HIST 460-1 African Enslavement in the Americas
Syllabus, Part II: Reaction Paper & Discussion Assignments
Below you will find specific topic assignments for this course. Please note that the following abbreviations will be used throughout this syllabus.
- AHR American Historical Review
- CSAW Verene Shepherd and Hilary McD. Beckles, eds., Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader (Princeton, NJ: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 2000).
- HAHR Hispanic American Historical Review
- JAH Journal of American History
- S&A Slavery & Abolition
- WMQ William & Mary Quarterly
Week #4 (Sept. 16, 18) Slavery and the Growth of the Atlantic World
Readings: Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery, 101-end.
Topic A: Re-Visiting Mintz & Price
Sidney W. Mintz and Richard Price, The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (orig. publ., 1976; Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), all; Paul E. Lovejoy, “Transatlantic Transformations: The Origins and Identities of Africans in the Americas,” in Livio Sansone, Elisée Soumonni, and Boubacar Barry, eds., Africa, Brazil and the Construction of Trans-Atlantic Identities (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2008), 81-112. [Copy at WCSU.]
Focus question: How did Mintz and Price understand the transformation of African cultures during the era of the slave trade? Based on Lovejoy and the core readings thus far, how readily can their thesis embrace more recent research on African cultures in diaspora?
Topic B: Looking Forward
Paul E. Lovejoy, “Ethnic Designations of the Slave Trade and the Reconstruction of the History of Trans-Atlantic Slavery,” in Paul E. Lovejoy and David V. Trotman, eds. Trans- Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora (London: Continuum, 2003), 9- 42 [On Reserve]; Alexander van Stipriaan, “Global Names, Creolized Identities,” in Livio Sansone, Elisée Soumonni, and Boubacar Barry, eds., Africa, Brazil and the Construction of Trans-Atlantic Identities (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2008), 147-178 [Copy at WCSU]; Babatunde Lawal, “Reclaiming the Past: Yoruba Elements in African American Arts,” in Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs,eds., The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 291-324.
Focus question: How has greater emphasis on ethnicity/culture – however defined – changed the study of enslavement?
Week #5 (Sept. 23, 25) Work, Culture and Community
Readings: Sweet, Recreating Africa, 1-83.
Topic A Brazilian Sugar
Stuart B. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society, 1550-1835 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), xiii-159.
Focus question: What were the origins of African slavery in coastal Brazil? How would you describe the work of the sugar plantations, especially during the safra?
Topic B South Carolina Rice
Judith Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001); David Eltis, Philip Morgan, and David Richardson, “Agency and Diaspora in Atlantic History; Reassessing the African Contribution to Rice Cultivation in the Americas,” JAH 112, no. 5 (December 2007): 1329-1358.
Focus question: How does Carney identify the African origins of rice cultivation in the Americas? Why does she place such great emphasis on the role of women in the process of cultivation?
Topic C North American Plantations
Philip D. Morgan, “Work and Culture: The Task System and the World of Low Country Blacks, 1700 to 1880,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, vol. 39 (1982): 563-599; Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York: Random House, 1972), 285-324.
Focus question: What were the differences between the “task” and “gang” system in plantation labor? How, according to Genovese, should historians understand the complex negotiation between masters and slaves regarding the slaves’ work on the plantation?
Week #6 (Sept. 30, Oct. 2) Runaways and Rebels
Readings: Sweet, Recreating Africa, 87-188.
Topic A Runaways and Their Communities
Jane Landers, “Cimarrón Ethnicity and Cultural Adaptation in the Spanish Domains of the Circum-Caribbean, 1503-1763,” in Identity in the Shadow of Slavery, ed. Paul Lovejoy (London: Continuum, 2000), 30-54 [On Reserve]; Stuart B. Schwartz, Slaves, Peasants, and Rebels: Reconsidering Brazilian Slavery (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 104-136; Flávio dos Santos Gomes, “A ‘Safe Haven’: Runaway Slaves, Mocambos, and Borders in Colonial Amazonia, Brazil,” HAHR 82, no. 3 (2002): 469-498.
