This event was a part of the Haas Institute's Research to Impact Series, Co-Organized with The Geography Dept. 23rd Sauer Memorial Lecture, the Berkeley Food Institute and the African American Studies Department.
A striking feature of plantation-era history is the number of first-person accounts that credit the enslaved with the introduction of specific foods, all previously grown in Africa. This lecture lends support to these observations by identifying the crops that European witnesses attributed to slave agency and by engaging the ways that African subsistence staples arrived, and became established, in the Americas. In emphasizing the African crop transfers that occurred between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the discussion draws attention to the significance of the continent’s food crops as a crucial underpinning of the transatlantic commerce in human beings, the slave ship as a means of conveying African crops to the Americas, and the enslaved as active participants in establishing African food staples on their subsistence plots and in the foodways of former plantation societies.
Judith Carney is a professor of geography at UCLA. Her research centers on African ecology and development, food security, gender and agrarian change, and African contributions to New World environmental history. She is the author of nearly 100 scholarly articles and two books: Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2001) and In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (University of California Press, 2009), for which she was awarded the Melville Herskovits Book Award, and the Frederick Douglass Book Prize respectively. Carney has received numerous professional honors, including being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017, and being made a fellow of the Association of American Geographers in 2018. Her research has been supported by the National Geographic Society and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, among others. Collaboration with geneticists and plant scientists resulted in two articles published in Nature. Her current research focuses on human use of West African mangrove ecosystems in the context of climate change and conservation initiatives. This forms part of a projected book on the environmental history of mangroves in the Black Atlantic.