Slaves in Utah alongside Brigham Young

“Listed on the Brigham Young Monument on Temple Square are the members of the first pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847.

Three of the names are set just a little apart from the others under the subhead: Colored Servants. These are Green Flake, Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay.

Crosby and Lay accompanied their Mormon masters to California to establish a colony in San Bernardino in 1851. California law prohibited slavery and it is assumed the two became freemen.

Green Flake has a deeper history in Utah. He was baptized in April 1844, by John Brown, an elder but not the radical abolitionist of Bleeding Kansas fame. Loaned to Young by his Southern master, along with a mountain carriage and team, Green was to go ahead with the first company. It was in that wagon, with Green Flake at the reins, that Young entered the valley.

A trickle of blacks entered the state over the following years, both as freemen and in company with their masters….”

Read the rest: Living History: Slaves arrived in Utah with Brigham Young – Salt Lake Tribune.


Early Black History in Michigan Territory

State Archives of Michigan

Shawna Mazur writes:

“Repeatedly throughout history, African Americans have played a role in shaping our country’s development.

The years previous to and during the War of 1812 were no exception.

Slavery was increasingly becoming an issue for the United States and Canadian governments. The differences between the two country’s policies often meant the difference between bondage and freedom. Yet, due to policy changes and confusing and conflicting laws, freedom would vacillate back and forth.

Situated at the border between both countries, the Detroit area, including Frenchtown, played an important role in the African-American experience. A number of slaves escaped across the Detroit River “to” Michigan, while at the same time others escaped “from” Michigan.

To an African American, emancipation meant more than just being free, it meant the opportunity to belong to a country as a citizen and be afforded the same opportunities as whites, including the right to defend one’s country…”

Read the rest

Boston Globe Reviews Berlin’s The Making of African America

“After the death of John Hope Franklin last year, tributes to the distinguished historian cascaded down. A major newspaper in North Carolina declared that Franklin, who retired from Duke University, “gave definition to the African-American experience.” That was a slight exaggeration, overlooking as it did predecessors such as Carter G. Woodson, creator of what has become Black History Month, but the statement was not off much. Franklin’s 1947 classic, “From Slavery to Freedom,” is deservedly credited with setting forth the master narrative of black people in America….”

Read the rest

Vaughan on Slavery in Mauritius

Vaughan, Megan. Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.


“The island of Mauritius lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean, about 550 miles east of Madagascar. Uninhabited until the arrival of colonists in the late sixteenth century, Mauritius was subsequently populated by many different peoples as successive waves of colonizers and slaves arrived at its shores. The French ruled the island from the early eighteenth century until the early nineteenth. Throughout the 1700s, ships brought men and women from France to build the colonial population and from Africa and India as slaves. In Creating the Creole Island, the distinguished historian Megan Vaughan traces the complex and contradictory social relations that developed on Mauritius under French colonial rule, paying particular attention to questions of subjectivity and agency.Combining archival research with an engaging literary style, Vaughan juxtaposes extensive analysis of court records with examinations of the logs of slave ships and of colonial correspondence and travel accounts. The result is a close reading of life on the island, power relations, colonialism, and the process of cultural creolization. Vaughan brings to light complexities of language, sexuality, and reproduction as well as the impact of the French Revolution. Illuminating a crucial period in the history of Mauritius, Creating the Creole Island is a major contribution to the historiography of slavery, colonialism, and creolization across the Indian Ocean.”

CFP: States of Freedom: Freedom of States

CFP: States of Freedom: Freedom of States

cross-post from H-Net

Duke University and University of the West Indies-Mona Symposium
June 17 and 18, 2010, Kingston, Jamaica.

How are notions of freedom and governance practiced and contested within and across national spaces in the Caribbean postcolonial? This symposium explores questions of freedom and governance generated from the heart of creolization; a process that forged a uniquely global exploitation of discrete island territories for economic activity, regional influence, and military advantage by many of the major European metropoles. The continuities and discontinuities in this history form the inspiration for our consideration of discourses, cultural forms, geo-political alliances, models of states and citizenship, and forms of (un)freedoms that have emerged in the Caribbean. In this interdisciplinary symposium we will consider how states of freedom (and felt un-freedoms), have been, and are currently being imagined, performed and represented in politics, the visual and cultural arts, as well as in literature, and also examine the consequences of this for the creolization/kreyòlisation of places, power, people, ideas and knowledge.

This symposium fosters an intellectual partnership and new networks of collaboration between Duke University and the University of the West Indies-Mona. It is co-sponsored by the Duke University Center for International Studies (DUCIS) and the Office of the Principal and Vice Chancellor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and supported by the Deans of the Faculties of the Social Sciences and Humanities, the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), the Department of History, the Institute of Caribbean Studies as well as the Center for Caribbean Thought. The organizing committee includes: Duke University, Michaeline Crichlow (AAAS and Sociology), Deborah Jenson (Romance Studies); UWI-Mona, Patricia Northover (SALISES, Mona), Matthew Smith (Department of History& Archaeology), Sonjah Stanley-Niaah (Institute of Caribbean Studies).

