“The Third Empire: Abolition in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest,” April 7 Colloquium with Penn State Historian Christina Snyder


Christina Snyder, McCabe Greer Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University, will visit the Kinder Institute’s Friday Colloquium Series on April 7 to present on the United States’ place as the third 19th-century empire that promised to end Indigenous enslavement in the Pacific Northwest coastal region from northern California to Alaska (see abstract below). The talk will take place at 3:30pm in Jesse Hall 410, and anyone interested in attending virtually can do so via YouTube (link here) or Facebook (link here).


This talk focuses on the coastal region from northern California to Alaska, where, throughout the nineteenth century, colonial powers vying for control of the profitable fur trade wreaked havoc on the region, introducing disease, intensifying warfare, and escalating Indigenous enslavement. Seemingly incongruously, these same empires embraced abolition. Focusing particularly on imperial efforts to liberate enslaved Native people held by fur traders and colonial officials, this talk positions the United States as the third empire that promised to abolish slavery there. Russia abolished slavery in all of its territories in 1805. The British followed suit in 1834. Like these other empires, the United States was stymied by weak control of its imperial periphery and poor understanding of conditions on the ground. Ultimately, the process of abolition was protracted, uneven, and more dependent on local dynamics than imperial law.


Christina Snyder is the McCabe Greer Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University. She is an historian of colonialism, race, and slavery, with a focus on North America from the pre-contact era through the late nineteenth century. Snyder earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Snyder is the author of Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2010). These books received a wide range of accolades, including the Francis Parkman Prize, the John H. Dunning Prize, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Prize, the James H. Broussard Prize, and the John C. Ewers Prize. Snyder’s research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Humanities Center.