This week’s Speaker Spotlight is on Dr. Nafees Khan. We are excited to welcome Dr. Khan to Crossroads Symposium on Friday, September 13 to speak about his part in the Slave Voyages Project. Over about 400 years, an estimated 12.8 million people were uprooted from Africa, shipped across the Atlantic ocean, and forced into slavery in the New World. The main nations involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade were Portugal, Great Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Not only dehumanizing and cataclysmic to its victims, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was also devastating for the historical record, obliterating the identities and histories of most of Africans involved.

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, courtesy of the Slave Voyages Project, slavevoyages.org

Centuries later, the Slave Voyages Project is seeking to reclaim this lost history. Through creative use of available records, the project identifies and documents the vessels used in the slave trade, their routes, the enslaved, and the enslavers. To date, the project has succeeded in documenting over 32,000 voyages between Africa and the New World, 10,000 intra-American voyages, and 92,000 Africans. They have also created a digital reconstruction of the L’Aurore from the original drawings for the slave vessel, some sketches of which are pictured below.

L’Aurore, a French slave vessel. http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/3002

It is hard to over-emphasize the importance of this project, giving names to the nameless forgotten by history. For the hundreds of millions of people in the Americas today who are descended from enslaved Africans, the Slave Voyages Project offers a glimmer of hope into making their family history accessible.

Dr. Khan is also involved with the African Origins Project, a complementary undertaking to identify the historical origins of Africans transported to the Americas using contributions made by the public, and the African Diaspora Consortium., an objective to enhance understanding and connect the African Diaspora.

Dr. Khan is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Foundations at Clemson University. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Emory University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in History from Tufts University. His doctoral work was on how the history of slavery was presented in secondary U.S. and Brazilian history textbooks. His current research interests incorporate the legacies of slavery as related to education and the experiences of Afro-Brazilians, African Americans, and other diaspora communities.