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Clark Prof to Speak on Dutch and Slave Trade
March 19, 2007

Remembering the CrossingsCalvin College will host an expert on the Dutch and the African slave trade for a public lecture on Monday, April 16 at 7:30 pm.

Dr. Willem Klooster, a native of the Netherlands, will speak in the Commons Lecture Hall at Calvin that evening on "Stealing Ham’s Descendants: The Dutch Trade in African Slaves, 1600-1800."

The talk is part of "Remembering the Crossings," a year-long series of events being held in West Michigan as part of an international effort to mark the 200th anniversary in 2007 of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.


Klooster is a professor of history at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. His presentation at Calvin is being sponsored by the college's Office of Multicultural Affairs, African and African Diaspora Studies Program and Meijer Chair in Dutch Language and Culture.

His lecture will explore the history of the Dutch slave trade from its modest beginnings around 1600 to its demise in 1803.

Says Klooster: "Dutch involvement in the Atlantic slave trade began in earnest after the conquest of large sugar-producing areas in Brazil, where African slavery was already in existence. Almost overnight, Dutch merchants became the leading slavers in the Atlantic world. After the loss of Brazil, the Dutch shipped enslaved Africans both to their own colonies and, massively, to foreign colonies."

He notes too that before engaging in the slave trade, the Dutch condemned the buying and selling of humans, but that qualms about participation in this trade vanished rapidly after the conquest of part of Brazil.

"In order to legitimize their new role," he says, "Dutch authors presented Africans as a less advanced sort of humans. Some referred to the biblical story of Ham, whose descendants were condemned by Ham’s father, Noah, to perpetual servitude."

Calvin is one of a number of local educational institutions participating in "Remembering the Crossings." The committee consists of faculty and students from Calvin, Davenport, Ferris State, Grand Valley, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids Public Schools and Hope, as well as staff from the Gerald R. Ford Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Libraries, and the Grand Rapids Community Media Center.

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