Speaking for Themselves? Understanding African Freed Slave Testimonies from the Western Indian Ocean, 1850s-1930s

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Edward A. Alpers
Matthew S. Hopper


In this article we mine an array of British anti-slavery materials seeking the voices of enslaved East Africans in the western Indian Ocean. We draw attention to the numerous problems of translation involved in this kind of basic research and to the critical role played by both indigenous and British interpreters in the process of enabling captive Africans to “speak for themselves.” The lesson here is that historians must exercise particular care in utilizing these precious sources.

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