Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Michael L Blakey


This dissertation focuses on how history is made meaningful in the present. I argue that within the United States and Brazil, historic narratives and sites are employed in legitimizing and contesting past and contemporary social inequity. National, regional, and local narratives tell the stories of how communities and their members came to be who and where they are in the present. Social hierarchies and inequity are naturalized and/or questioned through historic narratives. Formative education includes telling these stories to children. Commemorative events and monuments tell and re-tell stories to community members of all ages. Enculturation of historical identities, the positioning of self within historic trajectories that connect the past to the present, occurs throughout one's lifetime, developing and shaping one's sense of self. How are members of multicultural, former slaveholding nations, such as the United States and Brazil, taught to see themselves in relationship to the history of slavery? Is this past meaningful in daily life? How are historic sites and figures representing the history of slavery and resistance made meaningful to people in terms of personal, local, and national histories? What pasts are made relevant to whom and for whom? Do ideas of race inform narratives of the past? If so, how and toward what end? Analysis is focused on community action and discussions surrounding two historic cemeteries where the remains of enslaved Africans were interred in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the Richmond African Burial Ground, in Virginia and the Cemiterio dos Pretos Novas in Rio de Janeiro. Upon each site a revolutionary figure is memorialized -- Gabriel in Virginia and Zumbi dos Palmares in Rio de Janeiro.



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