Lori De Lucia
Race-making in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Enslaved Black Communities of Palermo, Sicily (1450-1600)
Lori De Lucia is a historian who specializes in the history of slavery in the early modern Mediterranean, with a focus on networks connecting southern Italy and West Africa. She received her doctorate in History from UCLA in 2020. With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Mediterranean Regional Research Fellowship, she utilized archives in Palermo to write her dissertation, “Sicily and The Two Seas: The Cross Currents of Race and Slavery in Early Modern Palermo.” From September 2020, she has been a visiting researcher at the Boston University African Studies Center, where she has also served as a Hausa language consultant for the NEH ʿAjamī project.
For the span of one hundred years, early modern Sicily became an export market of a trans-Saharan slave trade route that originated in Borno, West Africa. In turn, Black men, women, and children became a significant portion of the enslaved populations living in Sicily. This project focuses on the long-standing communities of West Africans in sixteenth-century Palermo. It examines census, legal, and ecclesiastical records for indicators of their mobility both within Sicilian society and the wider Mediterranean. Enslaved and freed Black Africans' experiences reveal the complex ways in which local practices of slavery interplayed with Mediterranean constructs of religion, race, and empire. Furthermore, this research interrogates the silencing of these histories and the legacies of race-making in the Mediterranean today. In response, it seeks to recenter transnational narratives that integrate African histories into the global networks that they helped shape.