Middle Passages: Transatlantic Slave Trade

This summer, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to host the second annual professional development seminar, “Middle Passages: A Shared History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” that brought together high school teachers from the United States and Ghana.

  • US and Ghanian teachers showcase a collaborative project
  • US and Ghanian teachers showcase a collaborative project.

Fifteen teachers from the United States joined nine teachers from Ghana to study the history and legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Led by historians Yaw Bredwa-Mensah, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana, Stephanie Smallwood, Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, and James Walvin, Professor of History Emeritus at the University of York, the seminar covers the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the experience of the Middle Passage. Seminar topics include the history of African-European contact, the nature of African societies in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, the slave trading practices in Africa, the impact of the slave trade on regions of Africa, the character of the coastal trade in the forts and castles, and the numbers and experience of African arrivals in the Americas.

  • US and Ghanian Teachers
  • US and Ghanian teachers discuss classroom practice.

In addition to enjoying academic lectures, participants in the seminar engage in discussions about pedagogy including the use of primary sources in the classroom, best practices, and technology. Highlights of the program include a lecture on The Diligent slave ship by Robert Harms, Henry J. Heinz Professor of History and African Studies at Yale, an introduction to the new online Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, a visit to the collection of slavery-related materials at the Beinecke library, and a day trip to New York City to visit the African Burial Ground and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture.

The idea for the seminar originated in 2007 during a conference in Ghana commemorating the 200th anniversary of the closing of the Transatlantic slave trades. Designed as a three-year program and now in its second year, the Middle Passages Seminar was held at the Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana in 2009, and will be held at the University of York in the United Kingdom in 2011. The Middle Passages Web site can be found at www.yale.edu/glc/mpi/index.htm.

Teachers and faculty pose for group photo in front of Swing Dorm
Teachers and faculty pose for group photo in front of Swing Dorm.