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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, the Americas, Europe, and Africa 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 North and South America and the Caribbean. 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 in the course of the nineteenth century, its legacy remains highly visible in all societies touched by this mass forced migration. This course will examine the politics of remembering and forgetting slavery and its legacies from a transatlantic perspective. We will read Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) and a number of novels inspired by Douglass’s and other slave testimonies including Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes (2007), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad (2016) and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016). We’ll also watch a number of films from the The Birth of a Nation (1915) to Nate Parker’s 2016 remake by the same title (about the 1831 Nat Turner slave revolt), and Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning film Twenty Years A Slave (2013). We’ll also engage with the contested memory of the American Civil War and read articles about the memorialization of slavery throughout the Atlantic world. Finally, we will visit a museum exhibit on slavery (possibly even the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool) and students will give group presentations on the memory of slavery (or, in some cases, lack thereof) in museums and historic sites in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Finally, we will make a field trip to a museum exhibit on slavery (possibly even the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool) and students will give group presentations (which may also be in the form of a short video) on the memory of slavery (or, in some cases, lack thereof) in museums and historic sites in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Course objectives

This course seeks to:

  • provide students with a critical understanding of how slavery has been represented, contested, and remembered (or sometimes “forgotten”) in autobiographical and fictional texts and films, as well as museum exhibits and public heritage sites.

  • provide students with a critical understanding of relevant theoretical concepts from trauma theory and memory studies (trauma versus narrative memory, witnessing, multidirectional memory).

  • enable students to develop their skills to conduct independent research.

  • enable students develop oral and written communication skills in English (discussion, presentation, essay)


The timetable will be available on the

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Preparation tutorials = Study of compulsory literature

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Excursion to museum: 8 hours

  • Tutorials: 26 hours

  • Group presentation (incl. field trip to museum): 46 hours

  • Research essay (3000 words): 100 hours

Assessment method


Group presentation (30 %)
Participation (10 %) and
Research essay c. 3000 words (60 %)


See above


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

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


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. Also recommended articles and relevant websites.

Reading list

  • Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass (Dover Thrift ed. ISBN 978 0 486 28499 6

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage ISBN 978-0099511656)

  • Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (Fleet, ISBN 978-0708898376)

  • Lawrence Hill, The Book of Negroes Note: published in US under the title Someone Knows My Name

  • Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (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


For information concerning the content of this course please contact the course coordinator is dr. Joke Kardux.

For practical information Student administration Van Eyckhof


This course is part of both the minor American studies and the minor Cultural Memory of War and Conflict.