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EIHS Lecture: "Combee": Harriet Tubman, the Combahee River Raid, and Transformation in Gullah Geechee Identity

Edda L. Fields-Black, Carnegie Mellon University
Thursday, February 15, 2018
4:00-6:00 PM
1014 Tisch Hall Map
"Combee" interprets on a unique compilation of primary historical sources, which show how localized groups who stole their freedom from Combahee rice plantations viewed themselves and viewed other groups from Sea Island cotton plantations and urban centers like Savannah and Beaufort when they were all resettled in Beaufort during the critical Civil War period. This talk chronicles this important microcosm of creolization using the experiences of Blacks enslaved on Combahee River rice plantations and freed in the 1863 raid to create a model of cultural change among New World African cultures and their complicated and nuanced relationships to pre-colonial Western Africa, their environments, and the plantation economies in which they were enslaved.

Edda L. Fields-Black is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of History). Fields-Black is the author of Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora (2008, 2014). With Francesca Bray, Peter Coclanis, and Dagmar Schaeffer, Fields-Black co-edited Rice: Global Networks and New Histories (2015, 2017), which won Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015. She is currently writing Combee: Harriet Tubman, the Combahee River Raid, and the Construction of Gullah Geechee Identity, which chronicles an important microcosm of creolization using the experiences of Blacks enslaved on Combahee River rice plantations and freed in the 1863 raid to create a model of cultural change among New World African cultures and their complicated and nuanced relationships to pre-colonial Western Africa, their environments, and the plantation economies in which they were enslaved. For her research on the Gullah Geechee, Fields-Black was awarded a Smithsonian Senior Fellowship at the in the Spring semester of 2013, an Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellowship for the 2013-2014 academic year, and a Senior Ford Foundation Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year.

In addition, Fields-Black is currently collaborating with filmmaker Julie Dash and composer Dr. Trevor Weston to produce Casop: A Requiem for Rice, a lamentation for the repose of the souls of the dead who were enslaved, exploited, and brutalized on Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia’s rice plantations and who remain unburied, unmourned, and unmarked. Fields-Black is writing the libretto on which Casop is based. Opening in 2018, this musical production for symphony orchestra, choir, and West African drummers and dancers will memorialize the sufferings and sacrifices of Africans enslaved on Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia Rice plantations and celebrate the critical role their ingenuity, technology, and industry played in the economy of the US South.

Free and open to the public.

This event is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.
Building: Tisch Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Africa, History, Lecture
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, Department of History

The Thursday Series is the core of the institute's scholarly program, hosting distinguished guests who examine methodological, analytical, and theoretical issues in the field of history. 

The Friday Series consists mostly of panel-style workshops highlighting U-M graduate students. On occasion, events may include lectures, seminars, or other programs presented by visiting scholars.

The insitute also hosts other historical programming, including lectures, film screenings, author appearances, and similar events aimed at a broader public audience.