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Atlantic History The Black Atlantic in the Age of Revolutions
by
Roderick McDonald, Michelle Craig McDonald

Introduction

Between 1630 and 1780 at least five Africans landed in Britain’s Atlantic empire for every two Europeans, and between 1700 and 1780 the ratio increased to 4 to 1. Such demographics gave shape to a Black Atlantic world during the age of revolutions and established the history of the nearly twelve million Africans who crossed the Atlantic Ocean between the 16th and the 19th centuries as central to the field of Atlantic history. Whereas early Black Atlantic studies tended to focus on the economic and demographic importance of the African diaspora to the Atlantic’s northern and western shores, with some attention to slave rebellion, more recent studies have considered the cultural impact of African community and family structures, language and artistic expression, labor, and resistance. Black Atlantic history finds analytic strength in its separation from national historiographies, for while transatlantic perspectives on colonialism, imperialism, and slavery still rely more on frameworks bounded by European states and nations, Black Atlantic scholarship crosses British, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Danish boundaries in understanding the complex history of Africans and their descendants within a broader Atlantic context.

General Overviews

The earliest Black Atlantic studies focused on the Atlantic slave trade, plantation economies, and slave rebellion. Over the last two decades, however, the field has broadened considerably to explore a diverse range of issues, such as the construction of social and family structures, gender relations, and cultural retention and creolization. Gilroy 1993 remains the standard against which subsequent definitions and analyses of the Black Atlantic are measured. Roach 1996 poses the most direct challenge to Gilroy’s model, arguing that the concept of the Black Atlantic originated in European conceptions of race well before the Atlantic slave trade. Other authors endeavor to apply a Black Atlantic model rather than debate its definition. Walvin 2000, for example, explores the role of Britain in the slave trade and subsequent diaspora, while the edited collections Solow 1991 and Hine and McLeod 1999 provide excellent comparative case studies of the experiences of black peoples in various locations throughout the Americas. Finally, Hamilton 2006 and Azevedo 2005 focus on the impact of the diaspora from an African perspective, while Smallwood 2008 uses the transatlantic slave trade to understand how both European and African influences came together to create a Black Atlantic world.

  • Azevedo, Mario, ed. Africana Studies: A Survey of Africa and the African Diaspora. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005.

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    First published in 1993. Divided into five parts that cover the state of Africana studies, the evolution of black history, the contributions of black peoples, the present and future status of diaspora peoples, and the societies and values of the Black Atlantic. Includes a thorough chronology of events and several useful maps.

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  • Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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    The Black Atlantic, which Gilroy separates from Anglo-Atlantic and African American studies, produced a double consciousness shaped by the slave trade, slavery, and developing racial ideologies as well as a shifting cultural identity unfettered by nation or empire.

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  • Hamilton, Ruth Simms. Routes of Passage: Rethinking the African Diaspora. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2006.

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    This broad introduction contains essays on migration and relationships between Africa and the various sites of its diaspora. Strong on class, gender, nationality, race issues, and the global perspective.

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  • Hine, Darlene Clark, and Jacqueline McLeod, eds. Crossing Boundaries: Comparative History of Black People in Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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    Useful essays on identity and culture, domination, and resistance from a social history perspective, with a particularly strong introduction comparing the historiographies of various Atlantic diaspora studies.

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  • Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

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    A reinterpretation of Paul Gilroy’s conception of the Black Atlantic (Gilroy 1993) through an examination of performance, especially in London and New Orleans, that draws extensively on literary theory and integrates literature, theater history, and cultural studies to explain past and present constructions of race, class, gender, and power.

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  • Smallwood, Stephanie E. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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    A fine study that uses both Ghanaian oral tradition and rare English-language source material, especially from the Royal African Company, to examine the impact of the Atlantic slave trade’s Middle Passage on cultural retention. Effectively focuses on a more limited cohort to provide nuance and detail to the experiences of the enslaved.

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  • Solow, Barbara L., ed. Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    An excellent collection of thematic essays on slavery’s significance to Atlantic economic development that offers a good comparative framework, with chapters on Holland, Portugal, Britain, Africa, and France.

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  • Walvin, James. Making of the Black Atlantic: Britain and the African Diaspora. London and New York: Cassell, 2000.

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    Posits the centrality of British participation in the Atlantic slave trade and examines how Africans shaped the Atlantic world through trade, labor and plantation structures, emancipation, and even 20th-century identity and racism. A concise study suitable for an undergraduate Atlantic history course.

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Textbooks and Surveys

The Black Atlantic had few good textbooks or surveys until recently. The volumes in this section are part of a growing scholarship emphasizing the importance of the African experience within the larger Atlantic world or focusing on the Black Atlantic as a discrete subject of study. Mintz and Price 1985 and Shepherd and Beckles 1999 are good broad-based texts for Caribbean history courses, while Harris 1982 and Oboe and Scacchi 2008 place the Black Atlantic in a global perspective, the former offering a thoughtful introduction to diaspora methodologies and the latter speculating about continuing effects of the diaspora to the present day. Gomez 2006 offers a comprehensive comparative approach to the Americas, while Gomez 2005, although less obviously a textbook, has an engaging style and, at just under 250 pages, the brevity to make it a good selection for undergraduate Atlantic, Black Atlantic, or comparative slavery courses. Klooster and Padula 2005, an edited volume, does an excellent job of considering the role of the black experience within the larger Atlantic world, while Dubois and Scott 2009, a recent and welcome addition, focuses specifically on the Black Atlantic by bringing together an impressive array of scholarship that follows Africans’ arrival in the Atlantic world and explores their impact on ideas about freedom, culture, religion, and abolition.