Focus question: How did runaways create their own communities? What strategies did they employ to retain their autonomy, and to what extent were these successful?
Topic B Saramaka Community in Suriname
Richard Price, First-Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983).
Focus question: How did the Saramaka retain knowledge of their past through oral tradition?
Week #7 (Oct. 7, 9) Faith & Belief
Readings: Sweet, Recreating Africa, 191-end.
Topic A Christianity in Different Contexts
Javier Villa-Flores, “’To Lose One’s Soul’: Blasphemy and Slavery in New Spain, 1596- 1669,” HAHR 82, no. 3 (2002): 435-468; Mieko Nishida, “From Ethnicity to Race and Gender: Transformation of Black Lay Sodalities in Salvador, Brazil,” Journal of Social History 32, no. (1998): 329-348; Erik R. Seeman, “’Justice Must Take Plase’: Three African Americans Speak of Religion in Eighteenth-Century New England,” WMQ, 3rd series, 56, no. 2 (1999): 393-414.
Focus question: What role could religion play in the lives of African peoples in the Americas? What similarities and differences can you see in their experiences by exploring these diverse examples?
Topic B African Americans and Protestantism in British America and the U.S.
Sylvia R. Frey and Betty Wood, Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 1-148.
Focus question: How did enslaved and free Africans and African Americans react to the Protestant churches in the Americas? To what extent were African cultural and religious expressions of faith interwoven into Protestant rituals and celebrations?
Week #8 (Oct. 14, 16) Documents and Narratives
Readings: The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London: G. Vassa, 1789). Copy available via Documenting the American South [http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano1/equiano1.html]; Paul E. Lovejoy, “‘Freedom Narratives’ of Transatlantic Slavery,” Slavery & Abolition 32, no. 1 (March 2011): 91-107.
Topic A: Re-Reading Olaudah Equiano
Vincent Carretta, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005). [Consult with instructor to identify key passages].
Focus question: How does Carretta believe we must revise our understanding of Equiano’s past and his place in history?
Topic B: Responding to Carretta
Paul E. Lovejoy, “Autobiography and Memory: Gustavus Vassa, alias Olaudah Equiano, the African,” Slavery & Abolition 27, no. 3 (2006): 317-347; Alexander X. Byrd, “Eboe, Country, Nation and Gustavus Vassa’s Interesting Narrative,” WMQ, 3rd series, 63, no. 1 (2006): 123-148; Douglas Chambers, Review of Carretta, Vincent, Equiano the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man, H-Atlantic, H-Net Reviews (November, 2007): http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=13855; Dennis D. Moore et al., Colloquy with the Author: Vincent Carretta and ‘Equiano, the African,’” Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 38 (2009): 1-14.
Focus question: How have scholars responded to Carretta’s argument that Equiano invented an African past?
*[Students working on Topics A & B must discuss their presentations jointly prior to class.]
Topic C: Denmark Vesey’s Revolt
Michael P. Johnson, “Denmark Vesey and His Co-Conspirators,” WMQ, 3rd series, 58, no. 4 (October 2001): 915-976 [see also the editor’s comments, 913-914]; and the essays in the response forum, “The Making of a Slave Conspiracy, Part 2,” WMQ, 3rd series, 59, no. 1(January 2002): 135-202.
Why does Michael Johnson think that historians have misread the evidence concerning Denmark Vesey’s conspiracy? How do other historians respond to his claims?
Week #9 (Oct. 21, 23) Identity & Personal Experience
Readings: Sweet, Domingo Álvares, 1-101.
Topic A: African Identity in the Americas
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, “African Ethnicities and the Meanings of ‘Mina,’” Renée Soulodre-La France, “I, Francisco Castañeda, Negro Esclavo Caravali’: Caravali Ethnicity in Colonial New Granada,” Sylviane Anna Diouf, “Devils or Sorcerers, Muslims or Studs: Manding in the Americas,” Maria Inês Côrtes de Oliveira, “The Reconstruction of Ethnicity in Bahia: The Case of the Nagô in the Nineteenth Century,” all in Paul E. Lovejoy and David V. Trotman, eds., Trans-Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora (London: Continuum, 2003), 65-81, 96-114, 139-180 [On Reserve].
