The Atlantic slave trade was the largest forced migration in history, and its toll in lives damaged or destroyed is incalculable. Most of those stories are lost to history, making the few that can be reconstructed critical to understanding the trade in all its breadth and variety. Randy J. Sparks examines the experiences of a range of West Africans who lived in the American South between 1740 and 1860. Their stories highlight the diversity of struggles that confronted every African who arrived on American shores.
The subjects of Africans in the Old South include Elizabeth Cleveland Hardcastle, the mixed-race daughter of an African slave-trading family who invested in South Carolina rice plantations and slaves, passed as white, and integrated herself into the Lowcountry planter elite; Robert Johnson, kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Georgia, who later learned English, won his freedom, and joined the abolition movement in the North; Dimmock Charlton, who bought his freedom after being illegally enslaved in Savannah; and a group of unidentified Africans who were picked up by a British ship in the Caribbean, escaped in Mobile’s port, and were recaptured and eventually returned to their homeland.
These exceptional lives challenge long-held assumptions about how the slave trade operated and who was involved. The African Atlantic was a complex world characterized by constant movement, intricate hierarchies, and shifting identities. Not all Africans who crossed the Atlantic were enslaved, nor was the voyage always one-way.
In The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery Alys Eve Weinbaum investigates the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary biocapitalism. As a form of racial capitalism that relies on the commodification of the human reproductive body, biocapitalism is dependent upon what Weinbaum calls the slave episteme—the racial logic that drove four centuries of slave breeding in the Americas and Caribbean. Weinbaum outlines how the slave episteme shapes the practice of reproduction today, especially through use of biotechnology and surrogacy. Engaging with a broad set of texts, from Toni Morrison's Beloved and Octavia Butler's dystopian speculative fiction to black Marxism, histories of slavery, and legal cases involving surrogacy, Weinbaum shows how black feminist contributions from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s constitute a powerful philosophy of history—one that provides the means through which to understand how reproductive slavery haunts the present.
Atlantic history is a newly and rapidly developing field of historical study. Bringing together elements of early modern European, African, and American history--their common, comparative, and interactive aspects--Atlantic history embraces essentials of Western civilization, from the first contacts of Europe with the Western Hemisphere to the independence movements and the globalizing industrial revolution. In these probing essays, Bernard Bailyn explores the origins of the subject, its rapid development, and its impact on historical study.
He first considers Atlantic history as a subject of historical inquiry--how it evolved as a product of both the pressures of post-World War II politics and the internal forces of scholarship itself. He then outlines major themes in the subject over the three centuries following the European discoveries. The vast contribution of the African people to all regions of the West, the westward migration of Europeans, pan-Atlantic commerce and its role in developing economies, racial and ethnic relations, the spread of Enlightenment ideas--all are Atlantic phenomena.
In examining both the historiographical and historical dimensions of this developing subject, Bailyn illuminates the dynamics of history as a discipline.
In Black Bodies, White Gold Anna Arabindan-Kesson uses cotton, a commodity central to the slave trade and colonialism, as a focus for new interpretations of the way art, commerce, and colonialism were intertwined in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world. In doing so, Arabindan-Kesson models an art historical approach that makes the histories of the Black diaspora central to nineteenth-century cultural production. She traces the emergence of a speculative vision that informs perceptions of Blackness in which artistic renderings of cotton—as both commodity and material—became inexorably tied to the monetary value of Black bodies. From the production and representation of “negro cloth”—the textile worn by enslaved plantation workers—to depictions of Black sharecroppers in photographs and paintings, Arabindan-Kesson demonstrates that visuality was the mechanism through which Blackness and cotton became equated as resources for extraction. In addition to interrogating the work of nineteenth-century artists, she engages with contemporary artists such as Hank Willis Thomas, Lubaina Himid, and Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, who contend with the commercial and imperial processes shaping constructions of Blackness and meanings of labor.
Examines the qualitative nature of capitalism’s processes through the lens of social networks
A Confluence of Transatlantic Network demonstrates how portions of interconnected trust-based kinship, business, and ideational transatlantic networks evolved over roughly a century and a half and eventually converged to engender, promote, and facilitate the migration of southern elites to Brazil in the post–Civil War era. Placing that migration in the context of the Atlantic world sharpens our understanding of the transborder dynamic of such mainstream nineteenth-century historical currents as international commerce, liberalism, Protestantism, and Freemasonry. The manifestation of these transatlantic forces as found in Brazil at midcentury provided disaffected Confederates with a propitious environment in which to try to re-create a cherished lifestyle.
Between 1640 and 1660, England, Scotland, and Ireland faced civil war, invasion, religious radicalism, parliamentary rule, and the restoration of the monarchy. Carla Gardina Pestana offers a sweeping history that systematically connects these cataclysmic events and the development of the infant plantations from Newfoundland to Surinam.
