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New Starr Center Staffer, Spreading the “Wildfire” Story
Location: Hynson Lounge
CHESTERTOWN, MD—In the summer of 1860, several hundred Africans newly liberated from a slave ship found themselves embarked on a second hellish journey – and enmeshed in the political crisis that would soon unleash the American Civil War. Their little-known story is the subject of an upcoming talk by the historian Ted Maris-Wolf, who will soon be joining the Washington College community as the new Deputy Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.
Maris-Wolf’s talk, “Blood and Treasure: Captives, Smugglers, and the Slave Ship Wildfire,” will be presented on Thursday, February 21 at 6:00 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the college campus. The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a public reception.
Maris-Wolf, who will join the Starr Center full-time in May, is currently Assistant Professor of History at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. His work has focused on law, race, and the idea of freedom in 19th century America, as well as on runaway slave communities, the transatlantic slave trade, and the threads of history and memory that connect the United States with the Caribbean and West Africa.
For his dissertation at the College of William and Mary, Maris-Wolf received the 2011 Thatcher Prize and the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences. He has also written and produced a film on the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, authored articles and reviews for several major scholarly journals, excavated archaeological sites in the Chesapeake region, and served with the U.S. Peace Corps in Gabon.
“We’re exceptionally fortunate to have Ted joining us at Washington College,” said Adam Goodheart, the Starr Center’s Hodson Trust-Griswold Director. “He’s passionate about the past, but also about the present – about the ways that history can foster ties of empathy and understanding that span cultures and continents.”
The tale that Maris-Wolf will share in his February 21 talk has been largely forgotten over the past century and a half, overshadowed by the secession and war that soon followed. In 1860, nearly three thousand enslaved Africans were seized from slave ships by the U.S. Navy. The saga of how they ended up in Key West, Florida – and then aboard American steamers bound for Liberia – illuminates a crucial moment in history, when an otherwise indifferent president launched the nation’s strongest-ever attack on the international slave trade.