Transatlantic lives: narratives of slavery, freedom, and diaspora in West Africa and Brazil

Arts Building Lecture Room 7 (223), Zoom
Wednesday 26 October 2022 (15:15-16:45)

Dr Kate Smith (


Kristin Mann, Professor Emerita, Department of History, Emory University gives the annual Fage Lecture.

Two young sisters and their older male cousin were captured around 1820 in the kingdom of Òwu, during a war that accompanied the collapse and fall of West Africa’s Ọ̀yọ́ Empire. The younger girl was sold to a woman in a neighboring kingdom. The other two youths were traded to the coast, sold to Brazilians, and forcibly transported to Bahia.

As was not uncommon among Yoruba-speakers, capture and sale, even into the Atlantic commerce, did not lead to a final rupture in the relationships among the three. A reconstruction of the trio’s lives, based on research in Nigeria, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, casts new light on the encounter of Yoruba children, women, and men with African and Atlantic slavery, illuminating their struggles to free themselves and loved ones, rebuild their families and communities, and preserve their religions and culture.

Each of the three eventually migrated across war-torn land or dangerous sea from the sites of their enslavement and later vulnerable freedom to new Yoruba-speaking territory in West Africa, where they reunited with one another and worked with others of shared history and identity to forge enduring new homelands. The trio’s stories deepen understanding of the origins and transformation of the global Yoruba diaspora. 

This event has been organised by the Department of African Studies and Anthropology (DASA) in collaboration with the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures (BRIHC).