Brown Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

About Us

The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) is a scholarly research center with a public humanities mission. Recognizing that racial and chattel slavery were central to the historical formation of the Americas and the modern world, the CSSJ creates a space for the interdisciplinary study of the historical forms of slavery while also examining how these legacies shape our contemporary world.

For the 2019-2020 academic year, the Center's work is organized around the following research clusters and projects:


Human TraffickingThis project explores contemporary forms of human bondage and engages in public programming around this issue.

Investigating the American Criminal Justice System. This project focuses on prisons and relations between the police and communities of color.

Freedom Archive. This project creates an inventory of materials in Brown University Library's Special Collections related to slavery and abolition to help scholars more easily access these items.

Race, Medicine, and Social Justice: This cluster explores the history and persistence of structural racism in biomedicine as it intersects with economic and social conditions. We focus on reimagining the knowledge we produce about race and health from a social justice perspective.

Education and RaceThis project focuses on questions that explore the implications for policy and pedagogy when we deepen our knowledge about the intersections between race, racism, schools and other forms of social inequality.


Global Curatorial Project. This exhibition and curatorial project presents both the global interconnectedness of Atlantic slavery and the slave trade, as well as illuminates an alternative view about the history of our global modernity.

Slave Trade Film Project with Filmmaker Stanley Nelson. This research and workshop project aims to support the development of a multi-part documentary series on the Atlantic slave trade. Creating a New World: The Transatlantic Slave Trade will chart the economic and human cost of the slave trade across the Atlantic basin, underscoring how this expansive system of trade, violence, and profit built the modern world.

Heimark Artist-in-Residence. The Heimark Artist in Residence program brings to campus musicians, poets, visual artists, and performers whose work grapples with the legacies of slavery on our world today.

Slavery & The Americas High School Curriculum Project. This project seeks to create a high school curriculum that will challenge myths and absences in how our schools currently teach the history of slavery. This is a collaborative project with The Choices Program which produces award-winning curricula on current and historical international and public policy.

The Imagined New. The Imagined New is an interdisciplinary platform for critical exchange and research around African and African Diasporic art practices, as they relate to questions of history, archive and the alternative imagination(s) of the Radical Black Tradition.

Seminar Series

CSSJ Advanced Knowledge Working Group. The CSSJ Advanced Knowledge Working Group is a seminar for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and other scholars affiliated with or working alongside the CSSJ to come together to think critically about the legacies of slavery and boundaries of freedom across time and space. The group meets for two hours every two weeks on Thursdays to discuss assigned readings and/or workshop dissertation/book chapters, journal articles, conference papers, and other works-in-progress. Throughout the academic year, this group will also host several locally-based, emerging scholars and artists to share ther current research and projects with the larger campus community.

Carceral State Reading Group. The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice facilitates a year long reading group which focuses on examining the Carceral State. The reading group is a collaboration between various sectors of the Providence community and the CSSJ at Brown University. Meetings are held twice monthly to discuss issues of imprisonment, incarceration, captivity, criminalization and policing historically and in the present day.

Slavery's New Materialism. This seminar is an interdisciplinary course that seeks to explore an emerging dynamic in Slavery Studies: a move away from an older materialist history that had foregrounded modes of production, class struggle, and capitalist transformation; and toward a new(er) materialism organized around human/non-human entanglements and drawing on recent theoretical work on things, networks, and assemblages.

Public Engagement

Slavery and Legacy Walking TourThe Slavery & Legacy Tours examine the history behind Brown University, the State of Rhode Island and their roles in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The tours help students (K-12 +college) as well as adult groups think critically about the University and state histories. 

Civil Rights Movement Initiative. In 2015, the CSSJ developed a unique initiative for Hope High School students called the Civil Rights Movement Initiative. This initiative aims to help high school students understand the Civil Rights Movement as something more than events of the past, and as a bridge to understanding the present. Students meet for weekly classes at the Center and participate in a week long visit to the South, visiting important sites in the Southern Freedom Movement and meeting with activists.