UCLA » College » Social Sciences » History
February 16, 2023
12:00pm to 1:30pm
6275 Bunche Hall

This talk follows Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Watara, a Timbuktu-born teenager who was enslaved in Jamaica from 1805 to 1834. Upon securing his manumission, Watara undertook a trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan journey, in a bid to return home. A close examination of Watara’s words and writings about him, and a reconstruction of his trajectory, provides insight into the social and political forces that ushered in deep changes in the worlds of the British Atlantic and Muslim Sahel and Sahara, in the first half of the nineteenth century. As Watara sought to secure freedom while journeying across the Atlantic and Sahara, which strategies did he leverage? How did larger political changes in 1820s-1830s Sahel, Sahara, and Atlantic render his aspirations to freedom possible, and how did they restrict them? Scholars have previously written about Watara’s journey and writings by situating his autobiography within the broader genre of transatlantic slave narratives, and analyzing his trajectory as evidence of the retention of African cultural expressions among enslaved Black Muslims in the Americas.

This talk offers a new interpretation of Watara’s articulation and praxis of freedom, framing them in the broader contexts of the end of chattel slavery in the British Atlantic, booming trans-Saharan slave trade, and changing notions of race and enslaveability in the West African Sahel in the era of Islamic revolutions and state-building.

Location: Hybrid
Bunche Hall 6275
Zoom: RSVP
Time: 12:00-1:30 pm