Assistant Professor of Black Studies and History


University of Virginia (2015), Ph.D. 
University of Virginia (2010), M.A. 
University of Iowa (2006), B.A. 

Research Interests

My current book project, Captive Cosmopolitans: Black Mariners and the World of South Atlantic Slavery, 1721-1835 (under contract with Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture for The University of North Carolina Press), examines the maritime dimensions of the African Diaspora, with a particular focus on eighteenth and early nineteenth century colonial Brazil. By concentrating on the seafaring activities of enslaved Africans and creoles, my work integrates the economic and cultural histories of the Bight of Benin and Salvador da Bahia during the era of the late slave trade, and uncovers the heretofore unexamined commercial agency of subalterns in the South Atlantic World. Enslaved and free seamen in these culturally hybrid urban milieus, I argue, spearheaded exchanges of material goods, medicinal and navigational knowledge across the Atlantic Ocean.

More broadly, my research seeks to interrogate the multiplicity of connections between coastal West Africa and Brazil through the lens of mutual cultural, technological, commercial, intellectual and environmental influences. Furthermore, I aim to redefine how historians understand experiences of enslavement and the middle passage. In addition to investigating the lives of African sailors, my current work also explores the cultural and religious lives of enslaved and freed African women in Salvador da Bahia. My published work includes: “Financing the Luso-Atlantic Slave Trade: Collective Investment Practices from Portugal to Brazil, 1500-1840,” in the Journal of Global Slavery and “Transatlantic Threads of Meaning: West African Textile Entrepreneurship in Salvador da Bahia, 1770- 1870,” in Slavery & Abolition.  

Teaching Interests

I offer a wide range of courses, including surveys of colonial Latin America, comparative slavery and emancipation, the African Diaspora, and the formation of the Atlantic World.  These courses not only introduce students to the broad contours of four hundred years of history on four continents, but are also intended as an introduction to the methods that historians use to study and analyze the past through in-class engagements with a wide array of textual, visual and aural sources. My upper level colloquia focus on more specialized topics, including the interrelated histories of Brazil and West Africa, research methods in Black Studies, and the early modern roots of contemporary globalization. These courses are cross-listed with the Departments of History, Black Studies and Latinx and Latin American Studies, and are based on interdisciplinary methodologies, making them suitable for students with backgrounds in a variety of majors and concentrations.

Awards and Honors

Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University, Mamolen Fellowship (2018-2019)

Winner, Southern Historical Association, Latin American & Caribbean Section Dissertation Prize (2016)

Finalist, CGS/Proquest Distinguished Dissertation Award for the Humanities and Fine Arts (2015)

Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, University of Virginia (2014-2015)

Jefferson Foundation Fellowship, University of Virginia (2008-2013)

File CV.Hicks_Sept2020.docx42.68 KB