Professor to explore slave narratives

Dorothy Mosby's work focuses on the literature and cultures of African descendants in Latin America

By Alheri Egor-Egbe ’17 

Dorothy Mosby, a Mount Holyoke College professor of Spanish, Latina/o and Latin American studies, is among 27 multidisciplinary faculty members selected by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to participate in a seminar to comprehend the lived experience of slaves in their transition from bondage to freedom. 

The annual seminar, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, takes place this year in June at Yale University. It enables the faculty members, selected through a competitive process, to share knowledge as well as enhance their teaching at their respective institutions, noted CIC president Richard Ekman. 

“Strengthening the teaching of American history at colleges and universities is of critical importance,” Ekman said in a news release. “This seminar will provide a great opportunity for participating faculty members to gain a better understanding of the experience of emancipation and the nineteenth-century events that were so important in shaping our world today.” 

Mosby, whose research focuses on the literature and cultures of African descendants in Latin America, said that she is excited to further expand her knowledge of the Afro-descendant experience in North and Latin America and its effects on contemporary society, and to share those experiences with her students. 

“This seminar is an opportunity to place slave narratives and testimonies of North America and Latin America in conversation with one another,” she said. “Latin America was home to some of the largest enslaved populations and slave economies in the western hemisphere, yet seldom are the few slave narratives and neo-slave narratives from the region placed in conversation with the larger collection of antebellum and postbellum slave narratives from the United States.” 

The seminar will provide “critical tools to look comparatively at the slave narrative genre in North and Latin America,” she said. “It will give a broader perspective on the impact and legacy of slavery in the Americas.” 

Mosby, who joined Mount Holyoke in 2003, teaches courses in Latin American literature, culture, and history, and incorporates Afro-Latin American neo-slave narratives into her teaching and research. Many of these contemporary texts are written by Afro-Latin American women. 

She is the author of two books on Afro-Costa Rican literature, Place, Language, and Identity in Afro-Costa Rican Literature (University of Missouri Press, 2003) and Quince Duncan: Writing Afro-Costa Rican and Caribbean Identity (University of Alabama Press, 2014). Mosby received a Fulbright grant in 2011 to teach and research in Honduras, where she examined challenges to mestizo multiculturalism by Afro-Central American writers, artists, and community activists. 

To fully understand the experience of the emancipation, the seminar participants will examine the 65 antebellum narratives including those of Frederick Douglass. They also will explore the 55 post-emancipation narratives, which chronicle triumphs over the past and visions of a prosperous future, the most famous of which was written by Booker T. Washington.

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