  • Dubois, Laurent, and Julius Scott, eds. Origins of the Black Atlantic. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    This excellent reader brings together previously published work within a single volume, including some well-known essays by prominent scholars, covering the major contributions to an understanding of slavery and the enslaved in the Atlantic world.

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  • Gomez, Michael A. Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Comprehensive and accessible yet brief enough for use in undergraduate classes. The first half explores Africa’s interactions in the ancient and Islamic worlds, while the second considers the Atlantic world of the slave trade, plantation slavery, resistance, and abolition. A useful bibliography of suggested further reading concludes the text.

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  • Gomez, Michael A. Diasporic Africa: A Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

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    A comprehensive survey of the history and experiences of people of African descent outside the African continent whose broad perspective incorporates Europe and North Africa as well as the Americas.

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  • Harris, Joseph E., ed. Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982.

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    An older but still useful and well-balanced collection of diaspora case studies and theory. The first four essays survey the field’s concepts and methods, while St. Clair Drake’s thoughtful epilogue, “Diaspora Studies and Pan-Africanism,” suggests that diaspora studies, while politically useful in anticolonial efforts, lost ground after 1960s decolonization.

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  • Klooster, Wim, and Alfred Padula, eds. The Atlantic World: Essays on Slavery, Migration, and Imagination. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

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    Offers four pairs of essays on the themes of slavery, migration, and imagination that locate the Black Atlantic within the larger Atlantic world between 1500 and 1800. An excellent book for an undergraduate survey course.

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  • Mintz, Sidney W., and Sally Price, eds. Caribbean Contours. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

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    Eight leading scholars in the humanities and the social sciences survey the history, politics, economics, demography, and culture of the Caribbean, providing an authoritative yet accessible introduction to this complex and geographically fragmented region. An excellent undergraduate survey textbook.

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  • Oboe, Annalisa, and Anna Scacchi, eds. Recharting the Black Atlantic: Modern Cultures, Local Communities, Global Connections. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Focuses on the migrations and transformations of black people, practices, and discourses around the Atlantic, drawing connections to the legacy for modern-day issues of identity; political and human rights; and theater, literature, and sports.

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  • Shepherd, Verene, and Hilary Beckles. Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 1999.

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    More than seventy previously published essays exclusively dealing with the Caribbean. Broad coverage that considers many facets of slavery and slave societies, though with a heavier focus on the British West Indies than on the Spanish, French, Dutch, or Danish colonies.

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Bibliographies

Few bibliographies focus specifically on the Black Atlantic, although there are helpful compilations covering archives on the Atlantic world and the history of slavery. The Black Atlantic Artistic Web Project is the most thematically direct bibliographic source and includes information collected by the House of World Cultures, a business division of the Kulturveranstaltungen des Bundes in Berlin GmbH, over the past fifteen years. Miller 1977 is the first of three comprehensive and comparative treatments of literature about slavery and related fields in both Atlantic and global contexts. The Slavery and Abolition annual bibliographic supplement, Miller and Thurston 1982, which appears in the final volume of each publication year, provides an excellent overview of emerging scholarship. Additional bibliographies focus on specific regions or nationalities. Material on Latin American archives and repositories is in Loroña 1992, the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, and the Handbook of Latin American Studies. Caribbean scholarship is collected in Comitas 1977 and more recently in Don Mitchell’s Mitchell’s West Indian Bibliography.

  • Black Atlantic Artistic Web Project.

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    Includes teaching suggestions, films, and an online library of recommended reading listed by publication year. Divided into six themes: Crossings; History, Historicity, Counter-History, Counter-Memory; Diaspora and Improvisation; Soundings; Image World of the Black Atlantic; and European Futures. Particular focus on German scholarship.

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    • Comitas, Lambros. The Complete Caribbeana, 1900–1975: A Bibliographic Guide to the Scholarly Literature. 4 vols. Millwood, NY: Kraus Thomson Organization, 1977.

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      Vol. 1, Peoples; vol. 2, Institutions; vol. 3, Resources; vol. 4, Indexes. A topically organized bibliographic database with over seventeen thousand references to monographs, readers, scholarly papers, dissertations, theses, journal articles, reports, pamphlets, and so forth. Digitally accessible through the Comitas Institute of Anthropological Study.

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    • Handbook of Latin American Studies. 1939–.

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      A bibliography of Latin American works edited by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, alternating annually between the social sciences and the humanities. Available in print, CD-ROM (produced and updated by the Fundación Histórica Tavera), and on the Internet (sponsored by the Hispanic Division, Library of Congress).

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      • Loroña, Lionel V. Bibliography of Latin American and Caribbean Bibliographies: Annual Report. Vol. 31, 1991–1992. New Orleans, LA: Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, 1992.

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        The fourth edition of this publication. Prior editions cover scholarship in 1983–1984 (published in 1984), 1987–1988 (published in 1988), and 1989–1990 (published in 1990). No recent updates but includes some bibliographies for smaller institutions not found elsewhere.

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      • Miller, Joseph C. Slavery: A Comparative Teaching Bibliography. Honolulu, HI: Crossroads, 1977.

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        Comprehensive and fully annotated lists of publications about slavery, first reviewing the literature through the mid-1970s. Offers useful overviews of foundational historiography.

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      • Miller, Joseph C., and Thomas Thurston. “Slavery: Annual Bibliographic Supplement.” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies (1982–).

