ARTICLES: Borucki and Lokken in May 2013 HAHR

Articles of interest in the May 2013 Hispanic American Historical Review.

Alex Borucki, “Shipmate Networks and Black Identities in the Marriage Files of Montevideo, 1768–1803.” Hispanic American Historical Review 93, no. 2 (May 1, 2013): 205–238.


The experience of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic crossing redefined the meanings of the nomenclature emerging from the slave trade. Under violent conditions, captives developed networks with shipmates on board slave vessels. These ties survived for decades if shipmates stayed together in the same region, as they did in Montevideo. Shipmate ties represented a living connection for Africans not only with their experience in the Atlantic crossing but also with their homelands. Shipmates provided support to their fellows when they needed trusted associates, as the marriage files of Montevideo clearly demonstrate. Enslaved Africans commonly asked fellow shipmates to testify about their past when marrying into the Catholic Church. Marriage files contain data on the routes Africans took across the Atlantic and the Americas. They indicate the origins of the groom, bride, and witnesses, their shared itineraries, and how these itineraries changed over time. Thus they reveal patterns of geographical mobility and networks created by common experiences. Marriage files can be easily quantified, which allows us to track historical trends. At the same time, each file offers a unique story. A close reading of these stories contextualizes the experiences of slaves in the Catholic Americas and underscores common patterns in ways that lie beyond quantification.

Paul Lokken, “From the ‘Kingdoms of Angola’ to Santiago de Guatemala: The Portuguese Asientos and Spanish Central America, 1595–1640.” Hispanic American Historical Review 93, no. 2 (May 1, 2013): 171–203.

The evidence presented in this article establishes the era of the major Portuguese asientos (1595–1640) as a key moment in the history of African migration to Spanish Central America. Between 1607 and 1628 alone, Portuguese slave traders made at least 15 voyages from Angola to the Caribbean coast of Central America, landing in most cases “by accident” at the Honduran port of Trujillo while allegedly en route to Veracruz. Many of the West Central Africans carried on these voyages were subsequently marched inland by the same Portuguese merchants to be sold in Santiago de Guatemala, capital of the Audiencia of Guatemala. Their final destinations were often rural properties located in or near the Pacific lowlands of modern-day Guatemala and El Salvador, where the largest sugar and indigo plantations counted dozens of Angolans among their enslaved workers. A decided majority of these involuntary migrants were young men, most no doubt having departed from Luanda following misfortune in the wars that, with a good deal of Portuguese encouragement, wracked their homelands after 1575. Their migration experiences testify to a significant shift in the point of origin of Africans brought to Central America away from Senegambia and neighboring regions of West Africa, birthplace of the majority of Africans transported to Central America prior to 1595. The later-arriving and larger West Central African workforce played a more important role than heretofore understood in satisfying the demands for labor that arose in the early seventeenth century as commercial agriculture briefly boomed amid persistent indigenous population decline.


VIDEO/DVD: Return to Gorée, with Youssou N’Dour


Return to Gorée, directed by Pierre Yves Borgeaud, 2007 (New York: ArtMattan Productions, 2007), DVD.

via official website:

“Retour à Gorée” raconte le périple du chanteur africain Youssou N’Dour sur les traces des esclaves noirs et de la musique qu’ils ont inventée : le jazz. Son défi : rapporter en Afrique un répertoire de jazz et le chanter à Gorée, l’île symbole de la traite négrière, en hommage aux victimes de l’esclavage. Guidé dans sa quête par le pianiste Moncef Genoud, Youssou N’Dour parcourt les Etats-Unis et l’Europe. Accompagnés par des musiciens d’exception, ils croisent de nombreuses personnalités, et créent, au fil des rencontres, des concerts et des discussions sur l’esclavage, une musique qui transcende les cultures.
D’Atlanta à New Orléans, de New York à Dakar en passant par le Luxembourg, les chansons se transforment, s’imprègnent de jazz et de gospel. Mais déjà le jour du retour en Afrique approche et beaucoup reste à faire afin d’être prêt pour le concert final…

