Noted life of an “Atlantic Creole” focus of Becker Lectures

The extraordinary life of Captain Francisco Menéndez stretched from the coasts of West Africa to South Carolina and the Caribbean. In this year's Carl Becker Lecture Series, Jane Landers will take the audience through his journeys in three lectures titled "Atlantic Transformations: The Many Lives of Captain Francisco Menendez and his 'Subjects.’" The talks, which are free and open to the public, will be on April 25, 26, and 27 at 4:45 p.m. each day in the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall on the Cornell campus.

The lectures will follow Menendez from his youth, when English slavers forcefully brought him from the Gambia to South Carolina, to his final years in Cuba as a homesteader. In the course of his mobile life, Menendez moved from one imperial jurisdiction to another, constantly changing his status and identity. He acquired the linguistic skills and cultural dexterity that made him a perfect example of the type of individuals historian Ira Berlin called “Atlantic Creoles,” according to Landers, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.

"No one has mined the Spanish archives in search of Atlantic Creoles as Jane Landers has. Her work has been central to the rise of biographical studies that seek to uncover the hidden lives of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans and their central role in the transformations of the Atlantic during the early modern period,” said Ernesto Bassi, associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Her book, “Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions,” is at the forefront of the growing number of studies on the black urban Atlantic and the biographical turn in Atlantic history,” added Bassi, who is also director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and is the organizer of this year's Carl Becker Series.

An historian of Colonial Latin America and the Atlantic world, Landers specializes in the history of Africans and their descendants in those worlds. She directs the Slave Societies Digital Archive hosted by the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt, which is preserving endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to slavery in the Atlantic World.

Landers is the author and editor of several books;  her ”Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions” (Cambridge, Mass., 2010) was awarded the Rembert Patrick Book Award.

The Becker Lecture Series is an annual event sponsored by the Department of History. In its fourth decade, the series brings distinguished historians from all areas of specialization to Cornell. It is named after Carl Becker, who taught at Cornell from 1917 until 1941, when he became the university's historian.

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		Jane Landers