Portrait of Ana Lucia Araujo

Ana Lucia Araujo is an American social and cultural historian writing transnational and comparative history. Her work explores the history of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade and their present-day legacies, including the long history of demands of reparations for slavery and colonialism. She has a particular interest in the memory, heritage, and visual culture of slavery. She writes, speaks, and publishes in English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish and her work has been translated into German and Dutch.

Currently, Araujo is a Full Professor of History at the historically black Howard University in the capital of the United States, Washington DC.

In 2022, she was awarded a Getty Residential Senior Scholar Grant and is spending the first semester of 2023 at the Getty Research Institute, in Los Angeles, CA.

Araujo received other prestigious fellowships. In Spring 2022, she was a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute of Advanced Study (funding provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation), Princeton, NJ. She also received the Franklin Research Grant of the American Philosophical Society (2021/22). The fellowship and the grants are supporting research for her book project The Gift: How Objects of Prestige Shaped the Atlantic Slave Trade and Colonialism.

As a historian, Araujo serves the profession in several capacities. She is a current member of the Board of Editors of the American Historical Review, the flagship journal of the American Historical Association. She is also a member of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Scholarly Advisory Board and an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, London, UK.

Araujo’s work has been internationally recognized. In 2019, she was a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris VIII, France. Since 2017, she is a member of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project. She is also a member of the Editorial Board of the British journal Slavery and Abolition, and a member of the advisory board of the Memory Studies Association. Previously, she was also a member of the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Studies Association (2016-2020) and a member of the Executive Board of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (2019-2022).

In the past fifteen years, she has authored and edited over thirteen books and published more than fifty articles and chapters on these themes. She also has lectured in English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, France, England, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa. 

Araujo recently published two books. Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past (Bloomsbury, 2020) relies on examples from West Africa, Brazil, the United States, France, and England to explore how different modalities of memory (collective, public, cultural, official) shape the ways slavery is memorialized in various societies where slavery existed or that participated in the Atlantic slave trade. The book shows that the current debates around slavery are more than simple attempts to come to terms with the past, but rather reveal how the memory of slavery is racialized and framed by white supremacy. The book was named one of the “Best Black History Books” of 2020 by Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society.

Museums and Atlantic Slavery (part of the Museums in Focus series) was published by Routledge in April 2021. The book explores how slavery, the Atlantic slave trade, and enslaved people are represented through words, visual images, artifacts, and audiovisual materials in museums in Europe and the Americas. Hopefully, the book will help readers to recognize how depictions of human bondage in museums and exhibitions often fail to challenge racism and white supremacy inherited from the period of slavery.

Araujo just completed the academic book manuscript titled The Gift: How Objects of Prestige Shaped the Atlantic Slave Trade and Colonialism (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming in 2024). Relying on her previous work that examined gift exchanges between rulers of Portugal and Dahomey, this book explores how European-made luxurious artifacts, including objects that incorporate formal and symbolic elements found in West African and West Central African artifacts, shaped the interactions between Africans and Europeans during the era of the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. To tell this story, she follows the trajectory of a ceremonial sword given by a French ship captain to a local agent of the Kingdom of Ngoyo on the Loango coast, which later was found in Dahomey, from where it was looted by the French troops at the end of the nineteenth century.

She also just finished the book manuscript Humans in Shackles: An Atlantic History of Slavery in the Americas (under contract with Chicago University Press). This academic trade book is a hemispheric and narrative history of slavery in the Americas. A book for general readers Humans in Shackles places Brazil (the country that imported the largest number of enslaved Africans in the Americas), the African continent, and enslaved women at the center of this painful history.

Araujo’s book Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History (2017) examines from a transnational perspective the history of the demands of reparations for slavery and the slave trade in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. She shows that the demands of reparations for slavery are not new. They have a long and transnational history. The second revised and expanded edition of this book will be published by Bloomsbury in 2023.

Her other published books include Brazil Through French Eyes: A Nineteenth-Century Artist in the Tropics (2015), a revised, updated, and expanded English version of her book Romantisme tropical (2008). She also published Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage and Slavery (2014), and Public Memory of Slavery: Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic (2010).

Araujo edited several books as well: African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (2015), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space  (2012), Paths of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Interactions, Identities (2011), and Living History: Encountering the Memory of the Heirs of Slavery (2009).  She also co-edited the volume Crossing Memories: Slavery and African Diaspora (2011).

Her new book projects include The Power of Art: The World Black Artists Made and Global Slavery: A Visual History.

Engaging with the public is an important dimension of Araujo’s work. Her opinion articles in English and Portuguese appeared in Slate, the Washington Post, Newsweek, History News Network, Intercept Brasil, and the Brazilian magazine Ciência Hoje. Her work has been featured in several media outlets in the United States, Portugal, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.