Keynote speakers include: Prof. J. Lorand Matory (Chair, African and African American Studies, Duke University), and Prof. Rupert C. Lewis, (Professor of Political Thought, Department of Government, University of the West Indies). A limited number of spaces for participation are available. If you are interested in presenting or attending the symposium, please contact: patricia.northover at, pat.northover at; tel: 876 927 1020 or 876 927 1234. Proposed titles and abstracts should be submitted by email under the subject heading “States of Freedom proposal,” by March 5, 2010.

CFP: Centering Families in Atlantic Worlds, 1500-1800

John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the revolted Negroes of Surinam . . . from the year 1772, to 1777 (London, 1796), vol. 2, facing p. 280. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University), as shown on, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library."

Centering Families in Atlantic Worlds, 1500–1800

Call for Papers

A conference co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas, Austin.

February 27–March 1, 2011, University of Texas at Austin.

“For people in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, families mattered. Families functioned as key political, economic, social, cultural, and religious units, whether or not individuals remained physically, emotionally, or economically connected to them. Households formed the basis of social, political, and economic order. The rhetoric of family relations underpinned diplomacy, politics, and religion. Secular and sacred authorities alike tried to regulate marriage, sexuality, and family in metropolitan and colonial contexts. The interplay of local particularities and general patterns shaped families around the Atlantic, as families in turn shaped local circumstances and broader trajectories. Embedded in households, kin connections, and gender dynamics, families were at the center of Atlantic worlds.

Yet too often families have not been central to historical explanations of Atlantic locations. This conference takes an integrative approach, encouraging proposals from all geographic regions of the Atlantic that explore how family issues are intrinsic to explaining larger patterns. In the 1970s, demographic studies and social history approaches that treated family history as a sub-field predominated. Later, cultural historical approaches largely bypassed families and focused on selves and identities. In recent Atlantic historiography, little attention has been paid to the ways in which families, households, and kin were critically important to subjects such as migration, commodity production and consumption, racial codification, and imperial projects in the Americas and elsewhere around the Atlantic. Papers for this conference might consider these and other topics, including family economies, the political and religious dynamics of families and households, blood and lineage, the relationship between families and slavery, the language of family, gender and sexualities, and law, as well as relations between parents and children, husbands and wives, and kin of all sorts. We invite papers from a variety of fresh perspectives that will provide the basis for a rigorous and comparative family-centered history of the early modern Atlantic….”

Read the rest: OIEAHC – Conferences – Centering Families in Atlantic Worlds, 1500-1800.

Green on African Mexicans in Spanish Slave Societies

Statue of Gaspar Yanga

Green, Debra D. “African Mexicans in Spanish Slave Societies in America.” Journal of Black Studies 40 (2010): 683-699.

“This article examines the sources of the discourse on African Mexicans, often referred to as Afromexicans, in an effort to structure a more extensive foundation for cultural work. Taking an Afrocentric approach to the study of Africans who were enslaved by the Spanish in Mexico, the author, who speaks Spanish, traveled to Mexico on many occasions to study the retention of African cultural forms, concepts, practices, and values. As a result of this work, the author wrote her doctoral dissertation at Temple University on African Mexicans. Thus, this article provides the reader with a critical literature brief on the issues surrounding the current discourse.

Available via Sage Publications ($$)

Echeruo on Blyden, “The Jewish Question”

Revd. E. W. Blyden, L.L.D. / Maull & Co., Photographers and Miniature Painters, 187A Piccadilly and Cheapside. (Library of Congress)

Echeruo, Michael J. C. “Edward W. Blyden, “The Jewish Question,” and the Diaspora: Theory and Practice.” Journal of Black Studies 40, no. 4 (March 1, 2010): 544-565.


“Dr. Blyden’s booklet, “The Jewish Question,” has been largely ignored, as it relates not only to the Jewish Question, proper, but also to the question of African American identifications with Africa and the quest to return, in one sense or another, to the “land of their fathers.” This article examines all of these three aspects of Blyden’s work and suggests in what ways the idea of a Diaspora could be understood in theory and in practice, considering Blyden’s attitudes.

Available via Sage Publications ($$)

US Renames Mountain after Freedman John Ballard, a Blacksmith, Pioneer

“A California peak formerly known as Negrohead Mountain has been officially renamed in honour of the black pioneer who settled there in 1869.

The 619-metre peak near Malibu, became Ballard Mountain after John Ballard, a blacksmith and former slave.

Dozens of Ballard’s relatives attended the renaming ceremony on Saturday.

The name originally contained an even more offensive racial slur which appeared on federal maps, but was changed to “negro” in the 1960s.

The US Geographical Survey approved the change last year after an application by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The peak is located in southern California’s Santa Monica range.

“I don’t know what it means to Los Angeles as a whole, but it means a lot to me,” Ballard’s 85-year-old great-grandson Reggie Ballard, a retired LA Fire Department captain, was quoted as saying.”

via HNN::BBC News

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