via Cambridge U Press:
With Georgetown University’s history of slavery in the news, Adam Rothman discussed the sources and facts of that history earlier this week:
This documentary project retrieves the liberation legacy of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in three different locations united by common narratives related to struggles against enslavement and Apartheid. In retracing the connected stories of the AME in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Namibia, the documentary reveals the extraordinary legacy of African Methodism outside the United States and contributes to the excavation of the global circuits that historically bind Africa and the African Diaspora.
The AME Mother Bethel Church was founded by Rev. Richard Allen [shown above] in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1794, and was the first Protestant church ministered exclusively by former enslaved people. While the roots of the church in the United States have been well researched, the global—or Pan-African—story of the AME has so far received insufficient attention.
As well as providing a seminal academic contribution to the history of the AME church that presents original research, the Allen Report documentary will also serve as an educational tool. The documentary will help raise awareness amongst AME and wider constituencies regarding the relevance of Black liberation theology and its hermeneutics which are still vibrating globally and growing. Additionally, this film will emphasize the contributions of the AME traditional involvement in community education and health services in its multiple geographic sites.
Hilary Jones. The Métis of Senegal: Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa. Indiana University Press, 2013.
The Métis of Senegal is a history of politics and society among an influential group of mixed-race people who settled in coastal Africa under French colonialism. Hilary Jones describes how the métis carved out a niche as middleman traders for European merchants. As the colonial presence spread, the métis entered into politics and began to assert their position as local elites and power brokers against French rule. Many of the descendants of these traders continue to wield influence in contemporary Senegal. Jones’s nuanced portrait of métis ascendency examines the influence of family connections, marriage negotiations, and inheritance laws from both male and female perspectives.
From the Gilder Lerhman Center:
James Sweet, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Frederick Douglass Book Prize for his book, Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (University of North Carolina Press). The Douglass Prize was jointly created by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It is awarded annually by Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. The $25,000 prize will be presented to Sweet at a reception sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute in New York City in February 2013.
In addition to Sweet, the other finalists for the prize were Robin Blackburn for The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights (Verso Books); R. Blakeslee Gilpin for John Brown Still Lives!: America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change (University of North Carolina Press); and Carla L. Peterson for Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City (Yale University Press)….
Read the rest here.
(Belated!) congratulations to Sweet and to all of the finalists.
“In People of Faith, Mariza de Carvalho Soares reconstructs the everyday lives of Mina slaves transported in the eighteenth century to Rio de Janeiro from the western coast of Africa, particularly from modern-day Benin. She describes a Catholic lay brotherhood formed by the enslaved Mina congregants of a Rio church, and she situates the brotherhood in a panoramic setting encompassing the historical development of the Atlantic slave trade in West Africa and the ethnic composition of Mina slaves in eighteenth-century Rio. Although Africans from the Mina Coast constituted no more than ten percent of the slave population of Rio, they were a strong presence in urban life at the time. Soares analyzes the role that Catholicism, and particularly lay brotherhoods, played in Africans’ construction of identities under slavery in colonial Brazil. As in the rest of the Portuguese empire, black lay brotherhoods in Rio engaged in expressions of imperial pomp through elaborate festivals, processions, and funerals; the election of kings and queens; and the organization of royal courts. Drawing mainly on ecclesiastical documents, Soares reveals the value of church records for historical research.”
Soares was awarded the 2012 Roberto Reis BRASA Book Prize for People of Faith. For more information on the prize click here.
In response to Tacky’s Rebellion in 1760 in Jamaica, the colony’s House of Assembly passed a law naming a new crime, “obeah.” This important statute led the way in establishing obeah as a phenomenon understood by colonial authorities as a singular and dangerous problem. Investigating the Jamaica assembly’s decision within a wider Caribbean and Atlantic context and alongside the near-contemporaneous “Makandal conspiracy” in Saint Domingue, which was interpreted by French planters as a mass outbreak of poisoning, shows how similar practices came to be interpreted and constructed in different ways in different colonial cultures. The practices used by Tacky’s “obeah man” and Makandal’s followers were conceptually and practically similar, deriving from African understandings of medicine in which substances could be imbued with spiritual power. Why, then, did the French colonists emphasize poison while the British emphasized obeah (which they glossed with the term “witchcraft”)? In addition to the differences between developments in the colonies, an important context for understanding this distinction was the European experience of the decriminalization of witchcraft. In France decriminalization led to heightened anxiety about poison, while in England witchcraft decriminalization was not connected to poison but made the term and legal category of witchcraft a difficult one for planters to invoke.