The musical road movie, Return to Gorée, tells of African singer Youssou N’Dour’s epic journey following the trail left by slaves and by the jazz music they invented. Youssou N’Dour’s challenge is to bring back to Africa a jazz repertoire and to sing those tunes in Goree, the island that today symbolizes the slave trade and stands to commemorate its victims. Guided in his mission by the pianist Moncef Genoud, Youssou N’Dour travels across the United States of America and Europe. Accompanied by some of the world’s most exceptional musicians, they meet peoples and well known figures, and create, through concerts, encounters and debates, music which transcends cultural division.
From Atlanta to New Orleans, from New York to Dakar through Luxemburg the songs are transformed, immersed in jazz and gospel. But the day of their return to Africa is fast approaching and much remains to be done to be ready for the final concert…

20 Years of the Black Atlantic at Africa in Words: Art, Politics & Intellectual Production

Gilroy The Black Atlantic

Africa in Words is running a series of posts on Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its release. Click here to read the first post of the series and here to read the second.

Bruno Muniz continues the series with a post on art and politics in Gilroy’s ‘black Atlantic:’

“The artists and intellectuals considered by Gilroy are political beings, but not necessarily and exclusively through spoken, sung or written words. Even though there is not enough space to explore all the implications of Gilroy’s work in integrating aesthetics, politics and culture, I hope this text accomplished at least to synthesize some of his ideas that helped me a lot to think about my academic practices. The ideas being presented here are also a path to escape from the simplistic question of whether funk represents more “miscegenation” or blackness. Both options bring assumptions that cannot be ignored….”

Read the rest: Culture, politics and intellectual practice through Gilroy’s “The Black Atlantic” | Africa in Words

DATABASE: North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements

NC Runaway Slave DB


via official website:

The North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project makes available some 2400 advertisements that appeared in North Carolina newspapers between 1751 and 1840. A collaboration between The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG)  and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), the project builds on the work of Freddie L. Parker (Stealing a Little Freedom: Advertisements for Slave Runaways in North Carolina, 1791-1840) and Lathan Windley (Runaway Slave Advertisements)and presents digital images of the advertisements alongside full-text transcripts and additional metadata to facilitate search and discovery.

The advertisements were digitized from microfilm created by the North Carolina State Library and other sources. Staff members and student workers at UNCG and NC A&T scanned individual advertisements and then created transcripts and additional descriptive metadata. The master scans are saved as 300 dpi TIFF files on a server at UNCG and are made available to the public as JPEG access files using CONTENTdm digital content management software hosted by the Electronic Resources and Information Technology Department at UNCG.

The project was funded through a 2011-2012 NC ECHO Digitization Grant. This grant is made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

Featured Image Credit: “10 Dollars Reward,” Wilmington Advertiser, June 25, 1840. Reads “10 Dollars Reward. I WILL give the above reward for the apprehension of my girl Betsey, who absconded some time in March last. She is spare made, has a tooth out in front, and is about 18 years of age.–I will give a further Reward of $25 for evidence sufficient to convict any person of harbouring her. JUNIUS D. GARDNER. June 4th, 1840. 228-tf.”

ARTICLES: Kopelson and Yingling on Archive and Press in Caribbean, U.S.

Articles of interest in Early American Studies (volume 11:2):

Heather Miyano Kopelson, “‘One Indian and a Negroe, the First Thes Ilands Ever Had’: Imagining the Archive in Early Bermuda.” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 11, no. 2 (2013): 272–313.

The early generations of enslaved and bonded Africans and Indians in Bermuda were essential to the functioning of the colony. But beyond their contributions to the colonial enterprise, they continued to practice the skills that connected them to spiritual entities whose power enabled them not only to comprehend their environment but also to affect it directly. In their initial approach to Bermudian shores, in fishing, processing manioc, thatching and weaving with parts of the palmetto tree, as well as making cords with cotton and palmetto fibers, they altered the spiritual landscape in ways that are perhaps less tangible toWestern scholarly inquiry but no less significant to investigating these individuals’ influence on the tiny archipelago in which they found themselves. Uncovering these multiple layers of meaning requires imagining the archive in an expansive, speculative way that moves beyond certain narratives of the documentary record to a fuller consideration of the process of making place in an early modern Atlantic colony.

Charlton W. Yingling, “No One Who Reads the History of Hayti Can Doubt the Capacity of Colored Men: Racial Formation and Atlantic Rehabilitation in New York City’s Early Black Press, 1827-1841.” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 11, no. 2 (2013): 314–348.

