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Mercy Assistant Professor Robert Murray Publishes Book on 19th-Century Racial Identity

Cover of Assistant Professor Robert Murray's book

Assistant Professor of History Robert Murray, Ph.D., wrote a book entitled “Atlantic Passages: Race, Mobility, and Liberian Colonization” that was recently published by the University of Florida Press. The book explores racial identity in the 19th century.

“Academic books carry a stigma because so many are impenetrable,” he said. “One of my goals was to write a book that complicates our understanding of history but in an accessible way. So I wrote my book with an undergraduate audience in mind, a book that a professor could assign in an undergraduate survey course that would make the content approachable.”

The West African colony of Liberia was established in the early 19th century as a settlement for free people of color. In Liberia, Africans referred to the settlers as “white” due to their Western ways. When these settlers returned to America to see family and serve as spokespeople for the colony, they demanded racial equality. Murray argues that “these settlers acquired an exotic, foreign identity that escaped associations with primitivism and enabled them to claim previously inaccessible privileges and honors in America.”

Murray invited his students into the book-writing process, particularly those taking upper-level history courses. In the course Historiography and Historical Method, for example, students study how historians write history. They learn that even though history seems like a solitary profession, historians interact with other historians by responding to and building on each other’s work. As he got deeper into the publishing process, Murray shared with students his own growing understanding that modern historians rely on even more people — including editors, proofreaders and designers — to help them create and get their work out into the world. Students also helped him review the book’s cover design.

“Atlantic Passages: Race, Mobility, and Liberian Colonization” can be ordered from the University of Florida Press or any bookseller by clicking here.

Murray recently spoke about his book on an episode of “History of the Atlantic World,” a history podcast hosted by Jesse Wuest.

The History of the Atlantic World podcast episode is available here. It can also be streamed on several other platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and SoundCloud.