Crossing the Danger Water

HON 398 – Dr. Donald Gagnon

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

The slave trade between Africa and the Americas marked the Atlantic Ocean as the site of what Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and others have called “the largest unmarked graveyard in the world.”  Whether referred to as “The Danger Water,” “The Middle Passage” or “The City of Bones,” among other designations, the Atlantic serves as an unmarked gravesite for more than a million Africans who died of either physical trauma and deprivation or intentional self-sacrifice.  As such, it has since become a fertile ground for African American literature in its task of reviving the ancestors' spiritual power to enrich the lives of their descendants.  In particular, African American writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have consecrated the experience of the Middle Passage as a sacred one and its Atlantic geography as a sacred site.  It is marked by monuments and literary tributes to its spiritual value in acknowledging the value of the lives lost in an attempt to restore visibility and, therefore, power to the souls lost along the journey.