Conference in Africa furthers study of Atlantic World

July 19, 2012 5:45 AM

Kimberly Krupa

Tulane historian Emily Clark never imagined she’d witness what Senegalese captives saw when they departed for Louisiana in the 18th century: a sunset over the Atlantic at the mouth of the Senegal River. The unexpected moment followed an Ethiopian coffee ceremony and was one of many off-script encounters that brought an international gathering of Atlantic World scholars to life last month.

Emily Clark

On her first visit to Africa, Emily Clark, left, associate professor of history, attends an Ethiopian coffee ceremony at the mouth of the Senegal River. (Photo from Emily Clark)

Clark, associate professor of history, was co-organizer of a conference comparing Saint-Louis, Senegal, to New Orleans over 300 years.

“This conference gave people a chance to do things they hadn’t done before,” says Clark, one of six Tulane delegates and 30 scholars to participate in the Saint-Louis colloquium in early June. The event was the first of a two-part series concluding in New Orleans next spring and partially underwritten by Tulane alumnus Alan Lawrence.

“If you understand each other’s approaches to history, you begin to understand each other’s politics and cultures in a very different way,” says Clark.

In a book to be published upon the conclusion of the 2013 conference, Clark’s research on mixed-race quadroons in 19th-century New Orleans will expand to include the Signares (mixed-race women) of Saint-Louis.

Rosalind Hinton, senior program manager of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane, anticipates incorporating African French themes into her study of musician-educators during the Harlem Renaissance in New Orleans.

“This time period was really a global renaissance and a global reckoning of African culture,” says Hinton.

The international exchange has important musical dimensions, as captured in a broadcast by Radio France International, the conference’s exclusive media partner, says Hogan Jazz Archive director Bruce Raeburn, whose paper explores various New Orleans jazz musicians’ Senegalese identities.

Kimberly Krupa is director of writing in the Office of Development.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000