Enslaved Fugitives in the Canadian Winter. Charmaine Nelson (McGill University)

Professor Charmaine Nelson's presentation forms part of the open conference, Arctic Voices in Art and Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century, which is a collaboration between UiT–The Arctic University of Norway, Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum and Riddu Riđđu. Please see below for Nelson's abstract and biography.

All are welcome! 

‘He…has the ends of both his great toes frozen off’: Enslaved Fugitives in the Canadian Winter1

Professor Charmaine Nelson

Although Transatlantic Slavery is generally acknowledged as a tropical enterprise involving plantation economies, slavery also transpired in northern and southern regions of the Americas (i.e. Canada and Argentina) where temperate climates meant cold winters with snow and ice accumulation. Due to the scholarly neglect of northern, slave minority sites like Canada, the impact of cold weather climates on various aspects of the lives, cultures, and resistance of enslaved Africans has yet to be fully explored. One significant archive for the study of these issues is fugitive slave advertisements. Found throughout the Transatlantic World, fugitive slave advertisements demonstrate the ubiquity of African resistance to slavery. Abundant with details like the names, speech, accents, language, mannerisms, and skills of the fugitives, in Quebec, such notices also frequently recounted the nature of cold-weather dress, the peril of winter escapes, and the damage done to the bodies of the enslaved from exposure to the cold. While running away was a year-round tactic of slave resistance in tropical regions, in Canada, it was unquestionably seasonal with summer and fall escapes dominating. Therefore, Canadian fugitive slave notices for winter escapes demand that we consider the extraordinarily perilous circumstances in which enslaved people sought their freedom. This paper seeks to understand the specific circumstances and perils of winter slave escapes within the context of eighteenth-century British Quebec. 

Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History at McGill University. Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, Transatlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. She has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. Nelson has authored seven books including the edited book Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (2018) and the single-authored books The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007) and Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016). Nelson is also actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including CBC, BBC One, and PBS. She blogs for the Huffington Post Canada and writes for The Walrus. Nelson has held several prestigious fellowships and appointments including a Caird Senior Research Fellowship, National Maritime Museum, London, UK (2007), a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair (2010), University of California – Santa Barbara, and a Visiting Professorship in the Department of Africology at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (2011). In 2016, she was named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. Most recently, she was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2017-2018). 


[1] Azariah Pretchard Senr., “RUN away from the Subscriber,” Quebec Gazette, 22 May 1794; transcribed in Frank Mackey, “Appendix I: Newspaper Notices,” Done with Slavery: The Black Fact in Montreal 1760-1840 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), p. 337.

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When: 09. juillet 2019 kl. 15.45–16.30
Where: Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum
Location / Campus: Tromsø
Target group: Employees, Students, Guests, Invited

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