understanding of African polities and African subjects.”—Barbara Fuchs, University of California, Los Angeles

African Kings and Black Slaves centers the histories of peoples of African descent in the grand tale of imperial conquest and power and thereby challenges the dominant narrative that colonial slavery has timelessly been about freedom. Herman Bennett is especially sensitive to the multisited nature of the contests set in motion by colonial encounters.”—Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

About the Author

Herman L. Bennett is Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is author of Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico and Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640.

  • Publisher: ‎ University of Pennsylvania Press; Reprint edition (March 6, 2020)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Paperback: ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0812224620
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0812224627
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12.6 ounces
  • Dimensions: ‎ 6 x 0.55 x 9 inches

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White Malice: The CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa: Susan Williams

A revelatory history of how postcolonial African Independence movements were systematically undermined by one nation above all: the US.

In 1958 in Accra, Ghana, the Hands Off Africa conference brought together the leading figures of African independence in a public show of political strength and purpose. Led by the charismatic Kwame Nkrumah, who had just won Ghana’s independence, his determined call for Pan-Africanism was heeded by young, idealistic leaders across the continent and by African Americans seeking civil rights at home. Yet, a moment that signified a new era of African freedom simultaneously marked a new era of foreign intervention and control.

In White Malice, Susan Williams unearths the covert operations pursued by the CIA from Ghana to the Congo to the UN in an effort to frustrate and deny Africa’s new generation of nationalist leaders. This dramatically upends the conventional belief that the African nations failed to establish effective, democratic states on their own accord. As the old European powers moved out, the US moved in.

Drawing on original research, recently declassified documents, and told through an engaging narrative, Williams introduces readers to idealistic African leaders and to the secret agents, ambassadors, and even presidents who deliberately worked against them, forever altering the future of a continent.



deeply distressing history of CIA involvement in plots to eliminate certain regimes in Africa, particularly in the Congo and Ghana, just as the countries shook off European colonial rule in the mid-20th century… Rigorous reporting reveals “America’s role in the deliberate violation of democracy” in newly independent African nations.”―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Beautifully written and carefully researched. It is an important contribution to the history of Africa in the context of the Cold War, when the USA and the Soviet Union were locked in a struggle for African influence and control.”―Martin Plaut, former Africa Editor, BBC World Service News and author of Understanding South Africa

“In this masterpiece of historical analysis on the dirty tricks of the CIA in Africa during the 1960s, Susan Williams delivers her magnum opus. This richly documented narrative is based on outstanding scholarly research comprising archival sources from eight countries and the United Nations, plus numerous other written and oral sources … it could not be timelier in throwing light on the institutionalized racism and hypocrisy of Western powers.” ―Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja Professor of African and Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“This meticulously researched book provides a compelling account of decolonisation and the forces that sought to thwart that chaotic, protracted, but ultimately liberating process. An informative read which, in examining the death throes of the rapacious colonial project, lays bare the profound injustice imperialism inflicted on Africa and beyond.”―Shashi Tharoor, Indian MP and author of Inglorious Empire

“[White Malice] overflows with fascinating information, original research, and bold ideas.”―NPR.org

“A revelatory, meticulous new book.”―Unherd

White Malice is a triumph of archival research, and its best moments come when Williams allows the actors on both sides to speak for themselves.”―Africa is a Country

“Williams does a nice line in intrigue. There is a John le Carré quality to many of the episodes.”―Financial Times

“A new book from historian and academic Dr Susan Williams is always an eagerly awaited event – and White Malice: The CIA and the Neocolonialisation of Africa is no exception. Williams has woven together many of the themes of previous studies to present a searing indictment of how Western powers interfered with, plundered and sabotaged the interests of newly independent African nations and their leaders.”―African Business

“[A] devastating, superbly researched account.”―Daily Maverick

“This thoroughly-researched account of CIA interference in two newly independent African nations makes for sobering reading.”―The Scotsman

“This gripping book meticulously uncovers the role of covert western interference in two countries.”―Labour Hub

“Her thesis threatens to disappear amid a forest of historical detail, but readers interested, especially, in Ghana and Congo will find her book absorbing.”―Boston Globe

About the Author
Dr. Susan Williams is a senior research fellow in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Her pathbreaking books include Who Killed Hammarskjöld?, which in 2015 triggered a new, ongoing UN investigation into the death of the UN Secretary General. Spies in the Congo spotlights the link between US espionage in the Congo and the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Colour Bar, the story of Botswana’s founding President, was made into the major 2016 film A United Kingdom. A People’s King presents an original perspective on the abdication of Edward VIII and his marriage to Wallis Simpson.
Susan Williams lives in London.