By 1660, the English Atlantic emerged as religiously polarized, economically interconnected, socially exploitative, and ideologically anxious about its liberties. War increased both the proportion of unfree laborers and ethnic diversity in the settlements. Neglected by London, the colonies quickly developed trade networks, especially from seafaring New England, and entered the slave trade. Barbadian planters in particular moved decisively toward slavery as their premier labor system, leading the way toward its adoption elsewhere. When by the 1650s the governing authorities tried to impose their vision of an integrated empire, the colonists claimed the rights of "freeborn English men," making a bid for liberties that had enormous implications for the rise in both involuntary servitude and slavery. Changes at home politicized religion in the Atlantic world and introduced witchcraft prosecutions.
Pestana presents a compelling case for rethinking our assumptions about empire and colonialism and offers an invaluable look at the creation of the English Atlantic world.
While the literature on Atlantic history is vast and flourishing, few studies have examined the importance of inland settlements to the survival of Atlantic ports. This book explores the symbiotic yet conflicted relationships that bound the Mexican cities of Xalapa and Veracruz to the larger Atlantic world and considers the impact these affiliations had on communication and, ultimately, the formation of national identity.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, despite its inland location, Xalapa became an important Atlantic community as it came to represent both a haven and a place of fortification for residents of Veracruz. Yellow fever, foreign invasion, and domestic discord drove thousands of residents of Veracruz, as well as foreign travelers, to seek refuge in Xalapa. At the same time, these adverse circumstances prompted the Mexican government to use Xalapa as a bulwark against threats originating in the Atlantic.
The influence of the Atlantic world thus stretched far into central Mexico, thanks to both the instability of the coastal region and the desire of government officials to “protect” central Mexico from volatile Atlantic imports. The boundaries established at Xalapa, however, encouraged goods, information, and people to collect in the city and thereby immerse the population in the developments of the Atlantic sphere. Thus, in seeking to protect the center of the country, government authorities more firmly situated Xalapa in the Atlantic world. This connection would be trumped by national affiliation only when native residents of Xalapa became more comfortable with their participation in the Mexican public sphere later in the nineteenth century.
The interdisciplinary and comparative nature of this study will make it appeal to those studying Atlantic history, including historians of Britain, the United States, Latin America, and Africa, as well as those studying communication, print culture, and postal history more broadly.
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.
England's seventeenth-century colonial empire in North America and the Caribbean was created by migration. The quickening pace of this essential migration is captured in the London port register of 1635, the largest extant port register for any single year in the colonial period and unique in its record of migration to America and to the European continent. Alison Games analyzes the 7,500 people who traveled from London in that year, recreating individual careers, exploring colonial societies at a time of emerging viability, and delineating a world sustained and defined by migration.
The colonial travelers were bound for the major regions of English settlement--New England, the Chesapeake, the West Indies, and Bermuda--and included ministers, governors, soldiers, planters, merchants, and members of some major colonial dynasties--Winthrops, Saltonstalls, and Eliots. Many of these passengers were indentured servants. Games shows that however much they tried, the travelers from London were unable to recreate England in their overseas outposts. They dwelled in chaotic, precarious, and hybrid societies where New World exigencies overpowered the force of custom. Patterns of repeat and return migration cemented these inchoate colonial outposts into a larger Atlantic community. Together, the migrants' stories offer a new social history of the seventeenth century. For the origins and integration of the English Atlantic world, Games illustrates the primary importance of the first half of the seventeenth century.
In Moving Home, Sandra Gunning examines nineteenth-century African diasporic travel writing to expand and complicate understandings of the Black Atlantic. Gunning draws on the writing of missionaries, abolitionists, entrepreneurs, and explorers whose work challenges the assumptions that travel writing is primarily associated with leisure or scientific research. For instance, Yoruba ex-slave turned Anglican bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther played a role in the Christianization of colonial Nigeria. Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a formerly enslaved girl "gifted" to Queen Victoria, traveled the African colonies as the wife of a prominent colonial figure and under the protection of her benefactress. Alongside Nancy Gardiner Prince, Martin R. Delany, Robert Campbell, and others, these writers used their mobility as African diasporic and colonial subjects to explore the Atlantic world and beyond while they negotiated the complex intersections between nation and empire. Rather than categorizing them as merely precursors of Pan-Africanist traditions, Gunning traces their successes and frustrations to capture a sense of the historical and geographical specificities that shaped their careers.
As Protestantism expanded across the Atlantic world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most evangelists were not white Anglo-Americans, as scholars have long assumed, but members of the same groups that missionaries were trying to convert. Native Apostles offers one of the most significant untold stories in the history of early modern religious encounters, marshalling wide-ranging research to shed light on the crucial role of Native Americans, Africans, and black slaves in Protestant missionary work. The result is a pioneering view of religion’s spread through the colonial world.
