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Rebecca Wall on "Slave Liberations in French West Africa, 1850–1905: A (Very) Preliminary Digital Model"

Date/Time: 
Tuesday, 11 February 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Location: 
CESTA (4th floor Wallenberg hall)

The end of slavery in French West Africa was a multi-decade process in which enslaved people played an active role in their own liberation. Between roughly 1850 and 1905, thousands of men, women, and children obtained freedom. Many approached French colonial officials to codify their legal status, adding their name, age, gender, time and place of birth, and date and location of liberation to governmental records. This paper discusses an ongoing project that takes a digital approach to working with these sources, now part of the collection of the Archives Nationales du Sénégal. We take demographic data from these liberation records, and ultimately, we plan to construct a visualization of slave liberations, as well as build a database over nearly 30,000 entries. In so doing, we propose a methodology that foregrounds the experiences of enslaved individuals and demonstrates how colonial archival sources can offer keen insights into their experiences and actions.

Rebecca Wall is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Stanford University and a 2019-2020 Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. She was a 2018-2019 Digital Humanities Graduate Research Fellow at CESTA. Rebecca studies how West African nations grapple with the fact that key environmental resources, like water, often traverse political frontiers, focusing on the case of the Senegal River basin. She is also interested in interdisciplinary research and has worked with colleagues in public health, engineering, hydrology, environmental planning, and economics.