British historian James Walvin from the University of York delivered the Matthew Vassar Lecture, "Equiano or Gustavus Vassa? Who was the real Equiano?" in Sanders Auditorium.  A student of modern British social history and the history of black slavery, Professor Walvin won the 1975 Martin Luther King Prize for his Black and White: The Negro and English Society (1973), and he published the definitive study of the 18th century slave and autobiographer Olaudah Equiano, An African’s Life: The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano in 1998.  Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, Written by Himself (1789) was a milestone in anti-slavery literature.

In her introduction, Gretchen Gerzina, professor of English and Africana Studies and herself a scholar in the field, hailed Professor Walvin as the "premier authority in the field of Black British Studies, having written dozens of books on British slavery."  In his remarks, Walvin asserted that Equiano's account—the first of its kind—exemplified the magnitude of the British slave trade in the 18th century.  "In fact," Dara Kammerman '03 wrote in The Miscellany News, "at this time England conducted the greatest slave trade in the world.... For example, of the roughly 37,000 slave trips made, 12,000 of those were British....  Walvin pointed out that 80 percent of the women who crossed the Atlantic were African, as were 90 percent of the children.  After offering these statistics, Walvin dramatically posed...the question, "Who is the pioneer of the Americas?'"    The Miscellany News