From New England to the Caribbean, the Carolinas to Africa, Iroquoia to India, Protestant missions relied on long-forgotten native evangelists, who often outnumbered their white counterparts. Their ability to tap into existing networks of kinship and translate between white missionaries and potential converts made them invaluable assets and potent middlemen. Though often poor and ostracized by both whites and their own people, these diverse evangelists worked to redefine Christianity and address the challenges of slavery, dispossession, and European settlement. Far from being advocates for empire, their position as cultural intermediaries gave native apostles unique opportunities to challenge colonialism, situate indigenous peoples within a longer history of Christian brotherhood, and harness scripture to secure a place for themselves and their followers.
Native Apostles shows that John Eliot, Eleazar Wheelock, and other well-known Anglo-American missionaries must now share the historical stage with the black and Indian evangelists named Hiacoomes, Good Peter, Philip Quaque, John Quamine, and many more.
In New World Drama, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon turns to the riotous scene of theatre in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world to explore the creation of new publics. Moving from England to the Caribbean to the early United States, she traces the theatrical emergence of a collective body in the colonized New World—one that included indigenous peoples, diasporic Africans, and diasporic Europeans. In the raucous space of the theatre, the contradictions of colonialism loomed large. Foremost among these was the central paradox of modernity: the coexistence of a massive slave economy and a nascent politics of freedom.
Audiences in London eagerly watched the royal slave, Oroonoko, tortured on stage, while audiences in Charleston and Kingston were forbidden from watching the same scene. Audiences in Kingston and New York City exuberantly participated in the slaying of Richard III on stage, enacting the rise of the "people," and Native American leaders were enjoined to watch actors in blackface "jump Jim Crow." Dillon argues that the theater served as a "performative commons," staging debates over representation in a political world based on popular sovereignty. Her book is a capacious account of performance, aesthetics, and modernity in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world.
How abolitionist businesses marshaled intense moral outrage over slavery to shape a new ethics of international commerce.
“East India Sugar Not Made By Slaves.” With these words on a sugar bowl, consumers of the early nineteenth century declared their power to change the global economy. Bronwen Everill examines how abolitionists from Europe to the United States to West Africa used new ideas of supply and demand, consumer credit, and branding to shape an argument for ethical capitalism.
Everill focuses on the everyday economy of the Atlantic world. Antislavery affected business operations, as companies in West Africa, including the British firm Macaulay & Babington and the American partnership of Brown & Ives, developed new tactics in order to make “legitimate” commerce pay. Everill explores how the dilemmas of conducting ethical commerce reshaped the larger moral discourse surrounding production and consumption, influencing how slavery and freedom came to be defined in the market economy. But ethical commerce was not without its ironies; the search for supplies of goods “not made by slaves”—including East India sugar—expanded the reach of colonial empires in the relentless pursuit of cheap but “free” labor.
Not Made by Slaves illuminates the early years of global consumer society, while placing the politics of antislavery firmly in the history of capitalism. It is also a stark reminder that the struggle to ensure fair trade and labor conditions continues.
The Object of the Atlantic is a wide-ranging study of the transition from a concern with sovereignty to a concern with things in Iberian Atlantic literature and art produced between 1868 and 1968. Rachel Price uncovers the surprising ways that concrete aesthetics from Cuba, Brazil, and Spain drew not only on global forms of constructivism but also on a history of empire, slavery, and media technologies from the Atlantic world. Analyzing Jose Marti’s notebooks, Joaquim de Sousandrade’s poetry, Ramiro de Maeztu’s essays on things and on slavery, 1920s Cuban literature on economic restructuring, Ferreira Gullar’s theory of the “non-object,” and neoconcrete art, Price shows that the turn to objects—and from these to new media networks—was rooted in the very philosophies of history that helped form the Atlantic world itself.
Yoruba culture has been a part of the Americas for centuries, brought from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade and maintained in various forms ever since. In Oduduwa’s Chain, Andrew Apter explores a wide range of fascinating historical and ethnographic examples and offers a provocative rethinking of African heritage in Black Atlantic Studies.
Focusing on Yoruba history and culture in Nigeria, Apter applies a generative model of cultural revision that allows him to identify formative Yoruba influences without resorting to the idea that culture and tradition are fixed. For example, Apter shows how the association of African gods with Catholic saints can be seen as a strategy of empowerment, explores historical locations of Yoruba gender ideologies and their variations in the Atlantic world, and much more. He concludes with a rousing call for a return to Africa in studies of the Black Atlantic, resurrecting a critical notion of culture that allows us to transcend Western inventions of African while taking them into account.
