Walter Hawthorne

Position: Professor & Associate Dean
Office: Berkey Hall, Room 202
Phone: 517-355-6673

Administrative Vitae

I am a Professor of African History and the Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs in the College of Social Science. 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.  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 am heavily involved in digital scholarship and have partnered with MATRIX, MSU’s digital humanities center, for a number of projects. We recently completed work on a British-Library funded archival digitization project in The Gambia. Documents from the project are available online. We have an ongoing NEH-sponsored project titled Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network,  which is an online database with information about the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World. Another  NEH-sponsored project that I am central to is titled Islam and Modernity. For it, we have developed a site for the publication of texts, images, interviews, and interpretive essays, examining the practice of Islam in West Africa. Finally, my partners at Matrix and I recently received $1.4M in funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade. The project will create a unique online data hub that will change the way scholars and the public understand African slavery.

I presently advise a number of graduate students as a member of our African history caucus. MSU’s doctoral program in African History has long been one of the premier programs in the nation and is ranked in the top three in the US News & World Report. Applicants for our program are consider for generous, multi-year funding packages.