The Lives of the Enslaved

The Lives of the Enslaved

Led by: Prof. Daina Ramey Berry (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Course Number: AMHI 672
Semesters: Fall 2023, Spring 2021, Fall 2019



Image: Timothy O’Sullivan, "Five generations on Smith’s Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina," ca. 1861–1877 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC05111.01.1038)

Photograph taken during Reconstruction Era showing five generations of African-Americans

Course Description

This course is a study of enslaved people and the ways human beings coped with captivity, listening to the voices of the enslaved through audio files, diaries, letters, actions, and silences. Centering the people of slavery rather than viewing them as objects shifts the focus to their commentary on slavery. In addition to listening to enslaved people, students will have the opportunity to engage with some of the most cutting-edge scholarship on the subject. Although the early literature objectified enslaved people and hardly paid attention to their experiences, work published since the Civil Rights Movement and into the twenty-first century offers rich accounts of enslaved life. By approaching the institution of slavery in the United States from the enslaved perspective through firsthand accounts of their experiences, students will have the opportunity to engage a variety of sources including narratives, plantation records, podcasts, short films, and other media. Some of the specific themes addressed include gender, sexuality, region, labor, resistance, pleasure, love, family, and community among the enslaved.

Download Course Syllabus

Lecture Preview

Lecture 1: “Understanding Soul Values and the Process of Studying the Enslaved”

About the Scholar

Daina Ramey Berry, Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, University of California, Santa Barbara

Daina Ramey Berry is the Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before joining UCSB she was the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History and chair of the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin. She also served as the associate dean of the graduate school. In addition to her work at the university as an administrator and internationally recognized scholar of slavery, Professor Berry is one of the most sought-after consultants for public-facing projects offered by museums, historical sites, K–12 educational initiatives, syndicated radio programs, online podcasts, and public television. She directs an arts program for a Title I school through the Town Lake Links, Inc., and received a community leadership award for her efforts.