New Exhibition Opening “400 Years of Freedom, Restrictions, and Survival”

July 30, 2019 - Hannah Farrington

Photo of Sherri Burr
Emeritus Professor of Law Sherri Burr,  Courtesy UNM Law Media Center

Emeritus Professor of Law Sherri Burr invites the public and all members of our law community to join the exhibition opening of “400 Years of Freedom, Restrictions, and Survival” on Saturday, August 3rd, from 5:00 -7:00 p.m. at the African American Performing Arts Center on the State Fairgrounds, 310 San Pedro N.E. The event and the 2700 square-foot installation commemorate the first arrival of Africans in August 1619, and challenge traditional notions of how slavery developed in this country.

Burr’s new book from Carolina Academic Press, Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1619–1865, redefines the history of slavery in the United States. Burr relied on extensive archival research, incorporating census data, photographs and family records to craft, as the book’s release describes, an accessible narrative also suitable for undergraduate courses.

The publisher describes Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1619-1865 as a publication that upends the pervasive belief that all Africans landing on the shores of Virginia beginning in late August 1619 became slaves and states that, in reality, many of these kidnap victims received the status of indentured servants. The book further explores the lives of Free Blacks through the lens of the author’s ancestors and many others.

The first 100 attendees to the presentation at 5:00 p.m. next Saturday will receive a free copy of Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1619-1865. The complimentary copies are available due to the generosity of several supportive UNM School of Law colleagues, including former Deans Alfred Mathewson and Ted Parnall, State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Professors April Land, Marsha Baum, and Scott Hughes, as well as, from law school alumni, including Ana Anzic Tomlinson, State Auditor Brian Colón, Caroline Siegel, Natasha Culyear, Ousama Rasheed, Vincent Ward, and United States Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small. Their names, along with several others, appear on the entry wall to the exhibition.



Burr has called her newest endeavor, “a six-year journey, from the time I first discovered this link to African-Americans who were free before the Civil War, to the co-launch of the Exhibition and the book.”  She also shared, “The research was conducted in archives, historical sites and societies, and libraries throughout the United States and in two foreign countries. I hope to see many of you at the opening on Saturday, August 3rd, at 5:00 p.m.”

To learn more about Emeritus Professor Sherri Burr click here. To read the publisher’s release click here. For more information about the 400 Years of Freedom, Restrictions, and Survival” exhibit, or the African American Performing Arts Center, please visit their website.