In Reckoning with Slavery Jennifer L. Morgan draws on the lived experiences of enslaved African women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to reveal the contours of early modern notions of trade, race, and commodification in the Black Atlantic. From capture to transport to sale to childbirth, these women were demographically counted as commodities during the Middle Passage, vulnerable to rape, separated from their kin at slave markets, and subject to laws that enslaved their children upon birth. In this way, they were central to the binding of reproductive labor with kinship, racial hierarchy, and the economics of slavery. Throughout this groundbreaking study, Morgan demonstrates that the development of Western notions of value and race occurred simultaneously. In so doing, she illustrates how racial capitalism denied the enslaved their kinship and affective ties while simultaneously relying on kinship to reproduce and enforce slavery through enslaved female bodies.
Most times left solely within the confine of plantation narratives, slavery was far from a land-based phenomenon. This book reveals for the first time how it took critical shape at sea. Expanding the gaze even more deeply, the book centers how the oceanic transport of human cargoes--infamously known as the Middle Passage--comprised a violently regulated process foundational to the institution of bondage.
Sowande' Mustakeem's groundbreaking study goes inside the Atlantic slave trade to explore the social conditions and human costs embedded in the world of maritime slavery. Mining ship logs, records and personal documents, Mustakeem teases out the social histories produced between those on traveling ships: slaves, captains, sailors, and surgeons. As she shows, crewmen manufactured captives through enforced dependency, relentless cycles of physical, psychological terror, and pain that led to the the making--and unmaking--of enslaved Africans held and transported onboard slave ships. Mustakeem relates how this process, and related power struggles, played out not just for adult men, but also for women, children, teens, infants, nursing mothers, the elderly, diseased, ailing, and dying. Mustakeem offers provocative new insights into how gender, health, age, illness, and medical treatment intersected with trauma and violence transformed human beings into the world's most commercially sought commodity for over four centuries.
These innovative essays probe the underlying unities that bound the early modern Atlantic world into a regional whole and trace some of the intellectual currents that flowed through the lives of the people of the four continents. Drawn together in a comprehensive Introduction by Bernard Bailyn, the essays include analyses of the climate and ecology that underlay the slave trade, pan-Atlantic networks of religion and of commerce, legal and illegal, inter-ethnic collaboration in the development of tropical medicine, science as a product of imperial relations, the Protestant international that linked Boston and pietist Germany, and the awareness and meaning of the Atlantic world in the mind of that preeminent intellectual and percipient observer, David Hume.
In his Introduction Bailyn explains that the Atlantic world was never self-enclosed or isolated from the rest of the globe but suggests that experiences in the early modern Atlantic region were distinctive in ways that shaped the course of world history.
Winner, 2020 Association for the Study of Food and Society Book Award, Edited Volume
Long before the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia, colony and its Starving Time of 1609–1610—one of the most famous cannibalism narratives in North American colonial history—cannibalism played an important role in shaping the human relationship to food, hunger, and moral outrage. Why did colonial invaders go out of their way to accuse women of cannibalism? What challenges did Spaniards face in trying to explain Eucharist rites to Native peoples? What roles did preconceived notions about non-Europeans play in inflating accounts of cannibalism in Christopher Columbus’s reports as they moved through Italian merchant circles?
Asking questions such as these and exploring what it meant to accuse someone of eating people as well as how cannibalism rumors facilitated slavery and the rise of empires, To Feast on Us as Their Prey posits that it is impossible to separate histories of cannibalism from the role food and hunger have played in the colonization efforts that shaped our modern world.
Annamaboe was the largest slave trading port on the eighteenth-century Gold Coast, and it was home to successful, wily African merchants whose unusual partnerships with their European counterparts made the town and its people an integral part of the Atlantic's webs of exchange. Where the Negroes Are Masters brings to life the outpost's feverish commercial bustle and continual brutality, recovering the experiences of the entrepreneurial black and white men who thrived on the lucrative traffic in human beings.
Located in present-day Ghana, the port of Annamaboe brought the town's Fante merchants into daily contact with diverse peoples: Englishmen of the Royal African Company, Rhode Island Rum Men, European slave traders, and captured Africans from neighboring nations. Operating on their own turf, Annamaboe's African leaders could bend negotiations with Europeans to their own advantage, as they funneled imported goods from across the Atlantic deep into the African interior and shipped vast cargoes of enslaved Africans to labor in the Americas.
Far from mere pawns in the hands of the colonial powers, African men and women were major players in the complex networks of the slave trade. Randy Sparks captures their collective experience in vivid detail, uncovering how the slave trade arose, how it functioned from day to day, and how it transformed life in Annamaboe and made the port itself a hub of Atlantic commerce. From the personal, commercial, and cultural encounters that unfolded along Annamaboe's shore emerges a dynamic new vision of the early modern Atlantic world.