Slavery Affects 27 Million Lives Today: Legal Abolition vs. Effective Emancipation

Slavery was one of the grossest violations of human rights and dignity in human history. It permeated, at one time or another, every inch of the globe: from the sugar plantations, and mines of the Americas, to the harems of the Ottoman Empire and the armies of the Sokoto Caliphate, slavery was an incredibly diverse and global institution.  

Reduced to expendable chattel, slaves were divorced from their homelands, sold and bought, and forcibly taken to new sites of exploitation where, under the threat of violence, were made to work for the financial accruement of others. By various emancipatory decrees and proclamations throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, slavery gradually declined and eventually ceased to exist. Or did it? Continue reading

Where Did You Get That From?

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I shall unburden myself this month by confessing to a past (though no less alarming) professional transgression and expose you, dear reader, to the very same charge at the same time: we are complicit in the appropriation of images without crediting the proper owners, arbiters, and originators.

We do this (and succeed) because our celebration of the written word is often eclipsed by an insatiable infatuation with the image. Continue reading

An Invitation to a Free Oral History Workshop in Montreal

The Montreal Life Stories Project and Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling will be holding a special one day English-language training workshop on Friday January 28 for faculty, students and community-based researchers interested in our oral history interviewing methodology and ethics. It is free but folks have to reserve a place beforehand, as places are limited. Our training manual is available online.

The next French language training is to be announced.

Please contact Marylin Bernard for registration: Continue reading

Alliance Against Modern Slavery: Benefit Concert and Inaugural Conference

It is our pleasure to announce the official launch of a new NGO – Alliance Against Modern Slavery (AAMS) – in Toronto on January 28-29, 2011. AAMS is incorporated in Canada on a not-for -profit basis as “Canadians Against Slavery/Canadiens Contre l’Esclavage”, and dedicated to raising awareness about and combating modern slavery, a practice which affects 27 million lives worldwide.

Get your tickets now for an inspiring, uplifting benefit concert for freedom on January 28 (7pm-10 pm) in the beautiful Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre at York University where So You Think You Can Dance Canada was filmed. The freedom concert features motivational speaker Roger Cram as MC, TED Speaker and AAMS board member Kevin Bales who is one of the world’s leading experts on modern slavery, Survivor Natasha Falle, Glendene Grant (Mother of Missing Human Trafficking Victim Jessie Foster), Actress Singer Songwriter Kate Todd, Guitar Player Jeff Gunn and Janelle Belgrave of Peace Concept, Samba Elegua Drummers, an Anti-Slavery Art Auction, the Fashion Studio 7 filming crew, and much more. Continue reading

Laptops in the Classroom

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Do laptops have a place in the lecture hall? An ongoing debate has raged over whether they do. At York University, the on-campus newspaper Excalibur noted that many history professors were opposed to the use of laptops in lecture halls, a discussion continued by a large departmental meeting in early January. This has not been an isolated discussion, however. In this post, I hope to provide some background to the debate by noting some of the other sites of discussion, and then break it down into what I see as the two main issues: civility and the role of the professor, as well as learning and the role of technology. Keeping this in mind, I believe that we need to reframe our teaching approach as adult education and adapt to the use of technology. Certainly, there will be times when we should close our laptops and enter into discussion, but this does not need to lead to a blanket ban of technology in our classrooms. Continue reading

Echoes and Reflections: A Multimedia Curriculum on the Holocaust

posterAs teachers, we constantly strive to engage the students in our classrooms both emotionally and intellectually; we choose learning materials we hope will resonant with them and initiate discussions aimed at inspiring their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. If we’re very lucky, what we do in the classroom ultimately leads to personal reflection, growth and a life-long passion for learning.

In the social sciences, study around the Holocaust gives us, as educators, an amazing opportunity to enter into discussions with our students about topics such as stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and what can happen when fundamental human and civil rights are denied to individuals or groups of people. That said, because of both the nature of the material and the sheer depth of research surrounding the Holocaust, it is possible for teachers approaching the subject to feel overwhelmed when trying to develop lesson and/or unit plans. Continue reading

WikiLeaks and the End of History?

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As with all year ends, as 2010 drew to a close, I found myself pondering the year that was and the year to come. This past year was marked by the WikiLeaks phenomenon; it is this singular event and its various repercussions that has me pondering the future of history. When news of the diplomatic cattiness, and backroom wheeling and dealing captured in WikiLeaks first came out, I was tempted to produce a witty epistle about how Julian Assange was serious competition for those historians who spend countless, and often thankless hours, deep in the bowels of the archives, digging and searching for that one piece of “Eureka!” evidence. As journalist after journalist titillated about the latest diplomatic revelation, I mourned the fact that thirty years from now, there would be no repeat excitement as documents held under Access to Information or Freedom of Information legislation around the world were released to the general public. In my mind, WikiLeaks had taken the historian’s ability to astound away. Case in point, in early December 2010 networks around the world announced the discovery of a forgotten manuscript produced by Leonardo Da Vinci in his trademark right to left handwriting. A single document made international headlines and thrust the possibility of different ways of knowing into the limelight. Continue reading

Active History on the Grand: Rural Raids and Divided Loyalties – Southwestern Ontario and the War of 1812

McArthur's Raids in Southwestern Ontario

With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 less than a year away, there is a flurry of activity in Ontario as organizations develop plans to commemorate the event.  The journal Ontario History has extended a call for papers for a special edition dedicated to recent articles about the War of 1812 in Ontario.  The city of Hamilton, site the battle of Stoney Creek, is planning a series of events to commemorate the war’s impact on the city.  In Kingston, the Kingston Historical Society is planning a conference for October 2012, Sideshow or Main Event: Putting the War of 1812 into regional contexts.  At Brock University history professor Kevin Kee and Brock students have developed a GPS-guided interactive tour of War of 1812 sites in Ontario, including Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston Heights, available as an iPhone app. Continue reading

The New Huck Finn

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Generally speaking, I am against the censorship of literature. Taking a look at the American Library Association’s list of Banned and/or Challenged Books, which includes a list of books, place and years of bans and/or challenges and the reason behind the challenges, can be a frustrating, and even a saddening experience for anyone who cherishes free speech, great literature and the dialogue over ideas, no matter how challenging some ideas may be. It is because of my typically strong feelings on this issue that a story that was published this week in Publishers Weekly caught my attention. It was announced this week that a small publishing company, New South Books, would be printing a new version of Mark Twain’s classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and in this revised version, by English Professor and Twain Scholar Alan Gribben, the word “nigger” will be omitted from the text, and replaced with the word “slave” and the term “Injun” will be replaced by “Indian”. What was particularly interesting to me in this story was the author’s and the publisher’s justification for these changes. As a person who has devoted his life to the works of Twain, Gribben has reworked the American masterpiece in the hopes of expanding the readership of the book, especially among young students and the general public who presumably may be offended by the original language, or in the case of students, too young or lacking the intellectual context to properly understand Twain’s intent behind the language. According to Gribben, the book has been banned countless times for reasons of language, or it has simply not been taught by teachers who felt uncomfortable in introducing the work into their classrooms. For Gribben, the removal of what essentially amounts to a little over 200 words was worth any criticism he might face if the end result is that the book is introduced into many more American classrooms and more young people are afforded the opportunity to be introduced to Twain. Continue reading