F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Black Archives and Archivist Matter!

Schwartz and Cook argue “archives are social constructs,” and their “origins lie in the information needs and social values of the rulers, governments, businesses, associations, and individuals, who establish and maintain them” (3). The authors’ relation of power and archives reminds me of Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African in which readers can access Sancho’s daily life. Prominently readers have access to Sancho’s thoughts and feelings as a man of African descent who was a pivoting figure in 18th century London. Sancho’s letter is a physical representation of black freedom in which he freely speaks about the black condition. He describes the black condition and condemns the treatment of enslaved Africans: “unchristian and most diabolical usage of my brother Negroes--the illegality--the horrid wickedness of the traffic--the cruel carnage and depopulation of the human species-“(176). Unlike writers of slave narratives sponsored by white abolitionists, readers are less likely to question the validity of  Sanchos’ letter. In thinking of authenticity, scholars, such as Brycchan Carey, argue that Jekyll’s Life of Ignatius Sancho contradicts Sancho’s letters. He states, “although Jekyll tells us that Sancho was born on a slave ship, Sancho himself seems convinced that he was born in Africa” (Carey). Then, black voices must be heard and unscathed by those with alternative motives. Sancho’s letters are an example of why the preservation of black experiences matter.

 Therefore, archives are essential to the scholarship of the black Atlantic. Schwartz and Cook argue that access to archives represents power. Their assessment ring true as many archives is under paywalls. Also, Schwartz and Cook point out that preserving archives takes funding. Then, black archivists, who may not have funding, cannot access archives crucial to their research. Furthermore, the black archivist endures Westernized expectations of archives, which decenters the black experience.

To this end, an accessible free database for black archivists and researchers of the black experience is needed. This database will not only include archives, but chat rooms and forums will be available to users. From this, researchers will be able to communicate and share resources. Forums entail forum topics such as safe meet-up groups, question and answer, and general help. The subforum would consist of different black archivist associations and their events, rules, and regulations. A4BLiP gives me the idea of including a forum for historical and contemporary record. For contemporary record, they focus on recording police violence, which can attract researchers and non-researchers alike. Most of all, they center black voices, past and present, which is important when creating a database with records similar to Sancho’s letter to records of police violence.

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