Region and Nation in American Histories of Race and Slavery

October 6–8, 2016 • Mount Vernon

The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, in conjunction with the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, announces a call for papers for a conference exploring regional and national histories of race and slavery in North America from the late fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. The conference, to be held October 6–8, 2016, marks the next in a series of important conferences sponsored by the Omohundro Institute on the history of the enslaved and slavery. The conference will correspond with the opening of the first major exhibition interpreting slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

This conference, evocatively set in Virginia and at Mount Vernon, invites fresh examination of regional histories of race and slavery, both their historical significance as well as their contributions to the national history of American slavery. Preeminent in historical accounts of early British American colonial race and slavery, for example, studies of the Chesapeake’s regional culture, economy and laws of slavery have shaped our understanding of race in America. Compared to older, larger, and wealthier slave societies throughout the Caribbean and South America, the Chesapeake remained a peripheral player and a marginal market for much of the colonial period, yet racial slavery was central to the cultural, economic, and political fabric of its early society. While classic historical works on the origins and development of hereditary slavery tended to view the problem of labor and race in early Maryland and Virginia as an “American paradox,” or a “peculiar institution,” both the central role of race and slavery in founding the American nation, and the continued growth of slavery in the early national period are encouraging new approaches. By the time of the American Revolution, the Upper South held one of the largest slave populations in the Americas; inherent rather than peculiar to the American nation, their labor, and that of their descendants born into the hereditary slavery that early Chesapeake law built, helped fuel the expansion of the Early Republic in its first half century.

Conference panels and papers might engage such topics as: Do such regional studies still have innovative potential after the global turn? What approaches, methodologies, and sources are emerging to tell new histories of race, the enslaved, and slavery in America, regionally and nationally? What might be distinctive about local experiences and practices of slavery that particularly affected social, economic, and cultural development in America more broadly? How did enslaved men and women influence the development of their communities, regions, and nation? How did African peoples, different Native American groups, English-speaking immigrants, and American-born creoles interact with and influence one other? What did the enslavement of Native Americans contribute to the history of racial bondage?

Proposals for individual papers or complete panels must be received electronically no later than February 1, 2016. All submissions should include a one-page summary of each paper and a one-page c.v. for each participant; panel submissions should also include a one-paragraph description. Each c.v. should include mail and email addresses and telephone numbers.