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This Seminar addresses the legacy of slavery in the western hemisphere, focusing on African-American slavery in the United States.  Presenters and discussants participate in dialogue on the history of slavery, its neurobehavioral and cultural underpinnings, the social, economic, and political factors facilitating ongoing racism and inequities, and the consequences for ancestors of enslaved peoples and enslaving peoples in the modern world.  Members of this seminar include anthropologists, clergy, historians, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, and other scholars and guests who share an interest in learning from the collective memories of slavery, determining what must be done to heal the wounds left behind by slavery, and determining how to move toward equitable and healthy societies in which all peoples can thrive.

Professor Emily Anderson

Dr. John Delfs

Isaac Sekyi Nana Mensah

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through February 2022. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

09/23/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM
The Call for Reparations in Theological Key
Keri Day, Princeton Theological Seminary


Just a couple of years ago, three Democratic presidential candidates—Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Julián Castro—endorsed the concept of granting reparations to black Americans affected by slavery and racial discrimination. It is still front and center in many current political debates. Is reparations part of the solution to repairing racial injustices? If so, why? This seminar will explore these questions by telling a story about why the call for reparations is 1) already situated with an American democratic tradition and 2) why it is also central to the Christian witness (reparations is a social and theological imperative). This seminar hopes to sponsor critical dialogue around the history of reparations and how religious communities might participate in this call to repair.

10/07/2021 Online Meeting
1:00 PM
LEARNING FROM THE GERMANS: Race and the Memory of Evil
Susan Neiman, Einstein Forum


As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, the distinguished author of the contemporary classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past. In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings. Neiman is a white woman who came of age in the civil rights–era South and a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin. Working from this unique perspective, she combines philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with the evils of their own national histories. Through discussions with Germans, including Jan Philipp Reemtsma, who created the breakthrough Crimes of the Wehrmacht exhibit, and Friedrich Schorlemmer, the East German dissident preacher, Neiman tells the story of the long and difficult path Germans faced in their effort to atone for the crimes of the Holocaust. In the United States, she interviews James Meredith about his battle for equality in Mississippi and Bryan Stevenson about his monument to the victims of lynching, as well as lesser-known social justice activists in the South, to provide a compelling picture of the work contemporary Americans are doing to confront our violent history.
In clear and gripping prose, Neiman urges us to consider the nuanced forms that evil can assume, so that we can recognize and avoid them in the future.

Notes: Joint meeting with the seminars on Innovation in Education (511) and Ethics, Moral Education, & Society (585)
10/14/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM
The Catholic Church and its Complicity in the Slave Trade
Isaac Sekyi Mensah, Columbia University


The study of early modern Atlantic empires, and Atlantic history in general, draws into an almost endless array of historical relationships, ideas, events, and processes because of its potential reach. One important aspect of Atlantic History and instinctive research on enslaved Africans was Religion. Popes, Priest, scholars and politicians evoked various theological and biblical connotations (in the name of missionary activities and civilization) to support and legally institutionalized enslavement in the Atlantic world. Arguably the single most important institution which had the most profound impact on the development and expansion of the Atlantic slave trade was the Catholic Church.

In many instances, the role and the complicities of the church in the “negro slave trade” The Catholic global imperialism is often conflated with the history of “Catholic Empires” (Portugal, Spain, France) in Medieval Europe. As a result, this presentation is focused explanation of the Catholic church’s role in the trade in enslaved Africans. Here, I will look at the Catholic Church as an independent institution in the global trade in enslaved Africans.

Catholic Church historians and the Papacy had claimed to have vehemently condemned the slave trade at every instance. Catholic historians and scholars like Luigi Conti and Panzer have done their best to grant an intellectual absolution to the seat of the Pope by carefully whitewashing the ugly part of their history and eulogizing the Catholic Church for being at the forefront of the abolitionist movement.

I contend that a thorough analysis of Papal bull, treaties and the classic works of scholars like John Francis Maxwell (1975), Howard Erskine-Hill (1998) and Pius Onyemechi Adiele (2017) and other published works would bring to bear the involvement of the Pope in the process of the enslavement of the ‘Negro’. I will advance this debate to show the authority of the Pope in medieval European politics by examining archival sources on the alliances, diplomatic relations and international treaties ratified with such European countries concerning the slave trade.