Alumni Spotlight: Sowande Mustakeem ’00

Sowande Mustakeem ’00 has come a long way since her Elon graduation more than a decade ago. A master’s, doctorate and postdoctoral fellowship later, she is a respected authority in history and African and African-American studies, which she teaches as an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Recently, Mustakeem’s article, “‘She must go overboard & shall go overboard:’ Diseased bodies and the spectacle of murder at sea,” was published in Atlantic Studies, a leading journal in the field.

Sowande Mustakeem ’00

Mustakeem earned a bachelor’s degree from Elon after completing an independent major in African-American studies. She received her master’s degree in African-American and African studies at The Ohio State University in 2002 and earned her doctorate in comparative black history from Michigan State University in 2008. She subsequently received a two-year Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in history and a jointly appointed tenure-track position in history and African and African-American studies at Washington University.

Despite her relative youth as a scholar, Mustakeem has published a number of influential articles and book chapters on topics including black women’s history, gender, violence, the social history of medicine and the studies of the black Atlantic/African diaspora. Her article for Atlantic Studies brings together several of these areas through the experience of an anonymous black woman whom Mustakeem uses as a window to the slave ship experience. “The study … considers the process by which enslaved people were commodified in life and in death, how ship captains treated disease outbreaks and the context in which an infectious risk was calculated,” reads the article’s abstract.

Mustakeem’s other publications include:

  • “I never have such a sickly ship before:’ Diet disease and mortality in 18th-century Atlantic slaving voyages” (Journal of African-American History, Fall 2008;
  • “’Make haste & let me see you with a good cargo of negroes:’ Gender, power and the centrality of violence in the eighteenth century Atlantic slave trade” (Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Power in Maritime America, edited by Glenn Gordinier, 2008), and
  • “Far cry from a fantasy voyage: The impact of the Middle Passage on slave socieities across the Atlantic world” (ISLAS: Official Publication of the Afro-Cuban Alliance, Inc., 2007).

Currently, Mustakeem is working on a book manuscript titled Routes of terror: Gender, health and power in the eighteenth-century Middle Passage, which conducts a sociocultural history of the Middle Passage, highlighting the integral connection of slaving voyages to the evolution of Atlantic slave societies. An excellent example of the career successes of an Elon alumna!