Lives of the Enslaved, Led by Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas at Austin

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This course is a study of enslaved people and the ways in which human beings coped with captivity. It is also a course that listens to their voices through audio files, diaries, letters, actions, and silences. Centering on 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 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.


• Twelve seminar sessions led by Professor Daina Ramey Berry

Primary source readings that supplement Professor Berry's lectures

• A certificate of completion for 15 hours of professional development credit

Readings: The optional readings for each seminar session are listed in the “Resources” tab on the course page. Please note that you are not required to read or purchase any print materials. Quizzes are based on the content of the seminar recordings rather than the readings.

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Questions? Please view our FAQ page or email selfpacedcourses@gilderlehrman.org.

This self-paced course is adapted from the Pace–Gilder Lehrman MA program and will be offered in the Spring 2021 semester. For more information on this program, visit the MA in American History page.

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Daina Ramey Berry is the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her BA, MA, and PhD in African American Studies and US History at UCLA. Dr. Berry is a specialist on the history of gender and slavery in the United States and Black women’s history. She is the award-winning author and editor of five books and several scholarly articles. Her recent book, The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to the Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon, 2017), has been awarded three book awards including the 2018 Hamilton Book Award from the University Co-op for the best book among UT Austin faculty, the 2017 Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Book Prize, and the Phillis Wheatley Award for Scholarly Research from the Sons and Daughters of the US Middle Passage. Berry’s book was also a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize for the most outstanding non-fiction book in English on the subject of slavery, abolition, or antislavery movements.