John Harris

  • Fellowship year:2016-2017
  • University: Johns Hopkins University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
  • Dissertation Title: Yankee Blackbirding: The United States and the Illegal Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1850-1867
  • My Dissertation examines the international struggle over ending the illegal transatlantic slave trade between 1850 and 1867. I focus on the US role in this fight- from both proslavery and antislavery vantage points- while also looking outward to the global developments that shaped the trade and its final demise. I begin by exploring the organization of the traffic between its major nodes- the northeastern US, West Central Africa, and Cuba- with particular focus on slave traders' international networks, voyage financing, and money laundering. I then assess the impact of the traffic's illegal and unregulated nature on the 225,000 captives who endured it. I conclude by tracking American's changing views to their nation's involvement in the trade and the debilitating impact of the US withdrawal from the traffic on the industry as a whole. Overall, I argue both the US and the growing interconnectivity of the Atlantic basin and global economy during the mid-nineteenth century played vital roles in initially supporting the trade and then finally destroying it.