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        Formerly Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Comparative Studies. Excellent annual reviews of all scholarship on any topic relating to slavery published in the preceding year that not only consolidate disparate publications into one reference resource but also permit easy comparison of trends in topics over time.

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      • Mitchell, Don. Mitchell’s West Indian Bibliography.

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        Now in its ninth edition, a massive private bibliography that includes both published and primary source material on Caribbean history covering all topics. Collected over the past decade and a half and organized alphabetically by author’s last name or by title if the author is unknown.

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        • Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM). 1952–.

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          Assembles and disseminates bibliographic information about all types of Latin American publications and the development of library collections of Latin Americana. Website includes links to special collections, libraries, and additional bibliographies as well as a list of collections data on Latin Americana from 1992 to the present.

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          Journals

          While no journals focus specifically on the Black Atlantic, studies appear in a number of periodicals concerned with early American, Caribbean, Latin American, African American, and African studies. Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies and Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History offer the broadest geographic and chronological range. The former is the only journal devoted entirely to the history of slavery and has published several important special issues as well as an annual bibliographic review of new literature. The latter began as one of the principal English-language journals of Latin American, Spanish borderlands, and Iberian history and now publishes on Atlantic history more broadly, including the impact and repercussions on Africa and Africans. Similarly, the New West India Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids provides the most comprehensive overview of new scholarship in Caribbean history. Excellent historiographical essays and literature reviews appear in both history and literary journals. Atlantic Studies: Literary, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives, a relatively new journal published since 2004, does not focus specifically on the Black Atlantic, but several articles on the subject have been published, including a 2009 special issue on the role of Britain. Literary scholars might be especially interested in the 2002 and 2003 special issues of Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies as well as American Literary History.

          Manuscript Guides

          Several older printed manuscript guides still provide the best overviews of archival holdings, though they are primarily organized by geographic region rather than by Black Atlantic perspectives. Ingram 2000 is required reading for any scholar beginning research in the Caribbean, while the Archives Nationales 1984 and Covington 1992 provide similar coverage for French and Latin American repositories, respectively. The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition maintains an extensive online list of bibliographies and primary document collections on slavery, Africa, Brazil, the West Indies, and Latin America.

          • Archives Nationales (France). Guide des sources de l’histoire de l’Amérique latine et des Antilles dans les Archives françaises. Paris: Archives Nationales, 1984.

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            This French-language guide to archival sources on Latin American and Caribbean history in French repositories has a broader reach than the Black Atlantic but offers a good survey of available manuscript collections.

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          • Covington, Paula H., ed. Latin America and the Caribbean: A Critical Guide to Research Sources. New York: Greenwood, 1992.

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            More than six thousand bibliographic and research sources from specialized collections and resources in U.S. research libraries. Includes a general chapter on interdisciplinary sources and fourteen chapters covering the social sciences and the humanities, each with an introductory essay, a bibliography, and a description of relevant archives.

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          • Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University.

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            Part of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale and dedicated to the investigation and dissemination of knowledge concerning all aspects of slavery. Features a keyword-searchable document database as well as an excellent bibliography of additional online resources.

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            • Ingram, Kenneth E. N. Manuscript Sources for the History of the West Indies. Kingston, Jamaica: University Press of the West Indies, 2000.

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              A comprehensive survey of manuscript materials on West Indian history in archives throughout the world. An excellent guide to Caribbean, Atlantic, and Black Atlantic sources, superbly annotated and referenced.

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            Autobiographies

            Accounts of the lives of Olaudah Equiano (Equiano 2003) and Mary Prince (Prince 2004) offer personal and intimate perspectives on the Black Atlantic and are required reading in many high school and college courses. Several other autobiographies, however, have been published and expand the range of voices and experiences available from such personal accounts. Cugoano 1999 and Sancho 1998 both comment on abolition, the former offering one of the strongest condemnations of slavery and the slave trade by an author of African descent and the latter the life story of a Native American African author with a special interest in the Christian missionary efforts linked to African colonization. The autobiographies of Juan Francisco Manzano (Manzano 1996), a Cuban slave later turned poet, and Ashton Warner (Warner and Moodie 1831), who describe slavery in the Lesser Antilles colony of Saint Vincent, are unique to the two islands.

            • Cugoano, Quobna Ottobah. Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery and Other Writings. Edited by Vincent Carretta. New York: Penguin, 1999.

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              African-born Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped at the age of thirteen, sold into slavery, and transported across the Atlantic, where he worked on West Indian plantations before being freed in England. His writings, composed after his manumission, are an eloquent condemnation and direct criticism of slavery from the pen of an African.

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            • Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Edited by Vincent Carretta. New York: Penguin, 2003.

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              Originally published in 1995. Of the many and various editions of Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavas Vassa, the African, Carretta’s is the most valuable and accessible because of its comprehensive framing essays and rich scholarly apparatus.

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            • Manzano, Juan Francisco. The Autobiography of a Slave/Autobiografia de un Esclavo. Translated by Evelyn Picon Garfield. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1996.

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              Manzano, an urban slave who taught himself to read and write and who ultimately achieved fame as a poet in Cuba’s colonial slave society, wrote the only known autobiographical account of Hispanic American slavery.

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            • Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave. Edited by Sara Salih. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2004.

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              This is a rare and important biographical account because it presents a woman’s perspective on the Black Atlantic world. Prince lived in Bermuda and the Caribbean before moving with her owners to London, where she secured her freedom. She describes the perils of slave women’s lives, sexual oppression, violence, labor, and family relations.

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            • Sancho, Ignatius. Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African. Edited by Vincent Carretta. New York: Penguin, 1998.

