Noted scholar on the African diaspora to visit Penn State on Feb. 21

February 08, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Herman Bennett, professor of history at the Graduate Center of City University of New York, will deliver a lecture titled “Before the Human: Africans, Sovereigns & Slaves” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, in 160 Willard Building at University Park. The event is free and to the public.

Herman Bennett (Sawyer Seminar Series)

Herman Bennett will speak at Penn State as part of the Sawyer Seminar Series on Thursday, Feb. 21.

IMAGE: courtesy of Herman Bennett

Bennett is a is a renowned scholar on the history of the African diaspora, particularly on Latin American history during the colonial period. His recent book, “African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty and Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic,” seeks to disrupt conventional ideas about the history of slavery by focusing on early encounters between Europeans and Africans starting in the 15th century. The book will serve as the backdrop of his lecture at Penn State, during which Bennett will discuss African-European interactions and what norms played a significant role in determining who was, and who was not, sovereign — a judgment that shaped who could “legitimately” be enslaved.

Other books written by Bennett include “Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico” and “Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570–1640.”

Bennett received his doctorate in Latin American history from Duke University, where he was also a Mellon Scholar of the Humanities. He has received fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Bennett’s lecture is the latest offering in the Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance Sawyer Seminar Series sponsored by the Penn State Department of African American Studies. The seminar seeks to identify and examine ways that marginalized racial subjects in the Americas disrupt the logic of disposability creatively, politically and intellectually using practices of organized resistance and an everyday politics of refusal. It is funded through a grant provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional information about the series can be found at this website or by contacting Cynthia Young, associate professor and head of the Department of African American Studies at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 08, 2019