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The Bloody Writing



Cover image.

Hosted by The Historical Society of Ghana and the University of Cape Coast


Many people and organizations have contributed intellectually, financially, and organizationally to the making of this conference. Without their willingness to think hard, work hard, and give generously, “The bloody Writing is for ever torn”: Domestic and International Consequences of the First Governmental Efforts to Abolish the Atlantic Slave Trade would have remained just another idea, a wishful dream. An enormous variety of contributors have made this conference happen, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture thanks all of them for becoming partners with us in this endeavor.

Once the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture decided to convene an international scholarly conference to examine the global and domestic ramifications of the decisions made in 1807 by Great Britain and the United States to end, respectively, the trade in and the importation of slaves, the critical question became where such a meeting should be held. A series of suggestions from the Institute’s staff, particularly those made by Dr. Fredrika J. Teute, persuaded the director, Dr. Ronald Hoffman, to consult with scholars of African history to determine the feasibility of holding such a meeting in Africa. Their emphatic endorsement of the concept reinforced the Institute’s conviction that although the effects of the coincidental decisions taken by England and the United States reverberated throughout the Atlantic world, the most profound consequences occurred in Africa. Hence, the Institute began planning to convene in Ghana, on the historic “slave coast,” a conference that would examine the national and international contexts of the transatlantic slave trade at the end of the eighteenth century, the changing circumstances that underpinned the call for its abolition, and the resolutions of some of the trade’s original instigators and greatest beneficiaries to outlaw participation in it. As the site for the meeting, the Institute chose Elmina, where a slave trading fort, initially built by the Portuguese in 1482 and held successively by the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, and the English, still stands.

In September 2005 Dr. Hoffman joined Harvard University’s Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong in his native Ghana to make the initial arrangements for holding the conference there. Professor Akyeampong scheduled a series of meetings to discuss the project with members of university faculties and public officials in Accra and Cape Coast—Professor Akosua A. Perbi, Professor Yaw Bredwa-Mensah, and Dr. Takyiwaa Manuh of the University of Ghana; Dr. Irene K. Odotei, president of The Historical Society of Ghana; Professor George Hagan, Minister of Culture; and Professor Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang of the University of Cape Coast were particularly helpful and supportive, and their enthusiasm and offers of cooperation sealed the bargain. The Historical Society of Ghana and the University of Cape Coast agreed to co-host the meeting, Dr. Odotei formed a Local Arrangements Committee and brought Ms. Aurora Nuno-Amarteifio of Ramel Business Services Ltd. on board, the Omohundro Institute drafted a Call for Papers, and an idea began its transformation into a reality.

That transformation could never have occurred without the commitment and generosity of: The College of William and Mary and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Omohundro Institute’s two permanent sponsors; The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University; The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History; The Reed Foundation; The W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University; and The Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull. The financial resources provided by these donors have underwritten the considerable costs of mounting a conference that is global in terms both of the topics addressed and of the distances traveled by the participating scholars. It must also be noted that many of these presenters have received extremely important travel support from their respective universities, and for this critical assistance the conference organizers are enormously grateful. We also thank UNESCO for the consultative advice it provided.