Department of History
Old Horticulture
506 E. Circle Dr
Room 256
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Main: 517.355.7500
Fax: 517.353.5599
Email: history [at] msu [dot] edu
Hours: 8:00-5:00 M-F

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I am a Professor of African History and Chair of the History Department. My areas of research specialization are Upper Guinea, the Atlantic, and Brazil. I am particularly interested in the history of slavery and the slave trade. Much of my research has focused on African agricultural practices, religious beliefs, and family structures in the Old and New Worlds. My first book, Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations along the Guinea-Bissau Coast, 1400–1900 (Heinemann: 2003), explores the impact of interactions with the Atlantic, and particularly slave trading, on small-scale, decentralized societies. My most recent book, From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade 1600-1830 (Cambridge: 2010), examines the slave trade from Upper Guinea to Amazonia Brazil.  Generous funding for the project was provided by Fulbright Hays and National Endowment for the Humanities. I have published in a range of scholarly journals such as Journal of African History, Luso-Brazilian Review, Slavery and Abolition, Africa, Journal of Global History, and American Historical Review. I recently completed work on a British-Library funded archival digitization project in The Gambia.

I am presently working on “Biographies: The Atlantic Slave Database Network” or ASDN.  With generous funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, ASDN will be a database with information about the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World.  ASDN collates data on individual slaves meticulously collected by researchers over the past twenty years.  Reviewed by an Advisory Board of experts, datasets include among other information the names, ethnicities, skills, occupations, and illnesses of slaves.  The collections reveal much about slave life in the New World and about African slaves’ lives in parts of the Old World.

The initial phase of the ASDN will establish a best practice methodology for how to structure the database to handle datasets containing descriptions of slaves. Phase I will culminate in a freely accessible website with tools that allow researchers to better visualize and analyze the material in the database.

For more on the ASDN, visit

From Africa to Brazil

Walter Hawthorne

Position: Chairperson

Field: Early Modern, 18th Century, 19th Century, Cultural, Migration, Religious, Social

Region: Africa, Latin American & Caribbean

Contact Info

Office: 256 Old Horticulture


Phone: (517) 355-7500

Fax: 517-353-5599