Marcella Schute (1996) is interested in the history of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Her PhD project explores the overt and covert efforts by the state of Louisiana to reopen the transatlantic slave trade in the late 1850s. The role that Louisiana fulfilled in the southern movement to reopen the international slave trade so far remains largely neglected in the historical scholarship. This project shows that Louisiana played a unique role in this movement. In fact, pro-slavery radicals in Louisiana came closest in their attempt to reopen the foreign slave trade by introducing the highly controversial Africa Apprentice Bill into the state legislature in 1858. By zooming in on this bill – a covert effort to circumvent the 1808 law that prohibits the transatlantic slave trade in the United States – Marcella argues that slaveholders and politicians in Louisiana tried to introduce a new legal status for Black laborers into the state; one that came to exist in between the already established legal categories of slavery and freedom. Although the slave trade was never legally reopened, this project adds to scholars’ understanding of how ideas about reopening the slave trade in Louisiana altered the dynamics of migration, mobility and freedom in the Atlantic world.  

Marcella Schute received her BA in Liberal Arts & Sciences (American Studies, Political Science, and Law) from University College Roosevelt in 2019. She completed her MA in American Studies at the University of Amsterdam in 2020.