Friday 19 October 2018

Issued: Sat, 29 Sep 2018 15:48:00 BST

Friday 19 October 2018: Professor Charmaine Nelson (McGill University)

“Ran away from her Master…a Negroe Girl named Thursday”: Examining Evidence of Punishment, Isolation, and Trauma in Nova Scotia and Quebec Fugitive Slave Advertisements


Annual James McCune Smith Lecture

“Ran away from her Master…a Negroe Girl named Thursday”: Examining Evidence of Punishment, Isolation, and Trauma in Nova Scotia and Quebec Fugitive Slave Advertisements

Professor Charmaine A. Nelson
McGill University, Montreal

Transatlantic Slavery was based upon the strategic dehumanisation and animalisation of enslaved Africans as a way to “break” or “season” a population that was deemed, by Western pseudo-sciences and popular thought, to be uniquely fit for servitude. The physical dehumanisation of the enslaved went hand-in-hand with strategic material deprivation such as the deliberate witholding of food and clothing rations, and social humiliation including the use of animal names for Africans. Part of this process necessarily involved the regularised use of corporal punishment.

Although a great deal of scholarship exists on various forms of corporal punishment and social deprivation used in tropical plantation slavery, there is little awareness and understanding of the use of violence to control, punish, and torment the enslaved in the northern territories that became Canada. In this public talk Professor Charmaine A. Nelson (McGill University, Montreal) will examine fugitive slave advertisements. Using British Jamaica as a point of contrast, she will consider these unauthorised “portraits” in order to recuperate visual signs of trauma inflicted upon enslaved people by white slave owners in Canada, particularly in 17th, 18th and 19th-century Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Prof Nelson will speak for about 45 minutes before opening up the conversation to audience questions. All are welcome to stay for a free and informal drinks reception.

The annual James McCune Smith Lecture is named in honour of James McCune Smith (1813-1865), the noted physician, apothecary, abolitionist and author. McCune Smith studied medicine at the University of Glasgow and became the first African American to receive a doctorate. This annual lecture recognises McCune Smith's life and work. Prof. Nelson's talk is also part of Black History Month Scotland 2018, organised by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, and the University of Glasgow's Black History Month event series. It is supported through an Outreach Award from the Canada-UK Foundation and the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow. It has been organised by Prof Faye Hammill and Dr Rosie Spooner from the University of Glasgow.

The Lecture Theatre is located on the ground floor of the Sir Charles Wilson Building. From the entrance foyer follow the corridor around either side of the lecture theatre and enter through the glass doors at the end. More information about accessibility at the Sir Charles Wilson Building can be found here.

Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History at McGill University. Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, Transatlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. She has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. Her seventh book, Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (Captus Press, forthcoming 2018) will be the first to consolidate the field of African Canadian Art History. More information about Prof. Nelson's teaching and research can be found at