Sherri V. Cummings, Brown University
Richard S. Dunn Dissertation Fellow
“In Search of Equiano’s Sister: Thoughts of Slavery, Freedom and Black Girlhood in the
Early Modern British Atlantic”
What happened to Olaudah Equiano’s sister? Sherri utilizes this dynamic question, resulting from a close reading of the African abolitionist’s popular narrative, as a foundational metaphor for the exploration of the intellectual currents of Black girlhood, slavery and freedom in the British Atlantic. Using an array of sixteenth to eighteenth century sources from Africa, England, the Caribbean and Colonial America, Sherri examines the experiences of African girls and their American counterparts, juxtaposed against British ideas of blackness, gender, labor (both bonded and free), sovereignty, beauty, and the law. She contends that through the African girl’s body, British understandings of womanhood, sovereignty, power and the colonial project were realized, while African notions of cultural and spiritual legacy, subjecthood and freedom, often realized through children, was disrupted.