I am a specialist in slavery and its legacies in the US and the UK. I completed my PhD at the University of Liverpool in 2015, and spent two years at the University of Bristol before joining LJMU in September 2018. After significant time spent in Liverpool and Bristol, two cities that were at the heart of Britain's slave economy, I have developed a strong interest in institutions that deal with difficult pasts. I have links to the Universities Studying Slavery network, and have spoken at a UNESCO conference in the US on British Universities and Slavery, see the livestream here: https://en.unesco.org/events/international-seminar-new-approaches-interpreting-and-representing-slavery-museums-and-sites
I have offered commentary on contemporary racial issues and legacies of slavery to BBC radio, NPR (US), and a number of national newspapers.
My first monograph in preparation is a revised version of my PhD thesis and is entitled A Secret Everybody Knew: Slavery and Sexual Violence in the Deep South. The book provides insights on the scale and nature of abuse through methodological advances in working with the testimony of the formerly enslaved. The research for this work was based to an important extent around an extensive quantitative analysis of sexual issues including rape, forced ‘breeding’ and accounts of sexual slavery in the testimony of the formerly enslaved. I discover sexually-violent networks of men that extended throughout the South, and a sexually abusive culture that reflects some of the features associated with contemporary ‘cultures of abuse’. Additionally, I argue that scholars have yet to push the parameters in terms of understanding the systemic nature of sexual violence and its systemic and continuing effects by excluding sexual violence against men from narratives; through research into medical journals, medical records and agricultural magazines I have been able to recover some of this overlooked history. An important part of this book is an analysis of the relationship between sexual violence and the built environment, and how sexual violence was infused into the built environment of plantations though planned sites of domination. An important final section of the book will consider the extraordinary level of emotional survival testified to by enslaved people through resistance and coping strategies; these strategies are strikingly like those employed by modern-day survivors of sexual violence.
Research for my second book project, funded by the British Academy, will be completed in October 2019.This project, that also originated from research completed as part of my PhD, is a monograph/critical collection of unpublished interviews with formerly enslaved people from Louisiana that were conducted by black and writers employed by the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project. From 1936-41 the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) collected life stories from more than 2300 people who had been enslaved in the US. The FWP allowed interviewees a rare chance to discuss enslaved life, and their understandings of freedom from 1865 through to the Depression Era. In the 1970s historian George P. Rawick published collections of FWP interviews that catalysed and facilitated a more holistic understanding of slavery shaped by the voices of the enslaved. However, the Louisiana Writers’ Project had failed to centralise their interviews in Washington DC alongside those from elsewhere and so they are absent from Rawick’s collections and remain unexploited by historians. This project in progress will produce a critical collection on the LWP to include 121 transcripts of Louisiana interviews located in Louisiana archives and four significant chapters on the Louisiana Writers’ Project. This is a vital intervention into histories that have often mythologised LA slavery as more benevolent than elsewhere, and reveals how contested memories and understandings of slavery and black identity shaped racialised interactions in 1930s US, and continue to do so today.
I am interested in supervising postgraduates students working in any area of slavery and race in the Atlantic World.
2015, University of Liverpool, UK, PhD