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HIST 11A: Slavery and Unfreedom

This guide was created to support History 11A: Slavery and Unfreedom. If you have any questions about the guide, please contact Anna Yang

Slavery and Unfreedom

* Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769. (Wikipedia Commons)

Course Description:

History is not only an account of what happened, but also why things change. Slavery and other forms of unfree labor are among the few “universal” features of human society. The meaning of this experience, however, both for slaves and those who control their lives and labor, varies tremendously in different cultural and temporal contexts. This sequence of two courses will explore the notions of slavery, unfreedom, and freedom in their historical moments.

One of our primary goals will be to trace the way in which hallowed modern concepts such as individual freedom and civic engagement have been shaped by the rhetoric and practice of slavery. We will do this in the winter quarter through exploring the complex history of slavery in the Atlantic world, particularly through first-person narratives of slavery. Here our task will be to historicize the importance of freedom in relation to questions of dependency, survival, and economic reproduction, and to highlight the specificity of American ideas about race in their relation to slavery. In the second part of the course, this spring, the chronological focus will shift to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will investigate how notions of unfreedom have emerged, wavered, and changed in relation to the concepts of slavery studied this quarter.

Today's Exercise

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