Past Symposia

Uniting the Histories of Slavery in North America & its Borderlands

Held on Saturday, April 6, 2013, on the campus of SMU.

In 1735, draftsman Alexandre de Batz created this sketch of Indians in Louisiana. Batz had come to New Orleans during the era when the French were building settlements and establishing Indian alliances. Batz titled it, “Drawings of Savages of several Nations. New Orleans, 1735.” In 1992 Daniel Usner used it on the cover of Indians, Settlers, and Slaves—a powerful book that changed the way we saw relationships among Indians, Europeans, and Africans in Louisiana’s French colonial period. Usner could not use the full watercolor, however, which contained another story we wish to tell in this symposium. The child of African ancestry did not appear, silencing an early tale of Indian-African relationships. We note another element of our story in the left foreground: a woman kneeling and next to her Batz has written “Renard Sauvagesse Esclave” or “Fox Indian (Female) Slave.” These small details of an African child and the female Indian slave represent a spectrum of human relationships that add many new pieces to the mosaic of slavery in North America and its borderlands.

The conventional history of American slavery leans heavily toward plantation-style labor east of the Mississippi River in the British colonial period and the 19th century. In contrast, this year’s spring symposium will trace the larger history of slavery in North America. We will share with you stories of enslaved women, children, and men from across the continent and the way they transformed both Indian and Euroamerican societies. Like Alexandre de Batz, we want to create a big sketch, this time of the many cultures of human bondage. And unlike Batz, we want to capture more than a moment in that history. We sample many forms of slavery, using examples from Native American groups—before European contact and afterward—and from the intricate web of slavery and economics that grew in Mexico, the Caribbean, and the American West across the 19th century. Finally, we compare the kinds of personal relationships that developed in earlier bondage systems with those we find in the trafficking and exploitation that continues within and across North American borders today.

CONFERENCE CO-ORGANIZER AND BOOK EDITORS: 

Bonnie Martin, Southern Methodist University and James F. Brooks, School for Advanced Research

Slavery in Pre-contact and Colonial North America:
● Slave Traffickers: Indians & Europeans Early North America
● Slaves: Indians & Europeans in Early North America
● Expanding the Geography of Slavery
● Rituals: Incorporation & Isolation
● Frontiers & Slave Systems
● Early Migrations
Eric Bowne, Arkansas Tech University; Paul Conrad, Colorado State University-Pueblo; Boyd Cothran, York University ; Enrique Lamadrid, University of New Mexico; and Natale Zappia, Whittier College

Slavery in Modern North America: 19th century to the Present:
● Slave Traffickers: Indians & Euro-Americans in Later North America
● Slaves: Indians & Euro-Americans in Later North America
● Slave Systems & Nation-Building
● Slavery & Consent
● Slavery & Prostitution
● Later Migrations
Melissa Farley, Prostitution Research and Education; Mark Goldberg, University of Houston; Calvin Schermerhorn, Arizona State University; and Andrew Torget, University of North Texas

A Joint Symposium sponsored by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies and the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe.

Image: "Drawing of the Savages of Several Nations, New Orleans, 1775." By Alexander de Batz. Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, number 41-72-10/20 (digital file # 60741527).