Ada Ferrer, Linda Rodriguez launch Digital Aponte:
Reena Goldthree interviews Aisha Finch at AAIHS:
Ada Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
The American Historical Association has awarded Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave the John E. O’Conner Film Award for “outstanding interpretations of history through film” in the category of “Dramatic Feature.”
A second film about slavery, Ghosts of Amistad: In the Footsteps of the Rebels, directed by Tony Buba and produced by Marcus Rediker, won for “Documentary.”
Other winners include:
Aisha K. Finch, Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba: La Escalera and the Insurgencies of 1841-1844. University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
The Public Archive recently interviewed Ada Ferrer about her latest book, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (2014):
FERRER: “Among slaves and people of color you see something equivalent. Many scholars have argued that the Haitian Revolution –to quote Eugene Genovese—“propelled a revolution in consciousness” among African Americans. I agree, but again it was one based on material contact and knowledge. So, I was surprised for instance to see that documents such as the Haitian Declaration of Independence and other important texts of black leaders were actually translated into Spanish, published in newspapers, and circulated in Cuba, where they were read and discussed by people of color. Black people had real access to the words, ideas, and pronouncements of the revolution. Again, it was not only some vague abstract hope that slaves and free people of color in Cuba had; they engaged with the revolution and later with the Haitian state in more concrete ways. There are many other examples I could give and that appear throughout the book.”
CFP: José Antonio Aponte and His World: Writing, Painting, and Making Freedom in the African Diaspora
Date: May 8-9, 2015
Location: New York University, King Juan Carlos Center,
53 Washington Square South, Auditorium
Over the past fifteen years, scholars have shown a renewed interest in the political and historical legacy of José Antonio Aponte (?-1812), a free man of color, carpenter, artist, and alleged leader of a massive antislavery conspiracy and rebellion in colonial Cuba in 1811-1812. Aponte was also the creator of an unusual work of art—a “book of paintings” full of historical and mythical figures, including black kings, emperors, priests, and soldiers that he showed to and discussed with fellow conspirators. Aponte’s vision of a black history connected a diasporic and transatlantic past to the possibility of imagining a sovereign future for free and enslaved people of color in colonial Cuba. Although the “book of paintings” is believed to be lost, colonial Spanish officials interrogated Aponte about its contents after arresting him for organizing the rebellions, and Aponte’s sometimes elaborate, always elusive, descriptions of the book’s pages survive in the textual archival record.
From myriad locations in the humanities, historians, anthropologists, philosophers, literary scholars, and art historians have explored the figure of Aponte as artist, intellectual, revolutionary, and theorist. In addition to this scholarly interest, Aponte has also been re-enshrined as a national figure in contemporary Cuba, following a 2012 bicentennial that commemorated his death at the hands of colonial authorities. However, given the recent scholarly and public focus on Aponte, there has not yet been a conference dedicated to the interdisciplinary scholarly perspectives that have sought to advance the study of the singular “book of paintings” and its visionary creator.
“José Antonio Aponte and His World: Writing, Painting, and Making Freedom in the African Diaspora” brings together scholars to discuss the current state of “Apontian” studies and suggest future directions for scholarship. It includes, as well, scholars doing work on questions of historical memory, the intellectual history of the enslaved, and the relationship between text, image, and politics in other settings in order to put Aponte’s history in conversation with a wider world, much, indeed, as his own “book of paintings” tried to do.
To register for the conference, please click here.
The conference will take place in the auditorium of the King Juan Carlos Center at New York University, 53 Washington Square South. Click here for a Google map. The closest subway is the West 4th station where the A, B, C, D, E, F trains stop. For more information, please contact lmr273 [@] nyu [.] edu.
Cowling, Camillia. Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
via UNC Press:
Michele Reid-Vazquez. The Year of the Lash: Free People of Color in Cuba and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
At dawn on June 29, 1844, a firing squad in Havana executed ten accused ringleaders of the Conspiracy of La Escalera, an alleged plot to abolish slavery and colonial rule in Cuba. The condemned men represented prominent members of Cuba’s free community of African descent, including the acclaimed poet Plácido (Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés). In an effort to foster a white majority and curtail black rebellion, Spanish colonial authorities also banished, imprisoned, and exiled hundreds of free blacks, dismantled the militia of color, and accelerated white immigration projects.
Scholars have debated the existence of the Conspiracy of La Escalera for over a century, yet little is known about how those targeted by the violence responded. Drawing on archival material from Cuba, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, Reid-Vazquez provides a critical window into understanding how free people of color challenged colonial policies of terror and pursued justice on their own terms using formal and extralegal methods. Whether rooted in Cuba or cast into the Atlantic World, free men and women of African descent stretched and broke colonial expectations of their codes of conduct locally and in exile. Their actions underscored how black agency, albeit fragmented, worked to destabilize repression’s impact.