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HSTCMP 259 A: Race and Slavery Across the Americas

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
* *
Stephanie Smallwood
Stephanie Smallwood

Syllabus Description:

University of Washington | Department of History | Autumn 2020


Race and Slavery Across the Americas

Prof. S. Smallwood (

Covid-19 update: This course will be taught remotely in Autumn 2020. We will hold some synchronous sessions via Zoom during Tu/Th 3:30-5:20 scheduled meeting times, but most work will be completed asynchronously.

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 Course Description: When U.S. students think of slavery, typically what comes to mind is the image of black men and women forced to grow cotton in the southern United States in the nineteenth century. But enslaved Africans were key players in the shaping of English North America long before the colonies gained their independence. More importantly, the English colonies that became the United States were not the only societies in the Americas that depended on black slave labor. The institution of North American slavery did not exist in isolation from other slave systems in the Americas—to the contrary, the slave systems of the Americas were part of a large, interconnected process of European colonization that spanned geographic and political boundaries. European maritime expansion in the Atlantic basin tied Africa to the Americas via the transatlantic slave trade and brought racial slavery to regions throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, and the North American territory that became the United States. From Rhode Island to Chile, enslaved Africans and their New-World born descendants labored as producers of sugar, cacao, indigo, rice, tobacco, cotton, and coffee; as miners and cattle ranchers; as urban manufacturers, artisans, and domestic servants. 

This lower division lecture and discussion course surveys the development and spread of racial slavery across the Americas from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Through comparative examination of racial slavery in North America, South America and the Caribbean Islands, we will explore such key themes as 1) how slavery supported systems of colonization that made European settlement across the Americas viable; 2) how ideas about racial difference developed and operated differently across place and time; and 3) how enslaved peoples' resistance to bondage helped bring about slavery's abolition across the Americas by the end of the nineteenth century.

The course thus aims to broaden the range and depth of your knowledge about an institution that has profoundly shaped the history of the modern western world; introduce you to the comparative method of historical analysis; and get you excited about the active, dynamic work of historical scholarship—asking questions of and producing knowledge about the past.

Catalog Description: 
Surveys development of racial slavery across North and South America and the Caribbean from 1500-1880s. Comparative examination of slavery exploring how slavery supported colonization making European settlement across Americas viable; how ideas about racial difference developed, operated differently; how enslaved peoples' resistance to bondage helped abolish slavery in Americas by late 1880s.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:13pm