Childs on Doing African Diaspora History as a Latin Americanist

In “Between Latin America and the African Diaspora?” Greg Childs discusses researching Latin America’s black history and the conflicts that can arise:

Perhaps because I was indeed sitting right beside him the man did not see me. Or maybe he saw me but genuinely had no clue what kind of work I did or what to make of it or how to understand the way he had heard my work described. After all, I had in fact been introduced to the committee at the previous meeting as the new guy and as a specialist in African Diaspora and Brazilian history. Whatever the reason was that he did not see me, so to speak, it was merely a re-incarnation of a scene that had become quite familiar, that had happened many times before in prior years and that was essentially informed by a singular confusion: was I a scholar of black studies or a scholar of Latin America? Or perhaps even more generally, was I a historian of a subset of people who could be located anywhere or a historian of a “legitimate” region (and indeed a few days later the same individual approached me and apologized by saying “I’m sorry. I just thought you studied black people out there, you know, in lots of places”)?

For all the academic and mainstream recognition of black folk in Latin America over the past few years, such encounters are disheartening reminders that inclusion does not signal transformation. But lamenting how blackness is included but not viewed as central or characteristic of Latin American history is less interesting than asking why this continues to occur, and for me the answer seems to cohere around two issues: the power that “institutional history” has had in shaping questions about subjugated peoples in Latin America, and relatedly the enduring influence that theories concerned with structures and institutions of history have had in Latin American scholarship….

Read the rest Between Latin America and the African Diaspora? at AAIHS

BOOK: Thompson on Dance, Slavery and Performance

Katrina Dyonne Thompson, Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.

via UI Press:

“In this ambitious project, historian Katrina Thompson examines the conceptualization and staging of race through the performance, sometimes coerced, of black dance from the slave ship to the minstrel stage. She shows how these performances informed white European and American understandings of race, influenced interactions between whites and blacks, and often held conflicting meanings in enslaved people’s lives.

“Drawing on travel journals, slave narratives, popular literature, and historical sources, Thompson explicates how black dance was used by whites to justify enslavement, perpetuate the existing racial hierarchy, and mask the brutality of the domestic slave trade. Whether on slave ships, at the auction block, or on plantations, whites often used coerced performances to oppress and demean the enslaved…”

 

Foner on the Underground Railroad (NYTimes.com)

Eric Foner on revisiting histories of the Underground Railroad:

“That view largely held among scholars until 1961, when the historian Larry Gara published “The Liberty Line,” a slashing revisionist study that dismissed the Underground Railroad as a myth and argued that most fugitive slaves escaped at their own initiative, with little help from organized abolitionists. Scholarship on the topic all but dried up, as historians more generally emphasized the agency of African-Americans in claiming their own freedom.

But over the past 15 years, aided by newly digitized records of obscure abolitionist newspapers and local archives, scholars have constructed a new picture of the Underground Railroad as a collection of loosely interlocking local networks of activists, both black and white, that waxed and waned over time but nevertheless helped a significant number reach freedom.

There have been studies of the Underground Railroad in Washington, southern Pennsylvania and New Bedford, Mass., among other locations, as well as biographies of black abolitionists like David Ruggles, a member of New York City’s biracial Committee of Vigilance for the Protection of People of Color, founded in 1835.

In “Gateway to Freedom,” Mr. Foner ties much of that work together, while uncovering the history of the eastern corridor’s key gateway, New York City….”

 

Read the rest: Eric Foner Revisits Myths of the Underground Railroad – NYTimes.com.

VIDEO: Audain on US Fugitive Slaves Mexico

Mekala Audain (Postdoctoral Fellow in History at Brown University) discusses her research following slaves who escaped from Louisiana to Spanish Texas in the early nineteenth century:

“Typically, when people think about the Underground Railroad, they think about slaves in the South escaping into the North. But as slavery expanded further south and eventually westward, the southern Underground Railroad is a byproduct of that….”

View the rest: US Fugitive Slaves Mexico | Video | C-SPAN.org

BOOK: Scott and Hébrard on Rosalie de Nación Poulard

Scott, Rebecca J, and Jean M Hébrard. Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012.

via Harvard University Press:

“Around 1785, a woman was taken from her home in Senegambia and sent to Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean. Those who enslaved her there named her Rosalie. Her later efforts to escape slavery were the beginning of a family’s quest, across five generations and three continents, for lives of dignity and equality. Freedom Papers sets the saga of Rosalie and her descendants against the background of three great antiracist struggles of the nineteenth century: the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution of 1848, and the Civil War and Reconstruction in the United States.