  • Publisher: ‎ PublicAffairs (August 10, 2021)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Hardcover: ‎ 688 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 1541768299
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1541768291
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.06 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎ 6.55 x 2.2 x 9.55 inches

Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter: A History of Meaning and Memory in Ghana: Sandra E. Greene

“Greene gives the reader a vivid sense of the Anlo encounter with western thought and Christian beliefs . . . and the resulting erasures, transferences, adaptations, and alterations in their perceptions of place, space, and the body.”
―Emmanuel Akyeampong

Sandra E. Greene reconstructs a vivid and convincing portrait of the human and physical environment of the 19th-century Anlo-Ewe people of Ghana and brings history and memory into contemporary context. Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, early European accounts, and missionary archives and publications, Greene shows how ideas from outside forced sacred and spiritual meanings associated with particular bodies of water, burial sites, sacred towns, and the human body itself to change in favor of more scientific and regulatory views. Anlo responses to these colonial ideas involved considerable resistance, and, over time, the Anlo began to attribute selective, varied, and often contradictory meanings to the body and the spaces they inhabited. Despite these multiple meanings, Greene shows that the Anlo were successful in forging a consensus on how to manage their identity, environment, and community.


This scholarly study explores the wide-ranging political and religious ramifications of German and British colonial rule over the Ewe-speaking Anlo people in southern Togo and southeastern Ghana. German Pietists from the Bremen Mission dominated the region from the mid 19th century until ousted by the British during WW I. The Germans translated the Bible into Ewe and, by applying their own völkisch (volkisch) notions to the natives, disrupted the long-term spiritual affinity between the Ewe-speaking and Akan-speaking communities in the Anlo polity. Moreover, by appropriating the town of Notsie, they desecrated the home of Mawu, the chief Anlo diety. Ewe-Anlos were told to abandon primitive customs like burying their dead under their houses and retaining faith in magic and fetishes and to take up European culture and religion if they ever hoped to become civilized. Adoption of European practices, however, rarely guaranteed acceptance. Instead, colonial pressure resulted in frustration, passive resistance, and, sometimes, open rebellion. Through it all, Greene notes, old meanings and sacred sites were not forgotten. Retained in bits and pieces, they now constitute the very foundation upon which the new is made sensible. Includes maps and photographs; highly recommended for all levels and collections. ―W. W. Reinhardt, Randolph Macon College ― 2003jan CHOICE

This is a rich, ambitious, and rewarding work of social and intellectual history. ― Journal of the American Academy of Religion JAAR

About the Author

Sandra E. Greene is Associate Professor of African History at Cornell University. She is author of Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: A History of the Anlo-Ewe and is working on a book on religion in the Atlantic slave trade. She is past-president of the African Studies Association.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Indiana University Press; 1st Edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 025321517X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0253215178
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12.3 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9.36 x 5.98 x 0.67 inches

African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade: Volume 2, Essays on Sources and Methods: Alice Bellagamba, Sandra E. Greene, Martin A. Klein

What were the experiences of those in Africa who suffered from the practice of slavery, those who found themselves captured and sold from person to person, those who died on the trails, those who were forced to live in fear? And what of those Africans who profited from the slave trade and slavery? What were their perspectives? How do we access any of these experiences and views? This volume explores diverse sources such as oral testimonies, possession rituals, Arabic language sources, European missionary, administrative and court records and African intellectual writings to discover what they can tell us about slavery and the slave trade in Africa. Also discussed are the methodologies that can be used to uncover the often hidden experiences of Africans embedded in these sources. This book will be invaluable for students and researchers interested in the history of slavery, the slave trade and post-slavery in Africa.