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              Sancho’s life story, from his beginnings as a slave to his rise to fame and notoriety in Britain. Includes his thoughts on race and politics and confronts both British imperialism and the complicity of Africans in the slave trade.

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            • Warner, Ashton, and Susanna Moodie. Negro Slavery Described by a Negro: Being the Narrative of Ashton Warner, a Native of St. Vincent’s. London: Samuel Maunder, 1831.

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              Account of Ashton Warner who was freed but later reenslaved. He then fled the Caribbean to England, where he sued his former owner and that man’s estate for freedom. He related his story to Susanna Moodie, a British abolitionist.

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            Firsthand Accounts

            The number of edited editions of firsthand accounts has increased significantly in the past two decades. Many combine more familiar names, such as Olaudah Equiano or Mary Prince, noted in Autobiographies, with lesser-known figures. Distinct from biographies, these writings are less about the authors’ lives than their cultural, religious, or political beliefs. Carretta 1996, for example, offers a rich collection of numerous well-known and lesser-known black authors. Gates and Andrews 1998 and Brooks and Saillant 2002 shed light not only on African reinterpretations of Christianity but also on the tensions that emerged between Atlantic peoples, in this case between Africans and Native Americans. Potkay and Burr 1995 likewise focus on religion but more fully develop the relationship between Africans’ adaptations of Christianity and their evangelical writing. Curtin 1967 and Foster 1993 offer more secular collections of African diaspora authors, with Foster 1993 providing a rare look at African American women writers. Finally, Gerzina 2001 uses black authors to argue for increased mobility and consequent self-possession within slavery beyond that previously thought possible. The number of such publications will undoubtedly increase with the growing interest in both literary studies and the history of the book, and they promise to be valuable resources for historians and literary scholars.

            • Brooks, Joanna, and John Saillant, eds. “Facing Zion Forward”: First Writers of the Black Atlantic, 1785–1798. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002.

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              Includes work from eight black writers, four well known and annotated in previously published work and four less documented—a strength of the volume. While not strictly the first black writers of the Atlantic, these authors collectively represent ideas about race in the contexts of abolition and African colonization.

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            • Carretta, Vincent, ed. Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-Speaking World of the Eighteenth Century. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.

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              A collection of nearly twenty 18th-century black writers. Some, like Olaudah Equiano, are well known, but others, like Francis Williams, a poet, or Johnson Green, a soldier during the American Revolution, are less so. The volume lacks biographical information on the authors but contains an important cache of writings with Black Atlantic themes.

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            • Curtin, Philip D., ed. Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967.

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              One of the first published collections of Black Atlantic and African writers. Includes ten West Africans’ narratives about the slave trade and slavery, eight from former slaves, and covers reactions to African slavery, the Middle Passage, and efforts to preserve cultural and religious traditions. Republished by Waveland Press in 1997.

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            • Foster, Frances Smith. Written by Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746–1892. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1993.

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              A rare collection of literature by African American women, from the oral histories of Alice, a slave born in 1686, to the antebellum writings of Jarena Lee and Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert. Focused on North America but well contextualized and annotated.

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            • Gates, Henry Lewis, Jr., and William L. Andrews, eds. Pioneers of the Black Atlantic: Five Slave Narratives from the Enlightenment, 1772–1815. Washington, DC: Civitas, 1998.

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              These five pieces represent a wide range of opinions and perspectives on black life and thought in the 18th century. Some are well known, others less so, and they include James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, John Marrant, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and John Jea. Topics range from religion to the slave trade.

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            • Gerzina, Gretchen Holbrook. “Mobility in Chains: Freedom of Movement in the Early Black Atlantic.” South Atlantic Quarterly100.1 (2001): 41–59.

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              Uses the works of 18th-century black authors to illustrate their surprising mobility within the English-speaking world. Focuses specifically on how their accounts moved away from white authorial conventions of travel writing.

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            • Potkay, Adam, and Sandra Burr, eds. Black Atlantic Writers of the Eighteenth Century: Living the New Exodus in England and the Americas. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.

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              Edited collection of four narratives and a sermon published between 1774 and 1789 by writers who crossed the Atlantic from West Africa to the West Indies or from the American colonies to Britain. These included Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, John Marrant, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, and Olaudah Equiano, with all but Equiano currently out of print.

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            Document Collections

            Several published readers, databases, and web resources offer extensive compilations of primary source materials, especially for the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, that are useful for research and classroom teaching. Some, such as Northrup 2008, focus directly on the Black Atlantic and include document headnotes, a chronology of key events, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and additional pedagogical support, while others, like Games and Rothman 2007, devote a significant portion of their survey to Black Atlantic concerns. Both Engerman, et al. 2001 and Peabody and Grinberg 2007 focus primarily on the Black Atlantic through the lens of slavery, the latter with important chapters on emancipation and the law. Conrad 1994, which focuses on Brazil, counterbalances a field still somewhat skewed toward the British Atlantic. Additional valuable material has appeared in electronic formats, such as the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s History by Era and the Schomburg Center’s In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience. Handler and Tuite’s Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in America offers an accessible and useful keyword-searchable database of images about the black experience throughout the Americas.

            • Conrad, Robert Edgar. Children of God’s Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

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              A comprehensive set of documents, well contextualized by the author, that explore the slave trade, plantation and mining slavery, relationships between the races, the role of Catholicism, law and punishment, and abolition in Brazil; ranges from the early 15th century to 1888.