Focus question: What efforts must historians make to recover the day-to-day existence of Africans in the Americas? How were African identities transferred to the “New World?”
Topic B: Enslaved Women’s Lives
Hilary McD. Beckles, “Black Women and the Political Economy of Slavery” and “Phibbah’s Price: A Jamaican ‘Wife’ for Thomas Thistlewood,” in Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society, ed. Hilary McD. Beckles (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 1999), 2-21, 38-58; Wendy Anne Warren, “‘The Cause of Her Grief': The Rape of a Slave in Early New England,” JAH 93, no. 4 (March 2007): 1031-1049; Lillian Ashcraft-Eason, “’She Voluntarily Hath Come’: A Gambian Woman Trader in Colonial Georgia in the Eighteenth Century,” in Identity in the Shadow of Slavery, ed. Paul Lovejoy (London: Continuum, 2000), 202-221.
Focus question: How should historians understand the experiences of enslaved women in the Americas? What might the atypical experience of the ‘Gambian woman trader’ tell us about the clash between African and European understandings of gender roles?
Topic C: Missionary Christianity and Enslaved Africans in the Caribbean
Jon F. Sensbach, Rebecca’s Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), all. [Copy at SCSU.]
Focus question: What made the Moravian faith attractive to enslaved Africans and Rebecca in particular? How successfully does Sensbach re-create Rebecca’s world?
Week #10 (Oct. 28, 30) Forging Personal Freedom
Readings: Sweet, Domingo Álvares, 103-168.
Topic A: Gaining Freedom
Brian P. Owensby, “How Juan and Leonor Won Their Freedom: Litigation and Liberty in Seventeenth-Century Mexico,” HAHR 85, no. 1 (2005): 39-79; Mieko Nishida, “Manumission and Ethnicity in Urban Slavery: Salvador, Brazil, 1808-1888,” HAHR 73, 3 (1993): 361-391; Ellen Eslinger, “Freedom without Independence,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 114, no. 2 (2006): 263-291.
Focus question: What continuities across time and space can you identify in the experiences of African and African American men and women who earned their freedom? To what extent were they “free?”
Topic B: The Language of Freedom
Hilary McD. Beckles, “Taking Liberties: Enslaved Women and Anti-slavery Politics,” in Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society, ed. Hilary McD. Beckles (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 1999), 156-172; Peter Blanchard, “The Language of Liberation: Slave Voices in the Wars of Independence,” HAHR 82, no. 3 (2002): 499-523; James Sidbury, “Saint Domingue in Virginia: Ideology, Local Meanings, and Resistance to Slavery, 1790-1800,” Journal of Southern History 63, no. 3 (1997): 531-552.
Focus question: How did enslaved people participate in the Age of Revolution and the antislavery movement? To what extent could they use the rhetoric of the era to their own advantage?
Topic C: Slavery’s Aftermath in the Plantation World
Eric Foner, Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983), all; Rebecca J. Scott, “Defining the Boundaries of Freedom in the World of Cane: Cuba, Brazil, and Louisiana after Emancipation,” American Historical Review 99, no. 1 (1994): 70-102.
Why does Eric Foner suggest that ex-slaves received “nothing but freedom?” How did African peoples in the Americas experience the end of slavery? To what extent did emancipation change their lives?
Week #11 (Nov. 4, 6) Uprising and Revolution
Readings: Sweet, Domingo Álvares, 169-233.
Topic A: The Bahian Revolt of 1835
João Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, trans. Arthur Brakel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), all [consult with instructor to identify key passages].
Focus question: What was the role of Islam in the 1835 uprising? To what extent were the rebels successful in achieving their goals?
Topic B: Guadeloupe & the French Revolution
Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2004.
How did enslaved workers on Guadeloupe navigate the tumult of the French Revolution? To what extent were they successful in exploiting revolutionary ideology to improve their own lives?