‘… makes significant contribution to historiography in the field. … It is an important work that challenges researchers to reflect deeply on the validity and reliability of sources, particularly the dangers of over-reliance on archives that were created by those in authority or those who held a great deal of power in the past. The book brings fresh insight and make bold claims particularly about epistemological issues, and emphasizes clearly that the facts we gather at the archives are not necessarily the entire truth about the social, cultural, political, economic and historical issues they aspire to articulate. I recommend this book to everyone interested in the history of slavery. Graduate students and new researchers in the field of slavery in Africa and the diaspora will benefit enormously from the questions, issues, and guidelines covered in this book to unearth the voices of slaves and their communities.’ Kwame Essien, African Studies Quarterly

Book Description

  • Publisher: ‎ Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (May 7, 2020)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Paperback: ‎ 216 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0521145295
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0521145299
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.7 ounces
  • Dimensions: ‎ 7 x 0.46 x 10 inches

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African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade: Volume 1, The Sources:: Alice Bellagamba, Sandra E. Greene, Martin A. Klein

Though the history of slavery is a central topic for African, Atlantic world, and world history, most of the sources presenting research in this area are European in origin. To cast light on African perspectives, and on the point of view of enslaved men and women, this group of top Africanist scholars has examined both conventional historical sources (e.g., European travel accounts, colonial documents, court cases, and missionary records) and less-explored sources of information (e.g., folklore, oral traditions, songs and proverbs, life histories collected by missionaries and colonial officials, correspondence in Arabic, and consular and admiralty interviews with runaway slaves). Each source has a short introduction highlighting its significance and orienting the reader. This first of two volumes provides students and scholars with a trove of African sources for studying African slavery and slave trade.


‘By combining so many studies that give voice to enslaved Africans into a single forum, Bellagamba, Greene, and Klein have transformed the study of slavery in a way that will require a revolutionary reassessment of what we think about slavery and how we study enslavement and resistance … a tour de force of global significance for historians, students, and all people concerned with social justice.’ Paul E. Lovejoy, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History, York University

Book Description

This book uses primary sources to capture the ways Africans experienced and were influenced by the slave trade.

About the Author

Alice Bellagamba is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Milan, Bicocca. She is the author of Ethnographie, histoire et colonialism en Gambie (2002), L’Africa e la stregoneria: Saggio di antropologia storica (2008) and co-editor of Beside the State: Emergent Powers in Contemporary Africa (with Georg Klute, 2008). She has extensive fieldwork experience in the Senegambia and since 2000 she has directed MEBAO, a network of Italian and African scholars working on historical memory and heritage in West Africa. In 2004–5, she was Alexander Humboldt Fellow at the University of Bayreuth and in 2011–12 a EURIAS Senior Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies of Berlin.

Sandra E. Greene is a Professor of African History at Cornell University, New York. She has served as President and Vice-President of the African Studies Association. Greene has written three books: West African Narratives of Slavery: Texts from Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Ghana (2011); Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter: A History of Meaning and Memory in Ghana (2002), which was a finalist for the 2003 Herskovits Award; and Gender, Ethnicity and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: A History of the Anlo-Ewe (1996), which earned an Honorable Mention from the 1997 Herskovits Award Committee.

Martin A. Klein is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Klein has taught African history for 34 years. He has served as President of both the African Studies Association (ASA) and the Canadian Association of African Studies. He has written or edited several books, including Historical Dictionary of Slavery and Abolition (2002); Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa (Cambridge, 1998), edited with Suzanne Miers; Breaking the Chains: Slavery, Bondage, and Emancipation in Modern Africa and Asia (1993); and Women and Slavery in Africa (1983), edited with Claire C. Robertson. His book Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa earned an Honorable Mention from the Herskovits Award Committee. In 2001, Klein was awarded the ASA’s Distinguished Africanist Award. He also edits Cambridge University Press’s New Perspectives in African History series.

