I am a social and cultural historian, working on the history and public memory of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery and their social and cultural legacies. I was born and raised in Brazil, where I completed a BA in Fine Arts in 1995 (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) and an MA in History of Brazil in 1997 (Pontíficia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul). Trained as a historian and as an art historian, I obtained a PhD in Art History in 2004 (Université Laval, Canada) and a PhD in History and Social and Historical Anthropology (Université Laval and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in 2007.
I just finished a book manuscript titled Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past (under contract with Bloomsbury). With examples from West Africa, Brazil, the United States, France, and England, this book explores how different modalities of memory (collective, public, cultural, official) shape the ways slavery is memorialized in various societies where slavery existed or that participated in the Atlantic slave trade. I show that the current debates around slavery are more than simple attempts to come to terms with the past, but rather reveal how the memory of slavery is racialized and framed by white supremacy.
My most recent published book is Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History. This work examines from a transnational perspective the history of the demands of reparations for slavery and the slave trade in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. I show that the demands of reparations for slavery are not new. They have a long and transnational history.
Currently, I am a Professor of History at the historically black Howard University in the capital of the United States, Washington DC. In the last fifteen years, I have authored and edited over eleven books and published nearly fifty articles and chapters on these themes. I have lectured in English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, France, England, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
I am a member of the Board of Editors of the American Historical Review. In 2017, I was honored to join the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project. In addition, I am a member of the Editorial Board of the British journal Slavery and Abolition, the Editorial Review Board of the African Studies Review, and the Editorial Board of Black Perspectives. I am also the editor of the book series Slavery: Past and Present, by Cambria Press.
I serve on the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Studies Association, the most important association of Brazilian studies in the world. Recently, I was elected as a member of the Executive Board of the Association for the Study of Worldwide African Diaspora for the period of 2019-2025.
My other published books include Brazil Through French Eyes: A Nineteenth-Century Artist in the Tropics (2015) is a revised, updated, and expanded English version of my book Romantisme tropical (2008). I also published Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage and Slavery (2014), Public Memory of Slavery: Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic (2010).
I also edited multiple books: African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (2015), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (2012), Paths of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Interactions, Identities (2011), and Living History: Encountering the Memory of the Heirs of Slavery (2009). I also co-edited the volume Crossing Memories: Slavery and African Diaspora (2011).
Engaging with the public is an important element of my work. My opinion articles in English and Portuguese appeared in the Washington Post, Newsweek, History News Network, Intercept Brasil, and the Brazilian magazine Ciência Hoje. My work has been featured in several media outlets in the United States, Portugal, Canada, Brazil, France, and the Netherlands. I am active on Twitter and Tumblr, where I created and maintain the hashtag #slaveryarchive in order to follow news and initiatives related to the study of Atlantic slavery in the past and the present. I also created the website A Historian’s Views: Digital Humanities and Arts in the Age of Presentism to share comments on my scholarship, and current events related to history and memory and slavery.
I am at the initial stages of a project examining the history of demands of restitution of African heritage (artworks and a variety of artifacts) to museums in Europe and the United States, by focusing on artifacts that embody the connections between the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism.