Public Program- James Sidbury

Lectures and Performances
Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - 7:30pm

To Create a "Historians' Nation": Paul Cuffe's Vision of the Ties Between Africa and African-America
by James Sidbury

In 1815, the sea captain and merchant Paul Cuffe wrote a letter foretelling a time when the country of his "ancestors" would enjoy the same privileges as "other historian Nations." Cuffe was, by that time, one of the most famous black men in the United States, and was renowned among opponents of slavery for his efforts to forge ties of commerce and friendship between the peoples of Africa and the black residents of the United States. Earlier writers had used the language of the nation in speaking of the creation of an African people, but they rarely elaborated upon it. Cuffe built upon and extended this vision to bring the privileges of "historian Nations" to Africa and African-America by creating a diasporic African people. His early and innovative African nationalist vision stands as a high point in early black conceptions of African identity, and in blacks' battle against slavery and the Atlantic slave trade.

James Sidbury is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2002-3 he was in residence at AAS as the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. He is the author of Ploughshares into Swords: Race, Rebellion, and Identity in Gabriel's Virginia, 1730 - 1810.

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