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UoB hires first History of Slavery professor

She is the UK’s first black female history professor

Professor Olivette Otele has been hired as the first History of Slavery professor at the University of Bristol.

Based in UoB's department of History and the Centre for Black Humanities, Otele will lead a two-year research project which explores the university's – and Bristol's – involvement with the transatlantic slave trade.

Her research will examine the legacies of colonial pasts, understanding trauma, recovery and social cohesion, but also amnesia and reluctance to address various aspects of colonial legacies.

In a statement released by the uni, Professor Otele said: “I am very much looking forward to starting work at the University of Bristol in the New Year.

“I hope to bring together Bristolians from all communities, and scholars, artists and educators who are willing to contribute to a stronger and fairer society.

“I want students to see me as a facilitator of a dialogue that needs to take place and that is about the role of the University of Bristol in the transatlantic slave trade.

“I want to produce a rigorous and an extensive piece of research that will be relevant to the University, to the city and that will be a landmark in the way Britain examines, acknowledges and teaches the history of enslavement.”

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Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Judith Squires, added: “We are proud to be appointing someone of Professor Otele’s experience and standing to lead on this important issue for us.

“As an institution founded in 1909, we are not a direct beneficiary of the slave trade, but we fully acknowledge that we financially benefited indirectly via philanthropic support from families who had made money from businesses involved in the transatlantic slave trade.

“This new role provides us with a unique and important opportunity to interrogate our history, working with staff, students and local communities to explore the University’s historical links to slavery and to debate how we should best respond to our past in order to shape our future as an inclusive University community.”

Otele comes to Bristol from Bath Spa University, where she has been a history professor since October 2018.