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Slavery and Memory in the Black Atlantic


Admission requirements



Slavery’s destructive impact is still felt today. For more than four centuries, Europe, Africa, and the Americas were inextricably linked via the transatlantic slave trade. Estimates suggest that more than 12.5 million enslaved Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean to South America, the Caribbean, and North America. According to Paul Gilroy, this created the “Black Atlantic,” a “culture that is not specifically African, American, Caribbean, or British, but all of these at once.” Although slavery was formally ended in the Americas over the course of the nineteenth century, it’s legacy remains highly visible in all societies touched by this mass forced migration. After a brief introduction to the history of the transatlantic slave trade, this course will examine the politics of remembering and forgetting slavery in the Black Atlantic. We will study Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave and a range of novels, including Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. We will also watch films and documentaries throughout the semester, and visit the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. Students will also present group presentations on the memory (or lack thereof) of slavery in Dutch museums. Lastly, we will engage in a transatlantic discussion with students at the College of William and Mary, Virginia, who will be taking a similar course with Dr. Joke Kardux, visiting professor from Leiden University.

Course objectives

This course seeks to:

  • Provide students with a critical understanding of how slavery has been represented, contested, and remembered in autobiographical and fictional texts, films and documentaries, as well as museum exhibits and public heritage sites.

  • Provide students with a critical understanding of relevant theoretical concepts such as double consciousness, the Black Atlantic, diaspora, and trauma theory.

  • Help students develop their skills to conduct independent research.

  • Help students develop oral and written communication skills (discussion, presentation, essay).


The timetable will be available on the

Mode of instruction

Weekly seminar, museum excursion and field trip

Course Load

10 ec = 280 hours

  • Seminars: 2 hours per week x 13 weeks = 36 hours

  • Weekly reading assignments =100 hours

  • Excursion: 4 hours

  • Field trip to museum for group presentation: 5 hours

  • Preparing oral (group) presentation = 15 hours

  • Writing of final course paper, c. 3000 words = 120 hours (re-reading relevant texts, collecting research material, researching and reading additional literature, writing of paper)

Assessment method

Oral group presentation (30 %), participation (10 %) and research essay c. 3500 words (60 %)


Blackboard will be used to provide students with specific information about (components of) the course, such as course syllabus, some of the assigned readings, discussion questions, and essay topics.

Reading list

  • Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave (various editions)

  • Lawrence Hill, The Book of Negroes (alternatively titled Someone Knows My Name) (Black Swan)

  • Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (Fleet)

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage)

  • Additional readings will be posted on Blackboard (BB) or links will be provided.


This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Course coordinator is dr. Joke Kardux.

Student administration Van Eyckhof