Events from 2023 to 2024

Slavery and the Law Conference Series 2023-2024

22 February 2024 – Zong!, M. NourbeSe Phillip

Never has an event of such magnitude and emotion taken place within the walls of McGill Faculty of Law. As part of Professor Adelle Blackett's course, Slavery and the Law, and organised by the Labour Law and Development Research Laboratory, M. NourbeSe Philip gave a performance and public reading of her work of legal peotry, Zong! This unique event, followed by a discussion with the audience, brought together people from different communities, students, and professors. The Maxwell Cohen Moot Court will be forever transformed by this event. The event was followed by a reception at the Faculty Club. A great success! This was the first time that NourbeSe Philip had been invited to a law school to discuss and read her work, Zong!

Zong! is a book length poem composed entirely from the words of the infamous case report, Gregson v. Gilbert (1783). The captain of the slave ship Zong ordered that the enslaved be murdered by drowning before seeking insurance cover. As innovative literary work, Zong! pushes back the boundaries of poetic form in which memory, history, and law collide and metamorphose. Zong! tells the story that cannot be told yet must be told.

About the Speaker

M. NourbeSe Philip is an acclaimed Canadian writer, novelist, essayist, poet, and lawyer. Before devoting her time to writing, she practiced law for seven years in Toronto. She writes both non-fiction and fiction and has published renowned works such as She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks, Harriet’s Daughter, and BlanK. She has received numerous awards including the Chalmers Award in 2002, among other Ontario Arts Council grants. In 1995, she was the recipient of the Toronto Arts Council award in writing and publishing. M. NourbeSe Philip also won, in 1988, the prestigious prize Casa de las Americas for her book, She Tries Her Tongue. More recently, M. NourbeSe Philip was the 2020 recipient of PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, as well as the 2021 recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts’ lifetime achievement award, the Molson Prize, for her “invaluable contributions to literature.” Zong! was named the 2021 winner of World Literature Today’s 21 Books for the 21st Century.

Event poster for Zong! Event with M. NourbeSe Phillip


1 February 2024 - Bonds and Bondage: Slave Trade Financial Instruments and the University of Cambridge Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry, with Professor Sabine Cadeau 

In the fifth installment of the annual "Slavery and the Law" series, Professor Sabine Cadeau addressed Professor Priya Gupta's Property/Les Biens class. Professor Cadeau's dynamic lecture highlighted the pervasive influence of slavery on the University of Cambridge's financial investments and its lasting impact on the university's wealth, even after slavery's abolition. Through meticulous examination of the institution's archival and financial records, Cadeau revealed the extent to which slavery contributed to the university's expansion, and directly challenged prevailing myths of a past unentangled with slavery. 

You can read the University of Cambridge's Advisory Group on Legacies of Enslavement final report report here.

About the Speaker

Sabine Cadeau is an Associate Professor of History at McGill University. Her first book More Than a Massacre: Racial Violence and Citizenship in the Haitian-Dominican Borderlands (2022) won the Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Book Award and the Raphael Lemkin Book Award from the Institute for the Study of Genocide. Her second book, Bonds and Bondage: Financial Capitalism and the Legacies of Atlantic Slavery at the University of Cambridge (forthcoming) emerges from the commissioned University of Cambridge Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry that began in 2019. It is a study of the University of Cambridge’s multiple relationships with slave trading companies such as the East India Company, The Royal African Company, and especially the South Sea Company.

23 January 2024 - Eating Popcorn like a Lawyer Presents: A Special Series on Slavery and The Law, with Ric Esther Bienstock

As part of Professor Adelle Blackett's course on Slavery and the Law, the Eating Popcorn Like a Lawyer series hosted two screenings of the CBC documentary series Enslaved (2020).

The launch event featured Emmy Award-winning director/executive producer Ric Esther Bienstock, who joined students and community members to view and discuss episode two, focusing on the rationalization of the transatlantic slave trade. Following the screening, Bienstock engaged in a comprehensive discussion with Professor Adelle Blackett and organizers Edward van Daalen and Mathilde Baril-Jannard from Eating Popcorn Like a Lawyer, followed by an interactive question-and-answer session. 

Photo of Mathilde Baril-Jannard, Professor Adelle Blackett, Ric Esther Bienstock and Dr. Edward van Daalen seated next to one another, smiling.
From L to R: Mathilde Baril-Jannard, Professor Adelle Blackett, Ric Esther Bienstock and Dr. Edward van Daalen

About the Speaker

Ric Esther Bienstock is an acclaimed Emmy Award-winning Canadian filmmaker, and Officer of the Order of Canada, best known for her investigative documentaries. From sex trafficking to corruption in the world of boxing, Bienstock’s hallmark is gaining unprecedented access to major international stories. Her films have been screened at over 80 international festivals and have aired on networks around the globe.

She is the executive producer and director of Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade featuring Samuel L. Jackson. The series won the inaugural Buzzie Award for Best History Program from the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers.  The series was also nominated for 2 NAACP awards and garnered 3 Canadian Screen Awards.



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