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This lecture draws on Dr. José Lingna Nafafé's  book Lourenço da Silva Mendonça, and the Black Atlantic Abolitionist Movement in the 17th Century (Cambridge University Press, 2022). The book  tells the story of the highly organized, international legal court case for the abolition of slavery spearheaded by Prince Lourenço da Silva Mendonça in the seventeenth century. The case, presented before the Vatican, called for the freedom of all enslaved people and other oppressed groups. This included New Christians (Jews converted to Christianity) and Indigenous Americans in the Atlantic World, and Black Christians from confraternities in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and Spain. Abolition debate is generally believed to have been dominated by white Europeans in the eighteenth century. By centring African agency, historian José Lingna Nafafé offers a new perspective on the abolition movement, showing, for the first time, how the legal debate was begun not by Europeans, but by Africans. In the first book of its kind, Lingna Nafafé underscores the exceptionally complex nature of the African liberation struggle, and demystifies the common knowledge and accepted wisdom surrounding African slavery.



Dr. José Lingna Nafafé is Associate Professor of Lusophone Early Modern African History, Culture and Identity, co-Director of Teaching for the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, and co-Director of the MA in Black Humanities at the University of Bristol. Dr Lingna Nafafé’s academic interests embrace a number of inter-related areas, linked by the overarching themes of: the Black Atlantic abolitionist movement in the 17th Century; the Lusophone Atlantic African diaspora; seventeenth and eighteenth century African, Portuguese and Brazilian histories; slavery and wage-labour, 1792-1850; race, religion and ethnicity; Luso-African migrants’ culture and integration in the Northern (England) and Southern Europe (Portugal and Spain); ‘Europe in Africa’ and ‘Africa in Europe’; and the relationship between postcolonial theory and the Lusophone Atlantic. In 2016, he was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to undertake archival research for the project “Freedom and Lusophone African Diaspora in the Atlantic”. Dr Lingna Nafafé is Co-Investigator for a recently awarded ERC Advance Grant project with Prof. Julia O’Connell Davidson at the University of Bristol. The project “Modern Marronage? The Pursuit and Practice of Freedom in the Contemporary World” focuses on the United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, France, and Italy. Dr Lingna Nafafe leads the project’s Brazil strand, conducting archival research on Quilombo dos Palmares (Alagoas), one of the earliest, largest and most successful maroon communities in the seventeenth century, and on migrants’ settlement in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Dr. Nafafé was nominated on ‘The BME Power List 2018 – Bristol’s 100 Most Influential BME People’ for having “advanced the history on resistance to enslavement through ground-breaking research which African Voices Forum shared at the Afrika Eye Film Festival in 2017.” Dr. Lingna Nafafé’s second monograph Lourenço da Silva Mendonça, and the Black Atlantic Abolitionist Movement in the 17th Century was published with Cambridge University Press in August 2022 (part of the Studies on the African Diaspora series and feature in the Cambridge lists in Atlantic history, Latin American history, African history, and the history of slavery).This innovative book on which this lecture is based provides substantial new evidence of the transnational and highly organized African abolitionist movement (including oppressed peoples of the Atlantic world such as, New Christians and Native Americans) in a crucial period in global history. Currently, Dr. Nafafé is writing a third monograph whose provisional title is Beyond Wilberforce’s Experiment in Abolitionism: Yellow Fever Epidemic, Unfree Labour and the Market, 1792-1870.

  • Kay Lewis
  • Temiloluwa Owoade
  • Trinity Webster-Bass

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