How do we redress the ongoing violence of slavery’s archive and its effects on our present? Thinking with three recent articles that address the history of slavery and the slave trade in the Atlantic world, the following short reflection considers different approaches to contextualizing Black lives in the past and present.1 Two of the three articles, by Stephanie E. Smallwood and Saidiya Hartman, critically engage Hartman’s 2008 essay “Venus in Two Acts.”2 The third article, Simon P. Newman’s “Freedom-Seeking Slaves in England and Scotland, 1700–1780,” explores hundreds of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements for runaway enslaved (and “servant”) men and women in England and Scotland. For vastly different audiences and to different ends, Hartman, Smallwood, and Newman contend with the erasures of enslaved people from the archives and national or imperial historiographies. Seemingly disconnected by geographies, methods, and fields, these articles, brought together in conversation, invite us to consider the...

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