Walter Hawthorne

Professor of African History

I am a Professor of African History, Co-PI on, an editor of the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation, and former Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs in the College of Social Science. My areas of research specialization are Upper Guinea, the Atlantic, and Brazil. I am particularly interested in the history of slavery and the slave trade. Much of my research has focused on African agricultural practices, religious beliefs, and family structures in the Old and New Worlds. My first book, Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations along the Guinea-Bissau Coast, 1400–1900 (Heinemann: 2003), explores the impact of interactions with the Atlantic, and particularly slave trading, on small-scale, decentralized societies. My most recent book, From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade 1600-1830 (Cambridge: 2010), examines the slave trade from Upper Guinea to Amazonia Brazil. I have published in a range of scholarly journals such as Journal of African History, Luso-Brazilian Review, Slavery and Abolition, Africa, Journal of Global History, American Historical Review, and Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation.

I am heavily involved in digital scholarship and have partnered with MATRIX, MSU’s digital humanities center, for a number of projects. We have completed work on a British-Library funded archival digitization project in The Gambia and on two National Endowment for the Arts-sponsored projects–Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network and Islam and Modernity. In addition, my Co-PIs and I have received generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an on-gong project titled Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade or This project has led to the creation of a unique online data hub that is changing the way scholars and the public understand African slavery. We publish data and data articles through the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation and make the data searchable and through tools available on the platform.

I advise graduate students as a member of our African history caucus. MSU’s doctoral program in African History has long been one of the premier programs in the world and is ranked in the top three in the US News & World Report. Applicants are consider for generous, multi-year funding packages.