Today’s guest post comes from Nathan Jérémie-Brink, a Ph.D. student at Loyola University Chicago. His current research examines African-American print culture as it relates to religious and antislavery movements. Nathan also currently serves as the new media assistant for Common-place.
Sept. 19-21, 2013 marked the first annual conference of Historians Against Slavery, at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is true that very few historians today would endorse John C. Calhoun’s opinion that slavery was in history or is now “a positive good.” Even so, historians rarely consider the valuable role that our research, and our teaching may play in present-day antislavery movements. The fear of presentism remains an obstacle to the historian’s meaningful involvement in modern-day activism. Certainly, historians must avoid anachronistic descriptions of slavery that undermine the specific realities of the early-modern Atlantic world and the early American republic. But there ought to be openness in the academy and in the discipline to let the historical record elucidate comparisons or contrasts between slaveries of the past and the present. Continue reading