Francisco Bethencourt. “Creolization of the Atlantic World: The Portuguese and the Kongolese.” Portuguese Studies 27, no. 1 (2011): 56–69.
In the 1930s, Gilberto Freyre’s praise of mixed-race people in Brazil challenged the idea of white supremacy, contributing to the building of a new Brazilian identity. In the 1950s, Freyre projected the idea of openness and racial mixture onto the Portuguese empire, fuelling Salazar’s colonial propaganda. The idea of Lusotropicalism was contested by Marvin Harris and Charles Boxer, who demonstrated that there were very few mixed-race people in Angola and Mozambique, and exposed the long history of racism in the Portuguese colonies. However, the fashionable notions of hybridism and creolization have been putting Freyre back on the map. The article exposes the limits of Freyre’s approach of inter-ethnic relations, structured around the flexibility (or otherwise) of white colonists. It engages with the much more interesting but problematic approach suggested by Linda Heywood and John Thornton, who shifted to Kongo and African agency the creolization of the Atlantic. It suggests a reassessment of the real Christianization of Kongo and its complex chronology, drawing attention to the royal interests of conversion, the limits of conversion among the population, and the conditions for erosion of Christianity in the long run.
Quite a late posting. Many apologies on the hiatus. ~JMJOHNSO
For more on Wilson as an entrepreneur see Gabrielle Foreman and Katherine Flynn’s 2009 Boston Globe piece here.
Gates, Henry Louis, and R. J. Ellis. “Harriet Wilson’s Sunday School.” TheRoot.com, January 10, 2011, sec. Views. http://www.theroot.com/views/harriet-wilson-s-sunday-school.
As Gabrielle Foreman and Kathy Flynn have shown, between 1857 and 1861 Wilson became an enterprising producer and marketer of “Mrs. H.E. Wilson’s Hair Dressing,” a hair “regenerator,” which claimed to restore graying hair to its original color and was sold in smart green glass bottles that were advertised widely in newspapers throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, including theNew York Times.
But far more important than this curious and brief interlude in her long career, Wilson (who often called herself “Hattie”) also became a well-known and somewhat controversial “spirit guide” in Boston’s popular Spiritualist movement, as Foreman detected. According to our research, this new chapter in Wilson’s career began as early as 1867, just after the end of the Civil War.
Even here, Wilson’s entrepreneurial skills manifested themselves: We have discovered that, in addition to playing a leading role in fostering amateur dramatics among the Spiritualists, she founded her own school. And this venture would prove to be perhaps her most controversial project of all.
Early in 1883, Wilson announced the opening of a new Sunday school for the children of “the liberal minded” in the “Ladies Aid Parlors” in Boston. Though the very first black woman to teach in a white public school in that city, Elizabeth Smith, had begun teaching just a decade earlier, in 1872 a black woman teaching white children in a private school such as Wilson’s was still quite extraordinary, to say the least.
Spiritualists believed that certain individuals — “mediums” — possessed the power to communicate with those who had passed away but who still, in spirit form, moved among the living, overlooking their lives, and were able to be called upon to provide guidance by way of verbal communication through the medium, or even by assuming visible material forms. These communications could be dramatic and even disconcerting (the mediums, of course, maintained that they could not control the free spirits), so generally speaking, Spiritualists did not go into trances in their children’s lyceums.
But Wilson decided that this was an unnecessary precaution. To signify the difference between her school and others, she dropped the word “lyceum” (as Spiritualist schools were generally known) and named hers the “First Spiritual Progressive School.” And true to her claim, Wilson’s school was avowedly “progressive” and featured some quite radical ideas.