  • Publisher: ‎ Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (December 21, 2017)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Paperback: ‎ 585 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0521145260
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0521145268
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.24 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎ 7 x 1.32 x 10 inches

West African Narratives of Slavery: Texts from Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Ghana: Sandra E. Greene

Slavery in Africa existed for hundreds of years before it was abolished in the late 19th century. Yet, we know little about how enslaved individuals, especially those who never left Africa, talked about their experiences. Collecting never before published or translated narratives of Africans from southeastern Ghana, Sandra E. Greene explores how these writings reveal the thoughts, emotions, and memories of those who experienced slavery and the slave trade. Greene considers how local norms and the circumstances behind the recording of the narratives influenced their content and impact. This unprecedented study affords unique insights into how ordinary West Africans understood and talked about their lives during a time of change and upheaval.


It is an important contribution to the expanding literature on African enslavement during the decline of trans-Atlantic transportation and its displacement by ‘legitimate’ commerce, and essential reading for those seeking to understand the lived experience of African slaves. ― Biography

The book not only sheds light on a little understood but pervasive aspect of Ghanaian history and culture, it also invites and makes possible the comparative study of North American slave narratives with those that represent the experience of slavery for Africans who remained in Africa. ― Choic

What makes this book tremendously valuable, particularly for undergraduates, is how Greene examines the historical, literary, and cultural contexts in which each narrative was produced. … A must have for academic libraries supporting an undergraduate curriculum in Africana studies. …Essential.October 2011 ― African Studies Review


Greene’s analysis is as valuable as the documents themselves.


Greene’s analysis is as valuable as the documents themselves. — Martin Klein ― University of Toronto

About the Author

Sandra E. Greene is Professor of History at Cornell University. She is author of Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter (IUP, 2002).

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Indiana University Press; 1st edition (February 16, 2011)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 280 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 025322294X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0253222947
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches

Slave Owners of West Africa: Decision Making in the Age of Abolition: Sandra E. Greene

In this groundbreaking book, Sandra E. Greene explores the lives of three prominent West African slave owners during the age of abolition. These first-published biographies reveal personal and political accomplishments and concerns, economic interests, religious beliefs, and responses to colonial rule in an attempt to understand why the subjects reacted to the demise of slavery as they did. Greene emphasizes the notion that the decisions made by these individuals were deeply influenced by their personalities, desires to protect their economic and social status, and their insecurities and sympathies for wives, friends, and other associates. Knowing why these individuals and so many others in West Africa made the decisions they did, Greene contends, is critical to understanding how and why the institution of indigenous slavery continues to influence social relations in West Africa to this day.


Slave Owners of West Africa is a welcome and timely addition to the historiography of slavery and abolition in West Africa. . . . It is a must-read book for anyone in the field.

African Studies Quarterly

Overall, this book makes an invaluable contribution to scholarship about an extremely complicated and sensitive subject by bringing to light the biographies of three individuals who represent a transformative turning point in African history.

African Studies Review


The fact that Sandra E. Greene has uncovered so much verifiable information about these three West African men from the late 19th century is a miracle of archival and oral tradition research. It is truly profound and buttressed by an ethical and methodological framework that reflects the best in historical practice.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Indiana University Press (May 22, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 138 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0253025990
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0253025999
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 7.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9 x 6 x 0.3 inches

A History of Indigenous Slavery in Ghana From the 15th to the 19th Century: Akosua Adoma Perbi

Academic research and publication on indigenous slavery in Ghana and in Africa more widely have not received attention commensurate with the importance of the phenomenon: the history of indigenous slavery, which existed long before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, has been a marginal topic in documented historical studies on Ghana. Yet its weighty historical, and contemporary relevance inside and outside Africa is undisputed. This book begins to redress this neglect. Drawing on sources including oral data from so-called slave descendants, cultural sites and trade routes, court records and colonial government reports, it presents historical and cultural analysis which aims to enhance historical knowledge and understanding of indigenous slavery. The author further intends to provide a holistic view of the indigenous institution of slavery as a formative factor in the social, political and economic development of pre- colonial Ghana.

