Series examines abolition

To commemorate the first efforts to eradicate slavery, many universities in the United States and U.K. are holding one-off conferences this year.

When approached by his department head earlier this year to set up a conference in the commemorative spirit, Eric Duke, a professor in Africana Studies at USF, thought he would do things differently.

In Duke’s class, Slavery and Abolition, students get to hear a top scholar in the fields of Latin American history and Africana studies almost every week. After the lecture, which is also open to the public, the students can speak with the guest lecturer.

Jeffrey Needell, a professor in Latin American story at the University of Florida, talked Monday about what led to the abolition of slavery in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to give up the practice.

“History has always had multiple perspectives,” Duke said. “People think if it’s in print it’s the truth. This class has given them a chance to think critically… and come up with their own ideas of what the so-called truth is.” A few of the visiting scholars, Duke said, might even consider that format at their own universities in the future.

A Timeline of Abolition

n European colonizers relied on the forced labor of native peoples and African slaves to build the New World. About 15 million African slaves were imported to the Carribbean and the Americas to work in mines and on plantations. In all, slavery lasted from the early 1500s to the last gasps of the nineteenth century.

(1791-1804) – The Haitian Revolution

Haiti was the first country in the New World after the United States to gain its independence. It was also the only slave uprising to be successfully executed in the Americas.

A former slave, Toussaint Louverture, led an uprising that became a 13-year war for independence from France. After his death, another ex-slave,

Jean-Jacques Dessalines, drove the French from the island and established the Republic of Haiti in 1804, making slavery a crime in his state.

(1807, 1833) – Britain Abolishes Slavery in its Colonies

The British Empire outlawed the Atlantic slave trade in 1807, and in 1833 passed a law banning the practice in the Empire’s colonies. But these slaves weren’t freed immediately. Ex-slaves had to serve their masters another five to seven years before being completely free.

(1865) – United States after the Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation nominally freed the slaves in the Confederate States during the Civil War, but it wasn’t until the 13th Amendment passed in 1865 that slavery became illegal nationwide. Still, segregation laws, among other discriminatory legislation, remained on the books for decades.

(1868-1878) – The Ten Year’s War in Cuba

Slavery and the misgovernment in Cuba of its Spanish rulers inspired some Cubans to fight a bloody war for independence against Spain. Though Cuba’s war failed, the country’s slaves were finally freed by Spanish decree in 1886.

Sources: Haitian Embassy to the U.S. Web site; Encyclopedia Britannica