Sasha Turner, of North Haven, associate professor of history at Quinnipiac University, was a guest speaker at a two-day symposium titled, “Capitalism and Slavery – 75 Years Later,” on Nov. 14 and 15 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.
The symposium honored the late Eric Williams and was sponsored by the Caribbean Community and Common Market’s (CARICOM) Reparations Commission. Williams was one of the early founders of CARICOM, an organization made up of 20 Caribbean nations to promote economic and political integration and cooperation among members.
Williams was the inaugural prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and this year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of his transformative book, “Capitalism and Slavery.”
Turner was among the invited speakers to participate in the two day event that included scholars from around the world. Turner said she read Williams’s work while studying for her undergraduate degree in history at the University of the West Indies, Mona Jamaica, where she is from, and “Capitalism and Slavery” influenced her decision to become a historian.
Turner added that, “Capitalism and Slavery,” was the first history book to challenge the humanitarian thesis of British abolition by putting economic considerations at the center of British decision to end its involvement in the slave trade and abolish slavery in its colonies. In addition to exposing the economic determinations of abolition, Williams’s work also exposed slavery’s crucial role in Britain’s economic development, including the industrial revolution.
Turner’s recent multi-award winning book, “Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica,” expands upon Williams’s theme by considering the repercussions of Britain’s gradual approach to abolition aimed at protecting its economic and imperial interests.
“It was truly an honor to be included among many distinguished speakers to reflect upon Williams’s gift to Caribbean and World History, and at such pivotal moments in the Caribbean’s fight for reparations and America’s reflection on the 400th anniversary of the landing of enslaved Africans in Virginia,” Turner said. “The event is an important and urgent reminder of the debt America and Europe owe people of African descent.”
Turner, who joined Quinnipiac in 2010, also has a doctorate of history and a master of philosophy from the University of Cambridge.