  • Publisher‏ : ‎ Sub-Saharan Publishers; 1st Edition (December 29, 2004)
  • Language‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10‏ : ‎ 9988550324
  • ISBN-13‏ : ‎ 978-9988550325
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13 ounces
  • Dimensions‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.65 x 8.5 inches

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo and Building Restorative Justice Across the African Diaspora – Monument Lab – Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann

August 16th, 2021 Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo is one of Ghana’s most currently celebrated artists in the international art world. This story is the result of several conversations that Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann had with the artist in 2021 that focused on the intersections of art, history, heritage, social and restorative justice.

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo is a Ghanaian artist. His latest sculpture, entitled Blank Slate: Hope for a New America, is a timely and apposite intervention in the ongoing discussions around the history and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade, slavery, and monuments. The statue depicts the intergenerational struggles in the African American experience: At its base, it depicts an enslaved ancestor, bent forward with his hands behind his back, head turned sideways, face on the ground, hands and feet bound in metal chains, and a booted foot on his head. It is a chilling reminder of an image with which we are only too familiar—though it must be noted that the sculpture was crafted prior to the death of George Floyd. On top of this figure is a union soldier with a noose around his neck. Finally, is the representation of an activist mother with baby, signifying the next generation. Akoto-Bamfo describes it as “a noisy one—a protest piece that speaks against racist civil war monuments.”

This mobile art installation is currently touring throughout the United States to several locations with a history and legacy of racial injustice, including Louisville, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Selma, Birmingham, and New York. Akoto-Bamfo’s sculpture can be understood as a challenge to Confederate monuments and tribute to African American history and the ongoing fight for social and racial justice, as part of an attempt to heal the nation. He conducted extensive research for though he did not know where his work would be placed at the time that he was commissioned, he knew that Blank Slate would respond to monuments that his American “brothers have issues with.” Through this work, he strives to foster dialogue, provide a platform, and elevate the voices of those historically silenced and oppressed, by inviting the public to engage with the work through an interactive screen, where their words will be shared anonymously on the slate. This interactive sculpture invites communities to contribute, not only towards his artwork, but also to wider ongoing transnational conversations and initiatives around history, memory, justice, and monuments.

First unveiled during a private viewing in Ghana, prior to its shipment to the United States, many discussions transpired amongst those involved in the project: some feared it might incite violence, others said that it represented a prediction.

…(read more).

Cited sources include:

  • Akyeampong, E. 2001. History, memory, slave-trade and slavery in Anlo (Ghana). Slavery and Abolition 22: 1-24.
  • Bailey, Anne C. 2005. African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Bellagamba, Alice, Sandra E. Greene and Martin A. Klein. 2017. African Slaves, African Masters: Histories, Memories, Legacies. Africa World Press.
  • Bellagamba, Alice, Sandra E. Greene and Martin A. Klein. 2013. The Bitter Legacy: African Slavery Past and Present. Princeton: Markus Weiner Publishers;
  • Boachie-Ansah, J. 2009. Archaeological investigation at the Danish plantation site of Brockman, Ghana. Afrique 5: 149-172.
  • Bredwa-Mensah, Yaw. 1999. Archaeology of Slavery in West Africa. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 3: 27-43.
  • DeCorse, Christopher. R. 2001a. An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400- 1900’. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Engmann, Rachel Ama Asaa. 2019. Autoarchaeology at Christiansborg Castle: Decolonizing Knowledge, Pedagogy and Praxis. Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage 6 (3): 204-19;
  • Greene, Sandra E. 2017. Slave Owners of West Africa: Decision-making in the Age of Abolition. Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • Keren, E. (2009). The Transatlantic Slave Trade in Ghanaian Academic Historiography: History, Memory, and Power. The William and Mary Quarterly, 66(4), 975–1000. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40467550
  • Perbi, Akosua Adoma. 2004. A History of Indigenous Slavery in Ghana: From the 15th to the 19th Centuries. Accra: Sub-Saharan Press.

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