Sharla M. Fett is a professor of history at Occidental College in Los Angeles, working in the fields of nineteenth-century Atlantic World slavery, the antebellum U.S. South, and race, gender, and health. She is the author of Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations (2002) and Recaptured Africans: Surviving Slave Ships, Detention, and Dislocation in the Final Years of the Slave Trade (2017). She has also published in the journal Slavery and Abolition and contributed essays to New Studies in the History of American Slavery (2006), edited by Stephanie Camp and Edward Baptist, and Paths of the Atlantic Slave Trade (2010), edited by Ana Lucia Araujo. She has been a teaching partner with the Colored Conventions Project, founded by Gabrielle Foreman at the University of Delaware, and has edited a student-researched exhibit on California's conventions of the 1850s and 1860s, entitled "Equality Before the Law: California Black Convention Activism, 1855-1865."
This talk explores evidence of how recaptive African shipmates struggled with the aftermath of slave ship incarceration and middle passage trauma during the era of U.S. slave trade suppression. During the mid-19th centuries on journeys from southern US ports to Liberia, recaptives from West and West Central Africa relied upon each other to survive their ordeal and recreate a social life in the face of overwhelming death and dislocation. The lecture explores the prominence of African children and youth in the nineteenth-century contraband slave trade and the significance of age on survival strategies.