Week #12 (Nov. 11, 13) Debating Slavery’s End
Readings: Brown, Reaper’s Garden, 1-91.
Topic A: The Williams Thesis
Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944) [Reprinted in multiple editions]; “Eric Williams and the Postcolonial Caribbean: A Special Issue,” Callaloo 20, no. 4 (August 1997): 777-779.
Focus question: According to Eric Williams, why did Britain abolish slavery in its Caribbean territories?
Topic B: Challenging Williams’ View of Abolition
Seymour Drescher, Capitalism and Antislavery: British Mobilization in Comparative Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); idem, “The Shocking Birth of British Abolitionism,” S&A 33, no. 4 (December 2012): 571-593.
Focus question: Drescher famously argued that Britain’s embrace of abolitionism represented economic suicide, or in his terms, “econocide.” Where does Drescher see the source of antislavery sentiment in Britain? Why does he argue that opposition to slavery rested upon a “broad social base” (p. 162)? Why does he also reject the more recent argument of Christopher Brown that the key to the timing of the abolitionist movement was the outcome of the American Revolution?
Week #13 (Nov. 18, 20) Slavery & Memory I
Readings: Brown, Reaper’s Garden, 93-156.
Topic A Founding Myths
Joseph Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (reprint edition, New York: Vintage Books, 1998); TBA; “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings Redux,” a forum in WMQ, 3rd series, 57, no. 1 (January 2000): 121- 210; Lois E. Horton, “Avoiding History: Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the Uncomfortable Public Conversation on Slavery,” in Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, eds. James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton (New York: The New Press, 2006), 135-150.
Focus question: How did Ellis initially assess the possibility that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings? In light of recent evidence, how should we reassess our understanding of Jefferson, plantation life, and American democracy?
Topic B: Memory & History of the Slave Trade in West Africa
Ella Keren, “The Atlantic Slave Trade in West African History Text Books,” Robin Law, “The Atlantic Slave Trade in Local History Writing in Ouidah,” Sandra L. Richards, “Landscapes of Memory: Representing the African Diaspora’s Return ‘Home,” all in Naana Opuku-Agyemang, Paul E. Lovejoy, and David V. Trotman, eds. Africa and Trans- Atlantic Memories: Literary and Aesthetic Manifestations of Diaspora and History (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2008), 235-274, 291-302.
Focus question: How is the slave trade “remembered” in the West African examples provided here?
Week #14 (Nov. 25) Dying, Social Death, and Soul Murder
Readings: Brown, Reaper’s Garden, 157-end.
*No class on Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving Break)
Week #15 (Dec. 2, 4) Slavery and Memory II
Topic A Public Narratives of Slavery in American Historic Sites and Elsewhere
Ira Berlin, “Coming to Terms with Slavery in Twenty-First-Century America,” David W. Blight, “If You Don’t Tell It Like It Was, It Can Never Be as It Ought to Be,” James Oliver Horton, “Slavery in American History: An Uncomfortable National Dialogue,” and John Michael Vlach, “The Last Great Taboo Subject: Exhibiting Slavery at the Library of Congress,” all in Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, eds. James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton (New York: The New Press, 2006), 1-74.
Focus question: What makes slavery the “tough stuff” of public history? How have and might public history institutions address enslavement?
Topic B: Museums, Memory and Slavery
Anna M. Dempsey, “150 Years Later; Remembering Africa in the Musuem,” in Africa and its Diasporas: Memory, Public History & Representations of the Past, eds. Audra A. Diptee and David V. Trotman (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2012), 217-247; Alan Rice, Creating Memorials, Building Identities; The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010), 1-31; Temi-Tope Odumosu, “Exhibiting Difference: A Curatorial Journey with George Alexander Gratton, the ‘Spotted Negro Boy,” in Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements, eds. Laurajane Smith et al. (London: Routledge, 2011), 175-193 [Reserve].
Focus question: How have museums and other public sites grappled with the challenges of memorializing the experiences of enslaved Africans?