Home > 2015 Conference Program

Historians Against Slavery Conference

“Using History to Make Slavery History”

Hosted by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

September 24-26, 2015

This antislavery conference, building on its predecessor sponsored by Historians Against Slavery in 2013, is designed to facilitate dialogue, scholarship, and action in our efforts to end contemporary slavery.  It will bring together survivors and other activists from varied backgrounds, educators at both K-12 and college levels, scholars, and interested members of the general public to illuminate vital themes that can inform today’s movement.  The program brings together a distinguished body of scholars and activists from North America, Europe, and Africa.  Almost all of the panels feature both scholars and activists. We expect the conference will offer numerous practical examples of how history might be used to inform modern abolition efforts.


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Thursday, September 24


7:30 Keynote Session

Welcome / Introduction: Stacey Robertson, Co-Director, Historians Against Slavery

Edward Baptist, Cornell University


Friday, September 25


 8:30 Welcomes

Matthew Mason, Conference Program Chair and Co-Director, Historians Against Slavery

Richard Cooper, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

 8:45-10:15 – Plenary Session

Roundtable: “Lost in Translation? Linking Activism and the Academy”

Chair / Moderator: Brooke Hathaway, End Slavery Now, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center


Jason Allen, Richard Allen Museum, Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, “What Conscience Permits and Affairs Require”

James Sidbury, Rice University, “Complications in the Relationship between Anti-Trafficking Scholarship and Activism in the Rice Seminar on Human Trafficking”

Kerry Ward, Rice University, “Translating ‘Lost Girls’ in Houston: Anti-trafficking Organisations and Research Agendas”

Genevieve LeBaron, University of Sheffield, “Lessons from Beyond Trafficking & Slavery

Joel Quirk, University of Witwatersrand, “Cheerleading, Critique and Constructive Engagement: The Politics of Slavery and Human Trafficking”

Comments: The Audience


10:30-12:00 – Concurrent Sessions

Panel: “When is a Child a Slave? Writing the History of Invisible Children”

Chair: Lea S. Vandervelde, University of Iowa


Anna Mae Duane, University of Connecticut, “’The Child is the Natural Slave’: Age, Citizenship, and Positive Freedoms”

Kelli Lyon Johnson, Miami University, Ohio, “Child Bride, Child Soldier, Child Prostitute: Representing the Enslaved ‘Girl Child’ as Victim and Savior in Contemporary Human Rights Discourses”

Karen Woods Weierman, Worcester State University, “The Case of the Slave-Child, Med / The Case of the Free Child, Elizabeth: Antislavery Rescue in 1830s Boston”

Jim Ehrman, Love 146, “Creating a Global Movement to End Child Slavery”

Comment: The Audience


Roundtable: “Business and Commerce, Slavery and Abolition, Then and Now”

Chair and Moderator: Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg, Babson College


John Pepper, Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking

John Berger, Made By Survivors

Mark P. Lagon, President of Freedom House

Robert Wright, Augustana University

Comment: The Audience


12:15-1:45 – Luncheon

Luncheon Keynote Address:

Introductions: Randall Miller, Historians Against Slavery

Clarence G. Newsome, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, “A Birth of a New Freedom”


Tsione Wolde-Michael, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Nancy Bercaw, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution


2:00-3:30 Concurrent Sessions

Panel: “Interrogating the Efficacy of State Intervention against Slavery, Then and Now”

Chair: Jean Allain, Queen’s University, Belfast


Paul Finkelman, University of Saskatchewan and University of Pennsylvania, “What We Can Learn from the Closing of the African Slave Trade and the Twentieth Century Suppression of Slavery: International Law, Legal Regulation and History”

Anthony Talbott and David Watkins, University of Dayton, “The Problem of State Intervention in Post-Abolition Slavery: A Critique of Consensus”

Jessica R. Pliley, Texas State University – San Marcos, “Lessons of Enforcement: The FBI, the White Slave Traffic Act, and ‘Any Other Immoral Purpose’”

Comment: Audience


Panel: “Terrorism-Crime Nexus: Implications for Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery”

Chair: Randall Miller, St. Joseph’s University


Mariya Y. Omelicheva, University of Kansas, “The Human Trafficking – Terrorism Nexus in Central Asia”

Jerry Moon, U.S. Army and University of Kansas, “Human Trafficking and Terrorism: Insights from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria”

Louise Shelley, George Mason University, “Human Trafficking and Terrorism”

