On the Spot: Danielle Terrazas Williams

‘We cannot ignore the long legacies of history.’

Museo de Arte Popular
The Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City. Wiki Commons/Gobierno CDMX.

Why are you a historian of colonial Mexico?

As an African American and Mexican American, I wanted to research the African diaspora through my heritage.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you? 

We cannot ignore its long legacies.

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?

Kathryn Burns’ Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru.

What book in your field should everyone read?

Marisa J. Fuentes’ Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive and Juan Francisco Manzano’s The Autobiography of a Slave.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

The euphoria of 1920s jazz in New Orleans.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Adriana Naveda – one of the pioneers of Afro-Mexican history in Mexico.

Which person in history would you most like to have met? 

Harriet Tubman.

How many languages do you have? 

Five. English, Spanish, some Portuguese and a little French and German.

What is the most common misconception about  your field?

That Mexico was not a central site of slavery.

What historical topic have you changed your mind on?

I have come to appreciate the history of medieval England now that I live in the United Kingdom.

Which genre of history do you like least?

Probably military history that loses sight of the everyday experiences of people.

What’s the most exciting field in history today?

Slavery Studies.

Is there an important historical text you have not read? 

Magna Carta.

What’s your favourite archive? 

Any notarial archive.

What’s the best museum?

The Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City. The displays always bring me joy.

What technology has changed the world the most? 

The printing press. I cannot imagine the world without it.

The Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean? 

The Mediterranean.

Historical drama or documentary? 


The Parthenon or Machu Picchu?

Since I have never been, but teach about it, Machu Picchu.

What will future generations judge us most harshly for?

Our lack of empathy.


Danielle Terrazas Williams is Lecturer in the School of History at the University of Leeds. Her latest book is The Capital of Free Women: Race, Legitimacy, and Liberty in Colonial Mexico (Yale University Press, 2022).