“Freed during the Haitian Revolution, Rosalie and her daughter Elisabeth fled to Cuba in 1803. A few years later, Elisabeth departed for New Orleans, where she married a carpenter, Jacques Tinchant. In the 1830s, with tension rising against free persons of color, they left for France. Subsequent generations of Tinchants fought in the Union Army, argued for equal rights at Louisiana’s state constitutional convention, and created a transatlantic tobacco network that turned their Creole past into a commercial asset. Yet the fragility of freedom and security became clear when, a century later, Rosalie’s great-great-granddaughter Marie-José was arrested by Nazi forces occupying Belgium.

“Freedom Papers follows the Tinchants as each generation tries to use the power and legitimacy of documents to help secure freedom and respect. The strategies they used to overcome the constraints of slavery, war, and colonialism suggest the contours of the lives of people of color across the Atlantic world during this turbulent epoch.”

 

 

 

 

O’Malley on Balancing the Empirical and the Humane in Slave Trade Studies

George E. O’Malley discusses balancing quantitative analyses of slavery with understanding slaves’ experiences of bondage:

“In learning about the cultures enslaved people created in various American regions, I had become convinced that historians needed to ground such research in a better understanding of the networks that delivered enslaved people to the Americas. After all, where in Africa a captive was from would profoundly shape the knowledge, beliefs, and tastes that they carried. But in looking at the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database—which focuses solely on voyages crossing the Atlantic—it struck me that we had better information for some places than others. The database can tell you a great deal about voyages delivering captives to South Carolina, for example, but virtually nothing about voyages to North Carolina because enslaved people rarely arrived in North Carolina (and many other less prosperous or populous colonies) directly from Africa.

As I began investigating the networks of human trafficking that dispersed people from the major American ports of the slave trade to myriad other sites of slave exploitation, I resisted suggestions to quantify the research at first. Inspired especially by Walter Johnson’s Soul By Soul, I wanted to focus on the experiences of captives and the meaning of this intercolonial traffic to both slaves and traders alike.

But I quickly realized that I couldn’t write about what this network of intercolonial dispersal meant if I didn’t know where it began or where it went. At a fundamental level, I didn’t know what I was talking about….”

Read the rest: Balancing the Empirical and the Humane in Slave Trade Studies – Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

EDITED: Campbell and Elbourne on Sex, Power and Slavery

SexPowerSlavery Cover

Gwyn Campbell and Elizabeth Elbourne, eds. Sex, Power, and Slavery. Ohio University Press, 2014.
via Ohio University Press:

Sexual exploitation was and is a critical feature of enslavement. Across many different societies, slaves were considered to own neither their bodies nor their children, even if many struggled to resist. At the same time, paradoxes abound: for example, in some societies to bear the children of a master was a potential route to manumission for some women. Sex, Power, and Slavery is the first history of slavery and bondage to take sexuality seriously.

Twenty-six authors from diverse scholarly backgrounds look at the vexed, traumatic intersections of the histories of slavery and of sexuality. They argue that such intersections mattered profoundly and, indeed, that slavery cannot be understood without adequate attention to sexuality. Sex, Power, and Slavery brings into conversation historians of the slave trade, art historians, and scholars of childhood and contemporary sex trafficking. The book merges work on the Atlantic world and the Indian Ocean world and enables rich comparisons and parallels between these diverse areas.

BOOK: Ball on the Black Middle Class in the Antebellum North

Ball to Live an Antislavery Life Cover

Erica L. Ball, To Live an Antislavery Life: Personal Politics and the Antebellum Black Middle Class. University of Georgia Press, 2013.

via UGA Press:

“In this study of antebellum African American print culture in transnational perspective, Erica L. Ball explores the relationship between antislavery discourse and the emergence of the northern black middle class.

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EDITED: Radcliffe, Scott, and Werner on Black Intellectuals in the Atlantic World

Anywhere-but-Here-Black-Intellectuals-in-the-Atlantic-World-and-Beyond-Hardcover-Medium

via U Penn Press:

Anywhere But Here brings together new scholarship on the cross-cultural experiences of intellectuals of African descent since the eighteenth century. The book embraces historian Paul Gilroy’s prominent thesis in The Black Atlantic and posits arguments beyond The Black Atlantic’s traditional organization and symbolism.

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