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Slavery and Memory in the Atlantic World


Admission requirements



“‘I did that’ says my memory. ‘I could not have done that,’ says my vanity, steadfast. Eventually, memory yields.”— Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

In this course, slavery in the U.S. will be firmly embedded in a larger, Atlantic World, narrative. The first part of the course will focus on a critical reflection on the difference between the history and the memory of slavery, and the ways that both the history and memory of slavery impacts contemporary contexts in the U.S.
In the second part of the course, students will engage with primary source materials and the contemporary fictionalizations and artistic expressions inspired by these primary sources.
Thirdly, students will examine the role of resistance and rebellion in contemporary remembrances of slavery in the U.S.
Finally, students will examine the (still) contested role of slavery in the American Civil War and the aftermath of emancipation, concluding with a reflection on the role of history and memory in history education and instruction in the U.S. and the Netherlands.

Note: all texts will be read in English (translation).

Course objectives

This course aims to

  • give students a critical understanding of the ways slavery has been represented, contested and remembered in autobiographical and fictional texts and films in various geographical, language and culture areas as well as in contemporary museum exhibits and other forms of memorialization, with a basic understanding of their historical and cultural contexts.

  • teach students to critically engage and analyze historical primary source materials in dialogue with secondary source materials and non-scholarly sources, including literary works and films

  • help students develop their skills to conduct independent research.

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


The timetable will be available on the

Mode of instruction

Weekly seminar

Course Load

10 ec = 280 hours

  • Seminars: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks = 24 hours

  • Weekly reading assignments =106 hours

  • Midterm takehome = 20 hours

  • Writing of final course paper, 3000-3500 words = 130 hours (re-reading relevant texts, collecting research material, researching and reading additional literature, writing of paper)

Assessment method

Weekly in-class quizzes (25%)
Midterm takehome (25%)
Research essay 3000-3500 words (50 %)

Resit: If the final grade is insufficient, only the essay can be rewritten.


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

Reading list (books to be purchased)

  • Olaudah Equiano, The Life of Olaudah Equiano (Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN-10: 048640661X; online text also available on Blackboard)

  • Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave (Graymalkin Media 2014; online text also available on Blackboard)

  • Laila Lalami, The Moor’s Account (Vintage)

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage)

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


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. D. Barthe.

Student administration Van Eyckhof


This course is part of the minor Cultural Memory in War and Conflict. Other students can take this course also as an elective, but if the course is over-enrolled, students who are taking the minor go first.