top of page

Scholars Contributing to Spirits of the Passage​

Dr. John Thornton and Dr. Linda Heywood

Contact: Dr. John Thornton.  617-358-1423
Employment: Professor of African American Studies and History, Director of Graduate Studies at Boston University
Credentials: B.A. History from University of Michigan. MA and PhD in History from the University of California in LA. 
Summary: John Thornton received his PhD in African History in 1979 and joined the Boston University faculty in the fall 2003 after stints at the University of Zambia, Allegheny College, University of Virginia, and Millersville University. His specializations include Africa, Atlantic, and World History. He is the author of The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641-1718 (1983); Africa and Africans in the Formation of the Atlantic world, 1400-1680 (1992); The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706 (1998); Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 (1999);  Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas (2007) published with Linda Heywood and winner of the Melville J. Herskovits Prize. His current project is a book entitled A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1350-1820.

Contact: Dr. Linda Heywood.  617-358-3389
Employment: Professor of African American Studies and History at Boston University
Credentials: B.A. History from Brooklyn College, PhD History from Columbia University

Summary:  Linda Heywood is the author of Contested Power in Angola, editor of and contributor to Central Africans: Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, and co-author with John Thornton of Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of America (2007) which won the Melville J. Herskovits Award for the best scholarly work on Africa published in English. She is completing her book project entitled Queen Njinga: History, Memory and Nation in Angola and Brazil. Her articles on Angola and the African Diaspora have appeared in The Journal of African History, Journal of Modern African Studies, Slavery and Abolition, and the Journal of Southern African Studies. She has served as a consultant for numerous museum exhibitions, including African Voices at the Smithsonian Institution, Against Human Dignity sponsored by the Maritime Museum, and the new exhibit at Jamestown, Virginia. She was also one of the history consultants for the PBS series African American Lives (2006),  Finding Oprah’s Roots (2007), and Blacks in Latin America (2012).


Dr. Madeleine Burnside









Contact:  Dr. Madeleine Burnside.

Employment: Curator, Special Projects, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Credentials:  PhD, History of Consciousness, University of California in Santa Cruz

Summary:  Dr. Burnside has spent the last thirty-five years in the museum field including serving as the Executive Director of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum , and Executive Director of the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.  Now semi-retired, she has returned to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum to help organize its outreach around the museum's slave-trade collections. Her extensive research into the trans-Atlantic slave trade spans decades and compliments her professional focus on the history of art and science from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. 


Dr. Burnside, curator for the Spirits of the Passage touring exhibition, contributed invaluable research and insight into the Spirits of the Passage touring exhibition.  She is the author of the book Spirits of the Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Seventeenth Century (1997). Her research provided the  foundation for both the A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie (1999) and the current Spirits of the Passage touring exhibits.

Dr. Thornton and Dr. Heywood  first worked with the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum on the critically acclaimed A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie (1999).  They have generously added their research and expertise to the museum’s most current touring exhibition, Spirits of the Passage.  Their expertise in African Atlantic History and American Diaspora has provided a new perspective on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Atlantic Africa. Their collective work makes concrete connections between the political and social environments in Africa and the complexity of African/European relations. They specialization includes Kongo (Angola) and the Igbo (Ibo) – the ethnic group who constituted the majority of people enslaved on the Henrietta Marie.

Dr. Corey Malcom

​​Contact: or 305-294-2633 ext 22

Employment:  Director of Archaeology at Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Credentials:  PhD , Arms & Armour Research Group, Department of History at University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, England

Summary:  Dr. Malcom has extensive fieldwork, archival, and primary research experience on ships of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Key West African Cemetery. He remains active in writing papers, articles, and reports including submissions to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Keys Sea Heritage Journal, and the International Journal of Historical Archaeology.


Dr. Brandi Hughes





Contact: or 734-763-1650
Employment: Assistant Professor, Department of History & American Culture, University of Michigan
Credentials: PhD, Yale University, 2009
Summary:  Dr. Hughes is completing a manuscript project that studies the entanglements of evangelical nationalism and diaspora in African American missions to colonial Africa. Her dissertation, Middle Passages: African America and the Missionary Movement in West Africa, was supported by fellowships and grants from the Carter G. Woodson Institute (UVA), the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the MacMillan Center for International and Areas Studies at Yale.

Dr. Malcom has been the leading archaeologist in the research and recovery of the wrecks of the slave ships Henrietta Marie, Guerrero and the Peter Mowell.  He has been instrumental in collecting​ the stories associated with the Key West African Cemetery and the associated ships Cintra, Wildfire, William, and Bogota . His  research has been a key contribution to presenting the story of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade internationally.

Dr. Hughes contributed research to support the exhibitions closing focus on the African American experience after emancipation and the struggle to integrate the freed black population into American society. For some, the answer was to return to Africa to the newly established Liberia. Dr Hughes’ research demonstrated  the connection between local organizations and the Liberia colonization efforts.


Dr. Annette Powell

Dr. Powell has extensive experience in rhetoric and the effective communication of  history.  She contributed to the discussions of how to best present the stories of slavery through African American language, images, and culture.

Contact: Dr. Annette Powell. 502-272-8188
Employment: Associate Professor, Department of English, Bellarmine University
Credentials: PhD University of  Texas in Austin
Summary:  Dr. Powell teaches courses in writing, rhetoric, and Caribbean literature. In particular, her teaching and scholarship engages the rhetoric of place and display, specifically examining how culture is represented through language, images, and structures. She is currently working on a project that explores identity, memory, and dispositions of place in the preservation of indigenous Sea Islands culture. Her newest project examines the role of monuments in structuring public memory and cultural meaning.

A special thank you to Dr. Kevin Cosby, President of Simmons College of Kentucky, and Ms. Marland Cole, VP of Development and Community Relations at Simmons College of Kentucky.

bottom of page