Randy Sparks – Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities


History of Illegal Slave Trade

Randy Sparks, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the HumanitiesDepartment of History
Randy Sparks, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities Department of History

“U.S. historians have not given the illegal slave trade of the 19th Century in the United States the attention it deserves,” says Professor Randy Sparks. This is one of many reasons Sparks, the chairholder of the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, is actively researching and writing about this subject. His most recent book, Africans in the Old South: Mapping Exceptional Lives Across the Atlantic World (Harvard, 2016), brings together the histories of the U.S. South and the Atlantic World by focusing on Africans in the Old South from the 18th and 19th Centuries.

“My current research project,” Sparks says, “is a book-length study called, Micro-Diplomacy and the Illegal Slave Trade: Individuals, States and the Birth of the Human Rights Movement. It focuses on men and women around the Atlantic World who appealed for their freedom, claiming to be British subjects.”

Sparks’ projects involve archival research in England, the U.S. and the Caribbean. “The research support provided by the Mellon Chair makes the necessary traveling to archives in this country and abroad possible. Because of this support, I can travel to more archives, and spend more time there. My work will be completed more quickly, I hope, and greatly enriched by the opportunities the research funds provide. I expect, too, that more projects will grow out of this extended research. I am grateful for the opportunities these funds provide, and I intend to make the best possible use of them.”