Comment: The Audience


3:45-5:15 Plenary Session

Roundtable: “Lessons for Activists from the Slave Narrators Past and Present”

Chair / Moderator: Laura Murphy, Loyola University


David Blight, Yale University

Richard Blackett, Vanderbilt University

Christopher Hager, Trinity College

Laura Murphy, Loyola University

Minh Dang, MD Consulting

Comments: The Audience


7:30 Keynote Address

Introduction: Randall Miller, Historians Against Slavery

Rachel Moran


Saturday, September 26

9:00-10:30 – Concurrent Panels

Panel: “The Perils and Rewards of Using the Term Slavery”

Chair: Zoe Trodd, University of Nottingham


Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie, Howard University: “The Comparative Fallacy: New Slaves and Old Slaves”

Lyndsey Beutin, University of Pennsylvania: “Making Human Trafficking Modern-Day Slavery: Scholarly, Institutional, and State Discourse”

Norberto O. Ferreras, Fluminense Federal University, “From the Epistemic to the Political War: The 57A/1999 Constitutional Amendment in Brazil”

Comment: The Audience


Panel: “Sexual Violence, Abolition, and Slavery in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Africa and the United States”

Chair: Shamere McKenzie, Sun Gate Foundation


Holly M. Kent, University of Illinois – Springfield, “’We Must Now Compel You to Imagine Sufferings Which Cannot Be Imagined’: Protests Against Sexual Slavery in Antebellum U.S. Abolitionist Fiction”

Elisabeth McMahon, Tulane University, “’Unmoral’ or ‘Respectable’ Women? Abolitionist and Colonial Debates over Concubines in the Zanzibar Islands”

Jessica Reuther, Emory University, “Sex and Sequestration in Vodun Convents: Competing Claims on ‘Freedom’ in Colonial Dahomey”

Comment: The Audience


10:45-12:15 – Concurrent Panels

“Frederick Douglass Family Foundation: Globalize 13 K-12 Curriculum Project”

Chair and Moderator: Stephen L. Rozman, Tougaloo College


Robert Benz and Ken Morris, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives

Comment: The Audience


Roundtable: “Historians, Activists and Legacies of Slavery in Modern American Prisons”

Chair: Janet Bednarek, University of Dayton


Dolores Canales, California Families Against Solitary Confinement

Robert Chase, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Dennis Childs, University of California, San Diego

Comment: The Audience


12:15-1:30 – Lunch break


1:30-3:00 – Concurrent Panels

Panel: “Contemporary Lessons from Past Abolitionists”

Chair: Matthew Mason, Brigham Young University


Nikki Berg Burin, University of North Dakota, “Sex and Slavery in North Dakota: Past and Present”

Elizabeth Regosin, St. Lawrence University, “’Down with slavery everywhere’: Frederick Douglass as a Guide to Prison Abolitionists”

Christopher P. Momany, Adrian College, “The Consequentialist Century: How Outcomes-Based Thinking is Enabling Contemporary Human Trafficking”

Comment: The Audience


Workshop and Roundtable: “Pedagogy and Empathy”

Chair and Moderator: Deborah A. Field, Adrian College


Mark Higbee, Eastern Michigan University

Benjamin Dettmar, Adrian College

Eric Hood, Adrian College

Melissa Stewart, Adrian College

Andrew Winckles, Adrian College

Student participant(s) from Adrian College

Comment: The Audience


3:15-4:30 – Concurrent Panels

Panel: “Slave Culture and Material Culture: Food, Clothing, and Resistance in the Modern World”

Chair: Joan Cashin, Ohio State University


Julie Holcomb, Baylor University, “Blood Sugar: The Material Culture of the Boycott of Slave-Labor Goods”

Sarah Weicksel, University of Chicago, “’Correct Habits of the Body’: Material Culture in an Era of Slave Emancipation”

Comment: Ed Rugemer, Yale University


Panel: “Remnants of the Past in International Perspective”

Chair: Stacey Robertson, Central Washington University


Hayri Goksin Ozkoray, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, “The Hidden Memory of Ottoman Slavery: The Enslavement of Yazidis by ISIS as a Remnant of the Past”

Martin Klein, University of Toronto, “The Struggle for Freedom in the West African Sahara and Sahel Regions”

Comment: The Audience


Program chair:

Matthew Mason
Associate Professor of History, Brigham Young University
Email: matthew_mason@byu.edu