The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Non-GC Events

November 1 NYU African Diaspora Forum: “Beyond Resistance: Slavery, Grief, and Maternal Care”


Room 607 @ King Juan Carlos Building

(53 Washington Square South)

Lunch will be served.


We will be joined by Professor Sasha Turner, who will be presenting, “Beyond Resistance: Slavery, Grief, and Maternal Care.”


Death, particularly of enslaved infants and children, cast a long shadow over the experiences of enslaved mothers. Almost half of enslaved newborns died within the first two weeks of birth and another quarter died by age two. Some historians have interpreted the Caribbean’s high infant mortality rate through the lens of gynecological resistance, a concept that also includes abortion and the use of contraceptives to limit fertility. Still others conceptualize death as a celebratory moment for the enslaved: the end of life liberated captives from their ill-fated existence as slaves and reunited them with ancestors.  These paradigms, however, overshadow enslaved women’s struggle for the life and wellbeing of their children and grief experienced by the living.  Enslaved women as well as community members created a variety of strategies to secure healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries and to grieve the loss of children. Attention to rituals created around maternal care and evolving grieving practices reveal the invisible suffering of the enslaved and how reproduction created social ties and gendered intimacies, which narratives of resistance and black maternal resilience have obscured.


Dr. Sasha Turner is the author of Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica, which examines the struggles for control over biological reproduction and how central childbearing was to the organization of plantation work, the care of slaves, and the development of their culture. She completed a PhD at Cambridge University and is Associate Professor of History at Quinnipiac University where she teaches courses on the Caribbean and the African Diaspora, women, piracy, colonialism, and slavery. Her research on gender, race, and the body, and women, children, and emotions has been published in Journal of Women’s History, Slavery and Abolition, and Caribbean Studies and has been supported by Rutgers University Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Studies Fellowship, Washington University in St. Louis African and African American Studies Fellowship, and the Richards Civil War Era Center and Africana Research Center Fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University. Turner is currently a Fellow at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition where she is doing research on her new book project, tentatively titled, Slavery, Emotions, and Gendered Power. Follow her on twitter @drsashaturner.


For more information on Professor Turner’s presentation, please email

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message