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            • Engerman, Stanley, Seymour Drescher, and Robert Paquette, eds. Slavery. Oxford Readers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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              Although its perspective is broader than the Black Atlantic, this reader combines excerpts from important scholarship with selected primary documents, some familiar and others little known. Focuses primarily on the Americas but considers slavery in other societies in the classical world, Africa, Asia, and the modern era.

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            • Games, Alison, and Adam Rothman, eds. Major Problems in Atlantic History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

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              Charts Atlantic interactions among North America, South America, Africa, and Europe, with particular emphasis on migration, economics, slavery, and independence. The chapters on migration, the twilight of slavery, and legacies are of particular interest to Black Atlantic scholars.

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            • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. History by Era: Slavery and Abolition.

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              Includes podcasts by leading historians, a keyword-searchable primary source database, and special issues of the institute’s journal, History Now, such as “Primary Sources on Slavery” (no. 2, 2004) and “African Immigration to North America” (no. 3, 2005). Although the principal focus is on North America, the document database is broader.

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              • Handler, Jerome S., and Michael L. Tuite Jr.The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and University of Virginia.

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                Approximately 1,235 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery, that are envisioned as a resource for teachers, researchers, students, and the general public.

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                • Northrup, David, ed. Crosscurrents in the Black Atlantic, 1770–1965: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.

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                  Contains a collection of primary sources on the social, political, and intellectual interactions of black people around the Atlantic and their efforts for advancement, liberation, and emancipation. Takes a broad perspective on ideas and extends the chronology from the colonial period through Caribbean political independence.

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                • Peabody, Sue, and Keila Grinberg. Slavery, Freedom, and the Law in the Atlantic World: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007.

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                  Contains a short interpretive section plus a collection of primary sources that compare the enslaved and post-emancipation experiences of people of African descent in the French, British, Spanish, and Portuguese Atlantic.

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                • Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, New York Public Library">New York Public Library. In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience.

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                  A website that looks at self-motivated activities of peoples of African descent in remaking themselves and their worlds. It emphasizes the movement of Africans, including the forced migration of the Atlantic slave trade, and uses images, texts, maps, and educational materials to explore the histories of the African diaspora.

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                  Defining the Black Atlantic

                  The term “Black Atlantic” emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, was developed further in the 1960s as part of the civil rights movement, and remains an important analytic concept for understanding the unifying experiences of African peoples dispersed throughout the world and across national boundaries. Black Atlantic scholarship has traced this African diaspora and the role of people of African descent in transforming and creating cultures, institutions, and ideas outside of Africa. Herskovits 1990 provides a substantial critique of earlier scholarship that posited that African Americans had been stripped of their culture during the Middle Passage. Instead, Herskovits argues that West Africans shared a fairly homogenous culture that was transferred to North America though language, music, religion, and family structure. James 2001 and Williams 1994 also rely on and expand the notion of an integrated transatlantic world, the former in political ideology and the latter in economics. Mintz and Price 1976, while sharing Herskovits’s ideas about African retention, argues for greater heterogeneity among African peoples and suggests that an anthropological approach might provide a more theoretical grounding for understanding cultural systems and patterns. Engerman and Genovese 1975 responds to the Mintz and Price 1976 call, though less with theory than with application, providing one of the earliest collections of quantitative analyses on the slave trade and its demographic, social, and cultural consequences. Recent scholarship has stressed the heterogeneity of the African past, most notably Thornton 1998 and Mullin 1992, arguing for variety in African cultural antecedents, and has placed greater emphasis on intra-African rather than African-European exchanges.

                  • Engerman, Stanley L., and Eugene D. Genovese, eds. Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.

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                    An early and important essay collection of quantitatively based studies divided into categories covering the slave trade, demography, the free and enslaved urban experience, and post-emancipation responses as well as a thoughtful concluding essay. Despite wide-ranging topics and a heavy reliance on statistical data, most essays are very accessible.

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                  • Herskovits, Melville J. The Myth of the Negro Past. Boston: Beacon, 1990.

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                    First published in 1941. An important critique of historiographies positing that black Americans had no past when they arrived in North America. Herskovits argues that West African culture survived in language, religion, music, and family structure. A controversial and now dated analysis, it nevertheless remains a foundational text.

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                  • James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. London: Penguin, 2001.

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                    First published in 1938. A pioneering study of the impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Caribbean and in France that emphasizes the dynamic and creative role of the Afro-Haitian population and the enduring influence of their revolutionary agenda on subsequent independence movements

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                  • Mintz, Sidney W., and Richard Price. An Anthropological Approach to the Afro-American Past: A Caribbean Perspective. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1976.

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                    Republished as The Birth of African American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (Boston: Beacon, 1992). A canonical text in Black Atlantic and creolization studies that moves beyond Herskovits’s 1990 analysis of cultural retention or loss to argue that Africans in the Americas remade themselves and their world as they addressed the circumstances they faced on the Atlantic’s western shores.

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                  • Mullin, Michael. Africa in America: Slave Acculturation and Resistance in the American South and the British Caribbean, 1736–1831. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

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                    A provocative effort to link the level of assimilation among American slaves with the forms of resistance they displayed. Incorporates a rather overdrawn contrast between Caribbean and U.S. slave cultures, the former of which Mullin argues was less influenced by European practices.

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                  • Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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                    First published in 1992. This pioneering work argues that the culturally diverse West African nations and peoples were vital to the success of European Atlantic colonization. It has stimulated much scholarship on African retentions in the Americas. The 2008 edition has a new last chapter on African interactions in the 18th century.

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                  • Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

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                    Williams argues that slavery and the slave trade created the capital and conditions necessary to finance Europe’s Industrial Revolution but that this very modernization of labor and financing ultimately undermined slave-based economies. The profitability of slavery and its relationship to modernization has been hotly debated ever since.

