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Please join the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture for a roundtable discussion of race and slavery in history and popular culture, focused on The History Channel’s recent retelling of Alex Haley’s Roots.


Date and Time




Robert H. and Clarice Smith Auditorium
George Washington's Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy.
Mount Vernon, VA, 22121

The discussion is the public component of a four-day academic conference, Region and Nation in American Histories of Race and Slavery, and will feature leading scholars on the topics of race and slavery in early American history.  Evocatively set at George Washington's Mount Vernon, the conference invites fresh examination of the role of regional histories of race and slavery and their contributions to a national history of “American” slavery. 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.” Yet slavery was not peculiar to America and, far from paradoxical, was inherent to American development. By the time of the American Revolution, the Upper South held one of the largest slave populations in the Americas; their labor, and that of their descendants born into the system of hereditary slavery built by early Chesapeake law, helped fuel the expansion of the American nation in its first half century.

The conference corresponds with the opening of the first major exhibition interpreting slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Learn more about the exhibition here.

A small number of scholarships are available to students to help offset the cost of travel to the academic conference. Scholarships are open only to graduate students (Masters and Ph.D.) studying history or related fields. The application can be accessed here.

Karin Wulf, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Moderator

Wulf earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1993. Before coming to William & Mary, she taught for ten years at American University. Wulf has produced two collaborative editions, Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: A Commonplace Book from Revolutionary America (with Catherine Blecki, published by Penn State in 1997) and The Diary of Hannah Callender, 1758-1788 (with Susan Klepp, 2010). Her book, Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia, was published by Cornell University Press in 2000 and issued in paper by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2005. She is currently at work on a study of the relationship between genealogical practices and political culture: Lineage: Genealogy and the Politics of Connection in British America, 1680-1820.

Jennifer Morgan, New York University

Morgan is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, History and Chair of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1996. Her areas of research interest are early African-American history, comparative slavery, histories of racial ideology, and women and gender. Her first book, Laboring Women: Gender and Reproduction in New World Slavery, was published by University of Pennsylvania Press in 2004. Her writing has appeared in other books as well: "Gender and Family Life" in The Slavery Reader (ed. Trevour Bernard and Gad Heuman), "Experiencing Black Feminism" in Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (ed. Deborah Gray White), and "Slavery and the Slave Trade, 1600-1760" in A Companion to American Women's History (ed. Nancy Hewitt). 


Erica Armstrong Dunbar, University of Delaware

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is Professor of Black American Studies and History at the University of Delaware. She has recently participated in several documentaries, including “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and “The Abolitionists,” an American Experience production on PBS. In 2011, Professor Dunbar was appointed the first director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. She has been the recipient of Ford, Mellon, and SSRC fellowships and most recently has been named an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City, was published by Yale University Press in 2008. Dunbar’s newest book project is titled Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave.

Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas at Austin

Berry teaches courses at the University of Texas at Austin in the Departments of History and African and African Diaspora Studies. In addition to her university teaching, she is committed to educating a wider audience by serving as a consultant for documentary films, genealogical research, museum exhibits, and K-12 public programming. Dr. Berry chairs and serves on MA and Ph.D. student committees and teaches courses in 19th Century United States, African American, and African Diaspora history. She remains actively involved in scholarly conferences as well. In 2011 she hosted two conferences with Professor Leslie Harris (Emory University), "Sexuality and Slavery" and "Slavery and Freedom in Savannah."

Stephanie Smallwood, University of Washington

Smallwood is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington. She earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1999. Her first book, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora, was published by Harvard University Press in 2007 and won the 2008 Frederick Douglass Book Prize. She is currently working on a second book project, Rethinking the Atlantic "World": Historical Geographies of Power and Possibility. She has written extensively on the history of slavery in the United States, having published numerous articles, book chapters, and reviews on the subject. 

Maurice Jackson, Georgetown University

Jackson teaches in the History Department and African American Studies Program and is Affiliated Professor of Music (Jazz) at Georgetown University. His is author of Let This Voice Be Heard: Anthony Benezet, (1713-1784), Father of Atlantic Abolitionism and co-editor of African-Americans and the Haitian Revolution and Quakers and Their Allies in the Abolitionist Cause, 1754-1808 (2015). Jackson has won many fellowships, including at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the Smithsonian Institution and is at work on Halfway to Freedom: African Americans and the Struggle for Social Progress in Washington, D.C. Author of many articles, he is co-editor of a special issue on Jazz in D.C. in Washington History (April 2014) and his Washington, D.C.: From the Founding of a Slaveholding Capital to a Center of Abolitionism, appeared last year.