From 1827 to 1841 the black newspapers Freedom’s Journal and the Colored American of New York City were venues for one of the first significant racial projects in the United States. To counter aspersions against their race, the editors of these publications renegotiated their community’s identity within the matrix of the Black Atlantic away from waning discourses of a collective African past. First, Freedom’s Journal used the Haitian Revolution to exemplify resistance, abolitionism, and autonomy. The Colored American later projected the Republic of Haiti as a model of governance, prosperity, and refinement to serve this community’s own evolving ambitions of citizenship, inclusion, and rights.

NEWS: Harvard to Digitize 18th and 19th Century Anti-Slavery Petitions

Hilton Petition

The Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University is digitizing eighteenth and nineteenth-century anti-slavery petitions:

“…Included in the thousands of petitions are first-person accounts of former slaves and free African-Americans seeking aid and full rights. For scholars, the use of the documents will be invaluable in research and teaching….

…According to project archivist Nicole Topich, signers of the petitions include 18th-century abolitionist Prince Hall, the founder of the first African-American Freemasonry. Other notable signers: African-American abolitionists Thomas Paul, Charles Lenox Redmond, and William Cooper Nell. Support also came from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Louisa May Alcott. Labor, political, and religious organizations backed many petitions….

…The Center for American Political Studies received a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the project, which in addition to the digitized petitions will include an interactive map, with connections to statistical and geographical data. Completion of the project is slated for June 2015.”

Read the rest: Colin Manning | Digitizing a movement | Harvard Gazette

Image Credit: “Led by John T. Hilton and signed by 11 prominent freemen of color in Boston, this 1858 petition was in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision.”

20 Years of the Black Atlantic at Africa in Words: Samba, Jazz, Brazil

Gilroy The Black Atlantic

Africa in Words is running a series of posts on Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its release. Click here to read the first post of the series and here to read the third.

Gabriel Improta continues with a post on the music of Brazil and the role culture plays in Gilroy’s conception of ‘black Atlantic:’

When looking at the cultural practices of the black Atlantic, Gilroy called for focusing on music. He criticised the obsession with the body of slaves and their descendants;  the result of a dichotomous (and Western) approach to the relation between body and mind. This dichotomy, he explains, leads to the understanding of black music (and dance) as the lowest form of art because it would be solely physical and, therefore, never intellectual. Often, music — and especially black music — is understood as a “spontaneous” or “natural” manifestation, produced by an innate talent linked to race or nationality.

Read the rest: Gilroy’s Black Atlantic: Samba, Jazz and Sambajazz in Brazil and the Black Atlantic. « Africa in Words

BOOK/SOURCE: HNOC Publishes Caillot’s 1729 Memoir

A Company Man

Marc-Antoine Caillot, A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies. Edited by Erin M. Greenwald. 1st ed. The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2013.

via the Historic New Orleans Collection:

Recently rediscovered and never before published, Marc-Antoine Caillot’s buoyant memoir recounts a young man’s voyage from Paris to the port city of Lorient, across the Atlantic to Saint Domingue, and up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Only twenty-one when he set sail as a clerk for the French Company of the Indies in 1729, Caillot was in many ways the ultimate company man. His descriptions of flora, fauna, and native peoples mirror the sentiments and literary conventions of his class and his era. He would spend his entire adult life in service to the company, rising high in its ranks before dying, at the age of fifty-one, in a shipwreck off the coast of India.

Yet in other ways Caillot was fully his own man, possessed of a voice both witty and prescient. An incorrigible rake—if not an outright rogue—he documents with gusto a string of pranks, parties, and romantic escapades. A persuasive self-promoter, he stakes narrative claim to New World terrain. And he speaks with immediacy across the centuries, illuminating racial and ethnic politics, environmental concerns, and the birth of New Orleans’s distinctive cultural mélange.

Brilliantly introduced and annotated by Erin Greenwald, translated by Teri Chalmers, and enlivened by Caillot’s own exquisite illustrations, A Company Man provides an intimate look at the early history of one of America’s most storied cities, placing New Orleans—and the fledgling colony it anchored—within the nexus of the French-Atlantic empire.

The original manuscript, Relation du voyage de la Louisianne ou Nouvelle France fait par le Sr. Caillot en l’année 1730, is housed in the Williams Research Center of The Historic New Orleans Collection, where it is a capstone of the institution’s rich archival holdings documenting life in French-colonial Louisiana.

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