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                  Diaspora Studies

                  In the last ten years, a generation of scholars has revisited the definition of the Black Atlantic with fruitful results. Less often is the debate about cultural retention and loss than about the process of cultural formation, its chronology, and its continued impact beyond the abolition of the slave trade and slavery; see Morgan and Hawkins 2004 and Okpewho, et al. 2001. Meanwhile, an interdisciplinary group of scholars from literature, culture, and history has offered brief and insightful retrospectives on the field. Chrisman 2000, Zeleza 2005, and Simonsen 2008 are concise yet comprehensive analyses of the Black Atlantic’s past and future as well as its relationship to the African diaspora and to the colonial and postcolonial worlds more broadly. Manning 2009 and the Museum of the African Diaspora apply these same questions about the future of the field more directly to contemporary global events.

                  • Chrisman, Laura. “Rethinking Black Atlanticism.” Black Scholar 30 (2000): 12–17.

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                    A brief but engaging assessment of Black Atlanticism and postcolonial studies in relation to black and African nationalism. Suggests that postcolonial studies focused on the relationship between colonized and colonizer and Black Atlantic scholarship on the relationship between colonized Africa and black diaspora New World communities.

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                  • Manning, Patrick. The African Diaspora: A History through Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

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                    A important methodological advance that organizes by theme rather than by region of origin or destination (1) the connections that enabled Africans to mutually identify and hold together as a global community, (2) discourses on race, (3) changes in economic circumstance, (4) the character of family life, and (5) the evolution of popular culture.

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                  • Morgan, Philip D., and Sean Hawkins, eds. Black Experience and the Empire. Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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                    Thirteen substantive essays and a stage-setting introduction range from West Africa in the 16th century, through the history of the slave trade and slavery down to the 1830s, to the 19th- and 20th-century participation of blacks in the empire as workers, soldiers, members of colonial elites, intellectuals, athletes, and musicians.

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                  • Museum of the African Diaspora.

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                    An international museum based in San Francisco committed to showcasing the “best of the best” from the African diaspora. Features online exhibitions on Black Atlantic religion, culinary traditions, music, dress, and theater.

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                  • Okpewho, Isidore, Carole Boyce Davies, and Ali A. Mazrui, eds. African Diaspora: African Origins and New World Identities. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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                    Thirty-three essays engage two key perspectives on the nature and character of New World black cultures. The first is that Africa is the homeland of all blacks and defines their identity, the second is that black culture in the diaspora owes more to the hybrid world that has become home rather than to ancestral origins.

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                  • Simonsen, Gunvor. “Moving in Circles: African and Black History in the Atlantic World.” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos (2008): 2–12.

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                    A nicely presented, accessible, and thoughtful critique of Black Atlantic publications placed in the context of historiographical trends of the past half century.

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                  • Zeleza, Paul Tiyambe. “Rewriting the African Diaspora: Beyond the Black Atlantic.” African Affairs 104 (2005): 35–68.

                    DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adi001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Argues that despite the growing popularity of African diaspora studies, scholarship remains limited by both conceptual difficulties of defining the diaspora and the analytical tendency to privilege the Atlantic and especially the Anglophone Atlantic.

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                  Ethnicity and Identity

                  Building on John Thornton’s model of West African heterogeneity, historians have spent less time debating cultural retention or loss during the past two decades than exploring the construction and reproduction of diaspora identities. Some works, such as Sweet 2003 and Hall 1992, do so through specific geographic studies. Bolster 1998 and Byrd 2008, by contrast, trace connections through maritime professions and relocations, while Landers 1996 and Naro, et al. 2007 work with a broader canvas—free black communities and Portuguese colonies, respectively—and follow their subjects of study throughout the Atlantic. Falola and Childs 2005 and Mann and Bay 2001 work in a similar vein, though from a West African vantage point. What ties these works together is their emphasis on the importance of former homelands to Africans in the Americas and their instrumentality in developing transplanted identities. Ethnicity, they argue, has an enduring and key role in shaping and guiding thought, behavior, and group formation.

                  • Bolster, W. Jeffrey. Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

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                    An engaging account of African American seafarers from the 1740s to the 1860s that argues for the centrality of tens of thousands of African American sailors to the maritime labor force and the shaping of mariner culture as well as their influence on the identity of free black communities.

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                  • Byrd, Alexander X.. Captives and Voyagers: Black Migrants across the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.

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                    An ambitious project plotting the journeys of black people back and forth across the Atlantic. Links the experiences of the enslaved millions taken west with free black voyagers returning to Africa and suggests parallels in both shipboard experiences and the effects of journey and settlement on black life and community along the Atlantic seaboard.

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                  • Falola, Toyin, and Matt D. Childs, eds. The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

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                    A compilation looking at enslavement, the Middle Passage, the American experience, and the return to Africa from the perspective of one cultural group. Various disciplinary perspectives explore the slave trade and slavery, the transformation of Yoruba identity and culture, and strategies for resistance.

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                  • Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo. Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

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                    Moving several steps beyond survival or adaptation, Hall’s creative book credits Africans with saving struggling French Louisiana through the introduction of their cultivation practices and their martial skills. Valuable appendices on inventories, French slave trade statistics, and African criminal records that Hall mines for demographic and naming patterns.

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                  • Landers, Jane G., ed. Against the Odds: Free Blacks in the Slave Societies of the Americas. London: Frank Cass, 1996.

