Last Tuesday, Ursinus College welcomed guest speaker Ana Lucia Araujo to discuss current debates about slavery and explore the history and the memory of the Atlantic slave trade and their social and cultural legacies. The event was organized by the African-American and Africana Studies, English, and History departments, and sponsored by the Ursinus College Arts & Lectures Committee, along with other departments.
Araujo is a professor of history at Howard University and a social and cultural historian. She is also an author of numerous books and has written for various magazines.
Throughout the talk, Araujo made references to her book, “Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past.”
Araujo’s desire to write her book stemmed from interest about “the past of the memory of s l a v e r y.”
The book focuses on how “social actors and groups in Europe, Africa, and the Americas engaged with the slave past of their societies.” She talks about collective memory that remains in the private sphere (in the families), and in cultural memory. These memories enter particular spaces: museums especially; not only in the United States, but also other countries, too.
Professor of history Dr. Johanna Mellis, who attended this event, said, “The National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC has collected tens of thousands of items since 2016, which is an astounding number. Yet even this museum presents problematic narratives.”
Mellis continued, “One exhibit, titled “The Paradox of Liberty,’situates slave owner Thomas Jefferson in the foreground amongst other people. The bricks containing his enslaved people’s names on them have been placed in the background, which are very challenging for visitors to see. This is quite the contradiction in light of the museums’ aims.”