I am the author, most recently, of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (Oxford University Press, 2007). Winner of the 2007 Wesley-Logan Prize of the American Historical Association; it won second place for the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for NonFiction; and received the 2009 James F. Sulzby Award for best book on Alabama history from the Alabama Historical Association.
This book is a detailed account of the lives of the young people from Benin and Nigeria who were on the last documented slave ship to the U.S. The 110 children and adolescents who had been forced to board the Clotilda arrived in Mobile, Alabama in July 1860. Freed in 1865, they tried unsuccessfully to go back home and finally founded their own settlement, African Town, where their descendants still live today. The last survivor of the original group died in 1935.
Another of my books, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York University Press, 1998) also deals with the experience of Africans in the Americas during slavery. It is the first book to retrace the 500 year-old story of West African Muslim communities in the New World. Named a 1999 Outstanding Academic Book, Servants of Allah also received Honorable Mention for the Outstanding Books Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. Servants of Allah has been translated into Turkish.
I edited Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies (Ohio University Press, 2003), a collection of essays presented at an international conference I organized at Rutgers University.
I am co-editor of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience, published by National Geographic in 2005.
Several years ago I wrote history books for younger readers. Kings and Queens of West Africa –part of a four-book series—received the 2001 African Studies Association Africana Book Award for Older Readers, and the following year I published a book on the life of children enslaved in the United States, Growing Up in Slavery.
I once tried my hand at fiction with Bintou's Braids, an illustrated book that has been selected by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center as one of 2002 best books and has also been published in Brazil and in France where it was voted Best Book for 2003 (3-6 years) by the "Mommies' Committee."
I have been honored with the Dr. Betty Shabazz Achievement Award; the Imam Warith Deen Mohammed Award; the Pen and Brush Achievement Award and the Rosa Parks Award; and have appeared on the PBS series History Detectives and the PBS documentaries This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys and Prince Among Slaves; as well as the documentary The Neo-African-Americans.
My professional home is the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York where my mission is to interpret and present the history and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora by bringing primary historical sources and the latest scholarship directly to the public through online exhibitions. I have worked, most recently, on the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean world, the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, black migrations, African-American politics, and the Black World in the 20th century.