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                    Free persons of African descent developed a wide range of responses to new social, political, and economic challenges. This important collection, most of which is essays by leading scholars, compares free black populations within the Senegalese, British, French, Spanish, and Dutch slave systems.

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                  • Mann, Kristin, and Edna G. Bay, eds. Rethinking the African Diaspora: The Making of a Black Atlantic World in the Bight of Benin and Brazil. London: Frank Cass, 2001.

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                    Focuses on the most heavily traveled route of the Atlantic slave trade. Addresses the dichotomy between African cultural retention and loss and posits an ongoing reinvention and reinterpretation of Afro-Brazilian identity. Authored by an eclectic cohort of Luso-African scholars.

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                  • Naro, Nancy Priscilla, Roger Sansi-Roca, and David H. Treece, eds. Cultures of the Lusophone Black Atlantic. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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                    A collection of essays, including a number of microstudies of particular regions in Brazil or West Africa, that looks closely at cultural connections between both sides of the Atlantic and how they have influenced ideas about sexuality, citizenship, religion, and conceptions of multiculturalism up to the present.

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                  • Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

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                    Argues that the process of creolization among West Central Africans in colonial Brazil happened gradually and was influenced primarily by intra-African exchanges rather than exchanges between Africans and Europeans.

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                  Biographies

                  Recent publications have both challenged and expanded traditional interpretations of such narratives. Carretta 2007, for example, argues that Olaudah Equiano’s narrative is best understood as an abolitionist tract rather than a true biography but nevertheless reaffirms the power of individuals’ stories, whether they are manufactured or literal. Other authors use individual lives to illustrate how Africans negotiated their place in the Atlantic world. Fortin 2007 and Sensbach 2005 demonstrate the intersection of religion and abolitionism. Sparks 2004 also focuses on abolition but emphasizes the transient and uncertain nature of the geography of slavery rather than faith. Law and Lovejoy 2007 is similarly transatlantic in its retelling of the story of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, who journeyed throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Montejo and Barnet 1994, though on the surface the story of one man and the one island of Cuba, serves a larger purpose as an account of how slavery introduced African culture into the Caribbean.

                  • Carretta, Vincent. Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man. New York: Penguin, 2007.

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                    Carretta’s controversial claim that Olaudah Equiano was a South Carolinian and not an African ignited a scholarly debate about biography and historical authenticity, but for Carretta disparities between self-portrayal and reality only increase Equiano’s importance as this vocal and prominent abolitionist navigated the complex, overlapping worlds of the Black Atlantic.

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                  • Fortin, Jeffrey A. “Cuffe’s Black Atlantic World, 1808–1817.” Atlantic Studies 4.2 (2007): 245–266.

                    DOI: 10.1080/14788810701510803Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Examines how Paul Cuffe, a man of Native American and African descent, developed his views on the colonization and Christianization of West Africa and considers his interactions with the American Colonization Society, abolitionists in Great Britain, and African American leaders. Excellent perspective on the Black Atlantic during abolition.

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                  • Law, Robin, and Peter E. Lovejoy, eds. The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America. 2d ed. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2007.

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                    A truly transatlantic tale; the biography of an American slave who was born in Africa. His adventures brought him to Rio de Janeiro, New York, Boston, Canada, and Britain, where his linguistic facility in Arabic and Dendi and probably in Hausa, Portuguese, English, and French helped him navigate these various points of the Black Atlantic compass.

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                  • Montejo, Esteban, and Miguel Barnet. Biography of a Runaway Slave. Translated by W. Nick Hill. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone, 1994.

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                    A Cuban poet, novelist, and anthropologist, Barnet recounts the life of Esteban Montejo, a slave who became a fugitive and later served as a soldier in Cuba’s war for independence.

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                  • Sensbach, Jon F. Rebecca’s Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

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                    The story of Rebecca Protten, a freed slave in the Danish colony of Saint Thomas who became a Moravian missionary and traveled to Europe and Africa. Sensbach argues that, at a time when thousands of Africans were transported west as slaves, Rebecca was a “reverse cultural bridge” (p. 133) who moved east and adapted Christianity to her own needs.

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                  • Sparks, Randy J. Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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                    Based on letters by two brothers from a Bight of Biafra slave-trading family who were captured by another slave-trading clan and taken as slaves to Dominica and Virginia before being freed in England and returning to Africa. Melding history and biography, this is an excellent study of the Black Atlantic from the perspective of individuals.

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                  Literary Treatments

                  While earlier Black Atlantic scholarship rarely moved beyond the late 19th century and the end of slavery in the Americas, literary and cultural scholars have engaged questions that cross centuries and consider continuities between the past and the present. Campbell 2006 and Carretta and Gould 2001 both explore how race, gender, and ethnic origins shaped literary production in the 18th and 19th centuries. Beidler and Taylor 2003 applies this same sense of continuity between the past and the present to its study of the construction of race today, while Eckstein 2006 does so for questions about identity and memory. M’Baye 2009 is also interested in memory, though predominantly oral rather than written. This creative new account follows the centuries-old trickster tales into the contemporary literature of the Americas. Many of these new works, however, and particularly the literary studies, focus predominantly on the English-speaking Atlantic.

                  • Beidler, Phillip, and Gary Taylor, eds. Writing Race across the Atlantic World, 1492–1763. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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                    Ten essays on American and British literature that explore the construction and adaptation by early modern writers of cultural categories of race, such as brown, red, and white, African American and Afro-Caribbean, Spanish and Jewish, English and Celtic, Native American and northern European, Creole and mestizo.

