OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Sowande' M. Mustakeem

Portrait of Sowande

Sowande' M. Mustakeem is a historian with broad specializations in slavery at sea, medicine, Black women’s history, terror, violence, slavery and memory, criminality,  policing, gender and executions in history.  She is currently an Associate Professor in the Departments of History and African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Mustakeem is globally known for her two time award winning book, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (2016) which won the Wesley Logan prize in 2017 (jointly awarded by The American Historical Association and The Association for the Study of African American Life) for the best book for the history of the African Diaspora. She likewise won the 2020 Dred Scott Freedom Award for the Historical Literacy Excellence from the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. The audio version of Slavery at Sea was released spring 2021. She has articles published in The Journal of African American History, Atlantic Studies, along with a number of essays in edited volumes. Her most recent contributions have appeared in BBC Magazine, the online publication Vox, “6 Myths About the History of Black People in America” and Keywords in African American Studies.  She has been featured on BBC radio, and was on Henry Louis Gates’ PBS documentary series “Many Rivers to Cross.”  She is also cohost of the Apple podcast “TheBookLane365”, which empowers future writers with tips and tools to activate productivity through writing. Mustakeem is currently working on her next book focused on women and crime.
NEW IN 2021: Slavery at Sea (Audiobook) (University of Illinois Press)

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Moving from slavery at sea to the contemporary world of medicine, this talk will provide a snapshot overview in medical history through the lense of African American history. Attention is given pre and post Tuskegee to enable deeper understanding of the delicate relationship in place with African Americans and the American medical profession. Even more, this talk centers on race, medicine, and the tangible ways of empowering a future of medical learning by highlighting a one-of-a-kind medical history course that enables the future to become racially empowered about the past before applying to medical school and public health programs.
This talk centers the building of statehood and nationhood by exploring the execution of its violent citizens. Moving across time and space, it shows the forcible death of black and white women, men, girls and most of all families lost in history and the memory of swift justice anchored on the symbolism of violence and ridding society of the unruly. By focusing on violence detonated by the state, we can more closely consider the tools, methods, the public and private spaces used to exact death, and to probe the treatment of the accused and executed. In short, this talk highlights how far the state will go in the building of a more perfect future, no matter the human casualties.
This talk deeply probes the Middle Passage by centering human lives and bloodshed that erupted aboard slave ships. It explores ship revolts, death, as well as the psychological tolls of slavery at sea. Most of all, it overturns the silences on gender, terror and trauma in the making and unmaking of bondpeople through the transatlantic slave trade.