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My Academic World

This is my professional website to share my work projects.  Feel free to browse the links and drop me a line.  It shows my particular way of blending African Diaspora Studies–especially a focus on Afro-Latin America.  Also evident is the admixture of South-South relations in the two areas of most interest to me:  Africa and the whole of Latin America.  For shorter blog entries like my take on 21st century blackface, go here:

“Mademoiselle Senegal, Meet Mr. Congo: ‘African Surnamed’ families in the Americas from Slavery to the 21st Century.” One of the most exciting projects I have ever researched is the uncovering of entire families with “African surnames”. “African surnames” is in quotation marks because most of these names were not African family names before the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Instead, individuals often had the names thrust upon them as they disembarked from the slave ship. For commercial purposes, the sellers had to identify them one way or another. One “branding” that was typical was to baptize the newly enslaved on the spot and give them a Christian first name, using the last point of departure as the surname. Hence, in 17th century Louisiana, one finds Marie Senegal as one who came from the region of Senegal. At the very least, one finds in the 19th century, Stepney [sic] Congo whose descendants are still in the Delaware-Maryland area. This family can trace its roots back even further. These are amazing factoids in themselves. However, what excites me as a researcher is the continued existence of families with these last names today. Other “African surnames” exist here in the United States, and in the coming months I will write about them. In addition, I am fortunate to have two colleagues—Professor Dr. Julio Cesar de Tavares at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil and Dean Darío Henao Restrepo at the Universidad del Valle in Colombia—to research and share their findings within their respective countries. I am grateful to George Washington University for supporting my research for this important project. Of great importance is the establishment of a database that allows us to track and analyze the particularities of the various families throughout the centuries and to make some modest associations across regions. This I owe to GW graduate student Thomas Elms and his instructor Richard Hinton.  Thanks also to Mrs. Carliss Parker-Smith, Departmental Administrator for RGSLL who takes time from her very busy schedule to help with the challenges I face as a non-tech, non artistic person!  My research assistant Christiana Pittman goes beyond her job description, delving into the intricacies of the project.  Her analytical talents will take her far. I reserve my deepest gratitude for the gracious families themselves whose forthrightness helps to bring the histories alive and keep them current.

In 2021, I was fortunate enough to participate in a year-long faculty seminar at Howard University that was spearheaded by Dr. Ana Araujo:  “Slavery, Memory, and African Diasporas”.  The critique I received of my article that relates to the project was of great value and guided me toward what I needed for the book-length manuscript. My year-long visiting researchship in the Department of African American Studies at Georgetown University ( helped to solidify some of the remaining points of my book that will soon go out for review. I am so grateful to both Georgetown’s AFAM and Howard’s faculty seminar for making the writing process such a joy. 

Do you have some names and information to contribute? Do you want to learn more? Here is where I am updating what you give me: 


Manuel Zapata Olivella.
Are you aware that Dr. Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920-2004), great Afro-Colombia writer, thinker, and activist, was born more than 100 years ago?  His works continue to resonate strongly.  There were a number of tributes to him during his centenary.  Here are two of them:  the Journal Palara dedicated one of its issues to Zapata’s works.  Of great interest to all “Zapatistas” will be the fabulous homage that the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia is conducting under the leadership of Dean Darío Henao Restrepo So far, they have made available free to the public thirteen of his works, and they will continue until all of his writings are accessible to the public.  This includes a reissue of Zapata’s greatest work, Changó, el Gran Putas (Chango, the Biggest Badass, tr Dr. Jonathan Tittler).  The ambitious project also includes upcoming translations of those works that remain without English availability, as well as some of the cultural criticism about him. 

As you see from the website the documentary detailing Zapata’s life debuted in December, 2020.  Its title is, “Zapata Olivella, el Gran Putas”.  What else could it be? !!!  In addition, here is a dialogue between me and Dean Henao regarding my mentoring and later friendship with Zapata.  If you play around long enough with the closed captions, you can get English and other subtitles of the hour-long discussion.   

As you peruse the website, I hope you enjoy the celebration of the year of Manuel Zapata Olivella! After you do enjoy the website, join me as a Zapatista in my blog area.


Afro-Latin America and the Development of a Black Consciousness.  This long-term study poses the question of how Afro-Latins—both as individuals and as unified groups—came to believe in the concept of the African Diaspora.  Individuals throughout the history of people of African descent in the Americas voiced interest in and acted upon a belief of their ties to Africa and other groups of African-descended people.  What the late twentieth century witnessed is the phenomenon of groups, not just individuals, who embrace the idea of an African Diaspora.  It happens to the degree that one might term this a movement.  Stay tuned.


21st Century African Migration

A joint project that I am excited about is the collection of essays titled “African Migrations: Challenges and Coping Strategies”.  My co-editors and I–Dr. Papa Sow and Dr. Elina Marmer–whittled down a number of exciting papers to just a few that we are publishing in this book-length study.  A diversity of regional and topical chapters contribute new dimensions to the dialogue on African migration and to the continually developing field of African Diaspora Studies.  It is a joy–kind of–to experience the multiple stages of the publishing process  Before you can see the book in print, we are adding a couple of chapters that round out the study that help to tie the book together as a coherent whole. Keep checking back!


“Side Gigs of the Literati…”

The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Island of Hispaniola and, at times share common goals.  However, too often the relationship between the two nations is fraught with tensions.  “Side Gigs of the Literati:  Humanitarianism at its Best” zeroes in on one of those tensions, seeing some hope for future cooperation among the two nations.  Revista Internacional de Cooperación y Desarrollo. No. 7.1. enero-junio 2020: 62-81


“International Organizational Theory and Afro-Latin America”

Book Cover

Another research project that you might find useful has to do with international organization (IO) theory and the African Diaspora. In the last couple of decades, ties among Afro-Latin American communities and other regions of the Diaspora grew in exponential proportions. How does this manifest itself in organizations with a focus on Afro-Latins? Can small organizations—like the majority of the ones I study—manifest properties inherent in international organization (IO) theory? These are some of the questions I tackle in “International Organization (IO) Theory and Online Afro-Latin America,” my chapter in the University of Florida Press book Afro-Digital Connections: Afro-Latino and Afro-Descendant Cultural Production in the Digital Age, edited by Drs. Eduard Arriaga and Andrés Villar.  My chapter looks closely at AfroAmérica XXI in Colombia, Afroféminas in Spain, Educafro in Brazil, and Mundo Afro in Uruguay.  As a sneak-preview, there are some elements in common that the four entities I focused on, as well as many other that did not “make the final cut” of my chapter.  Under the umbrella of a quest for visibility one finds:  1) a need to have their respective governments recognize their very existence as Afro-Latins, and this includes a push for a category in the national census that allows citizens to voluntarily declare themselves as Afro-Latin; 2) the recovery from oblivion of historical figures who continue to have deep influence on the lives of today’s Afro-Latins.  This second factor helps to educate their fellow Afro-Latins as well as the broader, global public, including their own governments.  In this latter effort, I give a shout out to Elvia Duque, whose groundbreaking book Aportes del pueblo afrodescendiente was a revelation to this scholar who considers herself knowledgeable of Afro-Latin America.

Yvonne Captain