Miller on African Secret Societies in Cuba


Ivor L. Miller.  Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and
Cuba.  Caribbean Studies Series. Jackson  University Press of
Mississippi, 2009.

In Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba, Ivor L. Miller shows how African migrants and their political fraternities played a formative role in the history of Cuba. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, no large kingdoms controlled Nigeria and Cameroon’s multilingual Cross River basin. Instead, each settlement had its own lodge of the initiation society called Ékpè, or “leopard,” which was the highest indigenous authority. Ékpè lodges ruled local communities while also managing regional and long-distance trade. Cross River Africans, enslaved and forcibly brought to colonial Cuba, reorganized their Ékpè clubs covertly in Havana and Matanzas into a mutual-aid society called Abakuá, which became foundational to Cuba’s urban life and music.

Miller’s extensive fieldwork in Cuba and West Africa documents ritual languages and practices that survived the Middle Passage and evolved into a unifying charter for transplanted slaves and their successors. To gain deeper understanding of the material, Miller underwent Ékpè initiation rites in Nigeria after ten years’ collaboration with Abakuá initiates in Cuba and the United States. He argues that Cuban music, art, and even politics rely on complexities of these African-inspired codes of conduct and leadership. Voice of the Leopard is an unprecedented tracing of an African title-society to its Caribbean incarnation, which has deeply influenced Cuba’s creative energy and popular consciousness.

via University Press of Mississippi

H-Net Review by William A. Morgan here

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“The Genesis of African and Indian Cooperation in Colonial North America: An Interview with Helen Hornbeck Tanner”

The Genesis of African and Indian Cooperation in Colonial North America: An Interview with Helen Hornbeck Tanner — Miller 56 (2): 285 — Ethnohistory.

Ivor Miller, cultural historian and author of  <i>Aerosol Kingdom: Subway Painters of New York City</i> interviews Helen Hornbeck Tanner in the most recent issue of <i>Ethnohistory</i>:

Dr. Helen Hornbeck Tanner, a senior research fellow at the Newberry Library, studied American Indian and colonial American history for over six decades. In this interview she discusses little-known themes including African and Indian coexistence and cooperation, beginning in 1619 in the Chesapeake Bay region, and spanning Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Northern Mexico, Ohio, Spanish Florida, and Texas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including an Underground Railroad from Michigan into Canada. Also discussed are a system of inter-Indian diplomacy that stretched across the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and the long history of attempts by the U.S. government to assimilate American Indians.

Available at Duke University Press Journals (sub only)

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