The Lilly Library’s new exhibit “Global Slaveries, Fugitivity, and the Afterlives of Unfreedom,” discusses slavery in the Americas and around the world. The exhibit will be on display from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays until Dec. 15 at the Lilly Library.
Ursula Romero, the outreach librarian at the Lilly Library said in the past, the collection has always focused on American slavery.
“I didn’t know as much about the rest of the world, and I didn’t really know about it as much as in a global context,” she said. “It’s really, really, interesting and something that I haven’t really seen before.”
Romero said she worked with Olimpia Rosenthal and Pedro Machado to create the exhibit. Rosenthal is an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese while Machado is an associate professor in the department of history.
“They did the bulk of the intellectual work here,” Romero said.
The professors received a Sawyer Seminar grant earlier this year, giving them a year to explore a topic of their choosing with fellow scholars. Romero has worked with Rosenthal in the past and agreed to help with an exhibition.
Romero said she was motivated to organize the exhibit because she finds the diverse history interesting and important to understand. In a world where critical race theory – an educational framework that explores how racism is ingrained in many of the country's institutions – is consistently under attack, the history of enslavement is at risk of being suppressed, she said.
"I’m just glad Lilly has the opportunity to show this material, show that we’re a place where you could come learn about it and that we are able to teach about this history in a time when that’s not necessarily a given,” she said. “I thought it aligned with what I thought the Lilly’s mission is.”
In addition to slavery, the exhibit also highlights the legacy of racism in America. Romero believes one key message of the exhibit is the struggle didn’t end with abolition.
“There’s so much more that comes after it,” she adds. “There are still people who are fighting and there’s still a lot of problems, and so much of it came out of this history.”
Students can explore a range of materials, from the “Brookes” slave ship engraving to the inspiration for the famous rapper Tupac Shakur’s name. The exhibit covers six different aspects of slavery, from an overview to abolitionist documents to the nearly 200 years following the Civil War.
“It was cool to see all the old literature they had on slaves,” Kennedy Pontius, a freshman said. “And the comic books were pretty cool.”
Those comics are part of the “Afterlives of Freedom” case, which details how slavery impacted the past 200 years of history.
Saathwika Suraram, a sophomore, said she only associated slavery with former President Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.
“I recently took the citizenship exam, and we had to review questions about it, so when I think of slavery, I think of that,” she said.
Hearing about this exhibit, however, caused a desire to learn more about slavery and its legacy. “You don’t usually think about how brutal slavery is, so when you visit the exhibition, it gives you more details and you want to know exactly what happened,” she said.
Lilly Library plans to host various related workshops, conferences and extended exhibitions throughout the Fall and Spring semesters, from Oct. 5-6. To learn more about the exhibit and upcoming events, visit the IU Global Slaveries website.