This article explores the role of testimony, expertise, and the academy in the production of knowledge about slavery in the context of the trials of the Africans aboard the slave ship La Amistad, 1839-1841. Testimony provided by enlisted self-professed experts formed the intellectual architecture to the legal argument as it advanced to the Supreme Court. When considered separately from the trials, and distinctly as a question of the production of knowledge, the role of expert testimony provides crucial insight into the function of the university in antebellum anti-slavery thought and action, the marginalization of the lived African slave experience, and the emergence of Atlantic studies in the contemporary present. Examining the relationship between the university and the marshalling of expertise - broadly understood as linguistic, political and cultural knowledge of slavery and the slave trade - suggests that the early use of expert testimony had an important albeit neglected role in the birth of Atlantic studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science