Stephanie Jones-Rogers

2016 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, History
UC Berkeley

Project Title: Seaborne: African Captivity, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Belonging in the Middle Passage

Link to my faculty webpage:

Brief summary of project:

My second book length project, “Seaborne: African Captivity, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Belonging in the Middle Passage,” promises to reshape the history of the Atlantic slave trade, early maritime history, and women’s and gender history. Although historical scholarship about women, ships, and the early maritime world typically focuses upon their roles as captives, renegades, laborers, helpmeets or passengers, scholars have devoted little attention to moments of conception that took place on and pregnancies which unfolded aboard slave ships, or the instances of labor and childbirth that followed. This project seeks to address these concerns. It evaluates the prevalence of African captives who were pregnant during the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade and it examines their experiences of labor and childbirth aboard slave ships. It accounts for the infants who were born to these females, how many of these infants perished, and how many survived. It also seeks to determine how Europeans defined the status of children born in the Atlantic Ocean, a space which belonged to no nation, and where traditional conceptualizations of citizenship did not apply.

“Seaborne” is very much connected to my first book manuscript, which examines white women’s economic relationships to and investments in American slavery. “Mistresses of the Market: White Women and the Economy of American Slavery,” is a regional study which examines white southern women’s economic relationships to slavery, how their investments in the institution shaped their gender identities, and how their economic ties to the system impacted the lives of enslaved people during the nineteenth-century. It draws upon personal correspondence, newspapers, financial, legal, and military documents to reveal the ways that white slave-owning women’s engagement in the sale, purchase, hiring, and bequeathal of slaves contributed significantly to the perpetuation of slavery in the nineteenth-century South. “Seaborne,” not only takes this research further back in time, it renders intelligible the intellectual and legal frameworks that made heritable slavery, and the commodification and sale of enslaved people in British North America and the United States, possible in the first place.

“The Hellman Fellows Fund will make it possible for me to travel to and devote considerable time conducting research in archival sites across the world that do not offer funding opportunities to non-resident scholars interested in their collections. More importantly, by supporting this particular part of my research program, the fund will allow me to offer an account of African-descended women and children, and of the Atlantic slave trade, that remains untold.”