Each year, the Fellows of the G.W. Blunt White bestow a prize upon the author of the best article written in CORIOLIS: the Interdisciplinary Journal of Maritime Studies. This $1,000 prize is named in memory of the former Director of the library and head of publications, Gerald E. Morris. The Morris prize this year was given to Maria Vann for her article in the Volume 5, Number 1, 2015 issue entitled Sirens of the Sea: Female Slave Ship Owners of the Atlantic World, 1650-1870.
A graduate of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, Ms. Vann is currently the Director of the Marine Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Ms. Vann notes that throughout the active years of the transatlantic slave trade, some European and American women gained economic and social influence by involvement as participants in the slave trade. They challenge the dominant narrative that the slave trade was practiced exclusively by white men. Her article focuses on female slave traders from Britain and American colonies during the period of 1650-1760, with a concentration on New York, the former Dutch colony that fell under English rule after 1764.
Her research is largely based on review of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, slave ship records, newspapers, journals, court records and diaries. Sources were evaluated with intentional focus on women who were previously overlooked. Their existence during the early years of the transatlantic trade challenges common notions about both gender and the slave trade and additionally raises important questions about the role of women slavers in other times and places.
A fascinating study, this article is a well-deserving winner of the Morris Prize Article Contest.