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                  • Campbell, Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus. Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic: From Pre- to Postcolonial. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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                    A response to Paul Gilroy 1993 that locates the origins of the Black Atlantic in the Middle Passage. Campbell contends that the precolonial foundations laid in medieval and early Renaissance English literary constructions of blackness and Africa structured Caribbean literature from the 18th century through the postcolonial era.

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                  • Carretta, Vincent, and Philip Gould, eds. Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

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                    An excellent collection of essays with two sections, one on race and gender, the other on market culture and racial authority, that shows black authors discussing race and ethnicity in the second half of the 18th century, well before the discourse by more familiar 19th-century abolitionist writers.

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                  • Eckstein, Lars. Re-Membering the Black Atlantic: On the Poetics and Politics of Literary Memory. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

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                    Explores how literature and memory intersect using three important Black Atlantic novels: Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge (1992), David Dabydeen’s A Harlot’s Progress (1999), and Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987). Despite methodological differences, Eckstein contends that these works share a creative amnesia that permits creation of a collective black identity.

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                  • M’Baye, Babacar. The Trickster Comes West: Pan-African Influence in Early Black Diasporan Narratives. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.

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                    Imaginatively examines the work of Black Atlantic writers, including Phyllis Wheatley, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, Elizabeth Hart Thwaites, Anne Hart Gilbert, and Mary Prince, for evidence of the use of Pan-African trickster icons as strategies of resistance that exposed racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.

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                  Cultural Impact

                  Thompson 1983 was one of the first scholars in any field to use the phrase “Black Atlantic” in his seminal study on art history in the black Americas. It has remained in publication ever since and is still a formative influence for African diaspora scholars, particularly those interested in aesthetic forms. Cultural and material studies of the Black Atlantic developed over the subsequent two decades but have recently proliferated, becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the field and exploring in myriad ways how Africans and African traditions shaped Atlantic material culture, political expression, and religion from the colonial era to the present. Ogundiran and Falola 2007 and Katz-Hyman 2008 both explore the material legacy of the Black Atlantic, the former surveying archaeological evidence in both Africa and the Americas, while the latter uses one object—an abolitionist jug—to understand the intersection of morality and materiality. Matory 2005 uses religion to trace the creolization of Black Atlantic religion through the case study of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Wilson 2009 and Gosse 2008 also both focus on black identity though using politics as their lenses, the former in Jamaican Maroon communities and the latter in a broader-based British Atlantic arena. Dibie and Njoku 2005 and Gilroy 2010 take these arguments up to the present, the former exploring the cultural implications of the African diaspora as articulated in contemporary reparations debates and the latter the moral implications of consumer society for Black Atlantic identity.

                  • Dibie, Robert, and Johnston Njoku. “Cultural Perceptions of Africans in Diaspora and in Africa on Atlantic Slave Trade and Reparations.” African and Asian Studies 4.3 (2005): 403–426.

                    DOI: 10.1163/156920905774270457Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    An examination of how Africans both in Africa and in the diaspora embrace the idea of reparations for the descendants of those affected by the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the Americas. Emphasizes cultural aspects.

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                  • Gilroy, Paul. Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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                    Considers how consumer behavior, particularly regarding luxury goods and musical traditions, has diverted African Americans’ political and social goals by emphasizing individuality and has stratified society at the expense of collective action and group identity.

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                  • Gosse, Van. “‘As a Nation, the English Are Our Friends’: The Emergence of African American Politics in the British Atlantic World, 1772–1861.” American Historical Review 113.4 (2008): 1003–1028.

                    DOI: 10.1086/ahr.113.4.1003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Suggests that black Americans first gained significant political leverage not within the United States but rather around it, in the wider British Empire. Draws on the experiences of both well-known activists, such as Frederick Douglass, and the thousands who expatriated themselves to Canada.

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                  • Katz-Hyman, Martha. “Doing Good While Doing Well: The Decision to Manufacture Products That Supported the Abolition of the Slave Trade and Slavery in Great Britain.” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 29.2 (2008): 219–231.

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                    Traces the introduction of consumer products to support the abolition of slavery that puts the Black Atlantic experience front and center. What distinguishes this article from other abolitionist studies is its focus on the decision-making process of object producers and their efforts to combine conscience with commerce.

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                  • Matory, J. Lorand. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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                    Argues for the mutual transformation of African and African American cultures through the example of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion. Contests both the recent conviction that transnationalism is new and the long-held supposition that African culture endures in the Americas only among the poorest and most isolated of black populations.

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                  • Ogundiran, Akinwumi, and Toyin Falola, eds. Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2007.

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                    Part of the University of Indiana Press series Blacks in the Diaspora and the first book devoted to the archaeology of African life on both sides of the Atlantic. Highlights the importance of historical archaeology in expanding the historical record as it relates to the Atlantic world’s Africans.

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                  • Thompson, Robert Ferris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1983.

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                    Uses “Black Atlantic” to describe religious, aesthetic, and philosophical continuities between West Africans and their American descendants. A seminal contribution to the debate over the timing of cultural retention and loss that includes 169 illustrations and a thorough bibliography on African aesthetic traditions.

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                  • Wilson, Kathleen. “The Performance of Freedom: Maroons and the Colonial Order in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica and the Atlantic Sound.” William and Mary Quarterly 3d ser. 66.1 (2009): 45–86.

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                    Examines how Jamaican Maroon communities used performance to assert their place in the social, political, and military structures between the first and second Maroon Wars (1739–1795), where style of dress and participation in festive performances reflected an ambivalent relationship to British authority, and draws on an African/Atlantic tradition.

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                  LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

                  DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199730414-0009

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