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The speakers for the 2013 conference include some returning scholars as well as new speakers.  Below is a brief bio and a description of their planned talk for the 2013 conference. We are still adding speakers to the schedule, please stay tuned for additional information.

Dr. Paul Finkelman President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy and Senior Fellow, Government Law Center, Albany Law School, is a specialist in American legal history, constitutional law, and race and the law, He is the author of more than 150 scholarly articles and more than 25 books with op-eds and shorter pieces that have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and on the Huffington Post.  Finkelman is an expert in constitutional history and constitutional law, freedom of religion, the law of slavery, civil liberties and the American Civil War, and legal issues surrounding baseball.  He is the author of numerous books, including Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, Law of Freedom and Bondage: A Casebook (New York University School of Law Series in Legal and Constitutional History), Slavery in the Courtroom: An Annotated Bibliography of American Cases, and An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity.

“From Freedom to Slavery:  How British Colonists Remade the English Common Law to Create Slavery in Early America”: This presentation will focus on the preeminence of slavery as central to the American founding. Concentrating on four broad topics—the origin of slavery, the abolition of slavery in the North, the manumission of slaves in the South, and the criminal law of slavery—the lecture will discuss how early colonial courts grappled with the complex legal issues presented by the conflict between slavery and common law precedents.


Dr. Linda Heywood, Professor of History at Boston University, is author of Contested Power in Angola, editor of and contributor to Central Africans: Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, and co-author with John Thornton of Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of America, which won the Melville J. Herskovits Award for the best scholarly work on Africa published in English in 2007. She was also one of the history consultants and appeared in the PBS series African American Lives (2006) and Finding Oprah’s Roots (2007).

“The Atlantic World and the African Diaspora”: This presentation will rely on an extensive range of primary published and unpublished sources as well as interviews with Angolans to investigate how Queen Njinga, a powerful and controversial leader of the 17th century Ndongo kingdom in Angola, became a subject of memory and nation-building in Angola and Brazil, respectively. The work is innovative in that it will combine historical investigation and ideas from the field of history and memory to explore the life and legacy of this important pre-colonial African leader.




Andy Mink, Director of Outreach and K-12 Education for Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, is a leader in development workshops with public school teachers around the country. He joined Curry after working for nine years in the same role for the Virginia Center for Digital History. His project-based efforts focus on work that creates hands-on, immersive training for K-16 educators in order to understand and teach history more effectively. These projects create on-going professional development models that serve to connect partners from the university, K-12 schools, historic sites and museums, digital archives, and professional organizations. The National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE) honored him as the National Educator of the Year in 2003. Since 2002, Mink has authored and implemented nine Teaching American History projects in the state of Virginia serving 36 different school divisions. He is currently registered as a Master Teacher with the National Council of History Education in their Distinguished Speaker Program.

Dr. James Sweet, is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of more than a dozen journal and book articles, as well as a co-edited volume (with Tejumola Olaniyan) entitled, The African Diaspora and the Disciplines (Indiana, 2010). His book, Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770 (UNC, 2003) won the American Historical Association’s Wesley Logan prize for the best book on the history of the African diaspora in 2004. It was also a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Prize. His Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (UNC, 2011) won the American Historical Association’s James A. Rawley prize for the best book in Atlantic history in 2012.

“Atlantic Creoles and the Emergence of African-American Culture”: When the first “20 and odd negros” arrived in the Chesapeake around 1619, more than 325,000 Africans had already been enslaved in Spain, Portugal, and their Atlantic colonies, some transported by Englishmen. Thus, the arrival of Africans on the British North American mainland was far less a historical “beginning” than a predictable continuation of processes that began as early as the fifteenth century on the Iberian Peninsula. I will outline these processes, paying particular attention to the various African cultural streams that contributed to the incipient Black Atlantic world.



Dr. John Thornton, Professor of History at Boston University , specializes in Africa, the African Diaspora, the Middle East, and world history. His books included The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641-1718 , Africa and Africans in the Formation of the Atlantic World, 1400-1680 , The Kongolese Saint Anthony. Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706 , Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 , and Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585-1660, for which won the Melville J. Herskovits Prize that year.

“The Twenty and Odd Negars”: This presentation will focus on the complexities of war, piracy, and existing arrangements of slavery in the Atlantic World that led to the capture and sale of the Mbundu prisoners of war who were taken to Virginia in 1619.



Dr. Ben Vinson, III, the Herbert Baxter Adams Professor of Latin American History and Vice Dean of Centers and Interdepartmental Programs, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, is a scholar of Latin American history with a particular interest in race relations, especially during the African Diaspora. His books and articles have focused on colonial Mexico and transnational networks, including the experiences between African-Americans and Latinos (as well as Afro-Latinos).

“The African Diaspora: Questions and Considerations drawn from an Afro-Latin American View”: This presentation will ponders some key questions confronting scholars working on the African Diaspora, while also offering a useful set of conceptual tools that can be implemented in the classroom. While the thrust of the presentation will make use of Afro-Latin American case examples, the aim is to present the material in such a way as it can be valuable as a point of comparison for other regions.