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Amistad Revolt

Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone

Iyunolu Folayan Osagie

Publication Year: 2000

From journalism and lectures to drama, visual art, and the Spielberg film, this study ranges across the varied cultural reactions--in America and Sierra Leone--engendered by the 1839 Amistad slave ship revolt.

Iyunolu Folayan Osagie is a native of Sierra Leone, from where the Amistad's cargo of slaves originated. She digs deeply into the Amistad story to show the historical and contemporary relevance of the incident and its subsequent trials. At the same time, she shows how the incident has contributed to the construction of national and cultural identity both in Africa and the African diasporo in America--though in intriguingly different ways.

This pioneering work of comparative African and American cultural criticism shows how creative arts have both confirmed and fostered the significance of the Amistad revolt in contemporary racial discourse and in the collective memories of both countries.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. C-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This research was generously supported by grants from the Research and Graduate Studies Office, College of Liberal Arts, and the Minority Faculty Development Office at the Pennsylvania State University....

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pp. xi-xviii

The many stories surrounding the Amistad revolt and its aftermath are compelling arguments in the nineteenth-century arena of identity politics and in twentieth-century discourse on the formation of political consciousness. The revolt and the subsequent trial cases in the United States are relevant to people living in both the United...

Part One. Remembering the Past

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Chapter One. The Amistad Story in the American Context

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pp. 3-23

By the nineteenth century, when the Amistad1 tragedy unfolded, the traumatic realities of pillage, death, and enslavement were lived experiences in most of Africa. To mention one particular instance, many Africans from around the Vai-Mende country were taken captive to Dombokoro, or Lombokoro or...

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Chapter Two. Slave Revolts and the Production of Identity

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pp. 24-52

Confusion about how we view the Amistad story can in part be resolved by examining it in the context of its Sierra Leone experience. Just as important, however, are the slave revolt contexts of the Americas from which the Amistad emerged in the...

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Chapter Three. The Amistad Returnees and the Mende Mission

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pp. 53-68

The contact between Europe and Africa, established through peaceful patterns of trade from West Africa to North Africa to the Mediterranean and European worlds, dated back to at least the eighth century. These patterns dramatically changed around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when explorers, seeking a trade...

Part Two. Reinventing the Present

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Chapter Four. Sculpting History: African American Burdens of Memory

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pp. 71-97

Since the 1980$, an increasing number of scholars and performance artists have been using a variety of media to make the story of the Amistad a living memory. Through pamphlets, public...

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Chapter Five. National Identity: The Dramatic Return of Memory in Sierra Leone

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pp. 98-118

The literature on collective memory suggests that a society's selection and ascription of significance to a historical event is not an arbitrary process.1 In public discourse, memory is constructed and deployed to achieve a number of strategic ends. How a particular...

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Chapter Six. Hollywood Images, African Memories: Spielberg's Amistad and Sierra Leone Culture and Politics

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pp. 119-135

The American mainstream motion picture industry has impacted society politically, economically, and socially. As a powerful social institution, Hollywood's cultural elite influences society through its creation of cultural symbols and its authoritative control...

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pp. 136-138

Attempts by scholars, activists, and artists to represent the contested, elided, and often unacknowledged historical past not only expose the deeply submerged problem of race relations between Africa and the West, but also bring us closer to transcending...


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pp. Image 1-Image 6


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pp. 139-160

Works Cited

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pp. 161-174


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pp. 175-180

E-ISBN-13: 9780820327259
E-ISBN-10: 0820327255
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820322247
Print-ISBN-10: 0820322245

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 11 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2000

OCLC Number: 676697517
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Amistad Revolt

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • African Americans in literature.
  • Segregation in literature.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism.
  • Race discrimination in literature.
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