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Atlantic History Emancipation
by
Roderick McDonald, Michelle Craig McDonald

Introduction

The process of emancipation in the Atlantic world spanned most of the 19th century and took a variety of forms. Some, such as Haiti’s 1804 declaration of immediate emancipation and the United States’ Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment, followed long, violent conflicts. Other nations, such as Britain, attempted a more gradual transition to freedom in an effort to prepare both former slaves and slave owners for new social and economic systems. Thereafter, France and Denmark (in 1848), Holland (1863), Puerto Rico (1873), and Cuba (1886) all abolished slavery through combinations of international pressure, religious and moral petitioning, legislative action, and violent confrontations, as did many of the newly independent nations of Latin America. In 1888 Brazil became the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery, though in many ways the process of emancipation itself had just begun. Post-emancipation scholarship starts at abolition and asks not only what factors contributed to slavery’s demise, but also how subsequent freedoms, or denials of freedom, can be measured politically, socially, culturally, and economically. These studies have moved beyond the first few decades of freedom to explore how emancipation experiences contributed to contemporary ideas about liberty and equality, as well as ongoing problems with racial conflict and violence.

General Overviews

Emancipation scholarship has, until recently, been dominated by studies of Britain and the United States. With the rise of comparative and Atlantic studies, however, more work explores similarities and differences between emancipation societies, often finding marked differences depending on when and how emancipation began. Cooper, et al. 2000 and Frey and Wood 1999 take this broad geographic approach. Other studies look at emancipation as a product of late 18th-century ideological developments. Both David Brion Davis 2006 and Drescher 2009 suggest that radical redefinitions of liberty and equality were pivotal to the rise of 19th-century abolition efforts. Additional work focuses on specific regions of Atlantic emancipation. Borritt and Hancock 2007, for example, argues that post-emancipation inequalities in the United States helped create a common “memory of slavery” that united black grassroots mobilization efforts. Darién Davis 2006 likewise explores how concepts of independence and citizenship, as well as exclusion, developed in different Latin American nations, while Holt 1992 considers these themes within the British Empire, and in Jamaica in particular. Other studies have opted for a broader chronology, seeking to place Atlantic slavery and emancipation alongside other systems of slavery in the past, such as Brana-Shute and Sparks 2009, which spans the medieval period through the 19th century.

  • Borritt, Gabor, and Scott Hancock, eds. Slavery, Resistance, Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Primarily concerned with the United States’ antebellum and Reconstruction periods, this collection of essays suggests that African Americans sought to create a common memory of slavery and its immediate aftermath in their subsequent challenges to racial inequality. Includes essays by leading US emancipation scholars, including Ira Berlin, Edward Ayers, and Eric Foner.

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  • Brana-Shute, Rosemary, and Randy J. Sparks, eds. Paths to Freedom: Manumission in the Atlantic World. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2009.

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    While the chronological scope is larger than this project, spanning the medieval period to the 19th century, this collection is broadly comparative geographically, comparing the legacy of manumission in medieval Europe, the Levant, Europe, and Atlantic Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British colonies, as well as the antebellum United States.

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  • Cooper, Frederick, Thomas C. Holt, and Rebecca J. Scott. Beyond Slavery: Explorations of Race, Labor, and Citizenship in Postemancipation Societies. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

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    Three leading historians explore the transition from slavery to freedom throughout the Atlantic. Thomas Holt focuses on emancipation and contested citizenship in Jamaica, Rebecca Scott investigates struggles and cross-racial alliances in southern Louisiana and Cuba, and Frederick Cooper examines the intersection of emancipation and imperialism in French West Africa.

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  • Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Considers the rise and fall of North American slavery within a comparative framework that explores the origins and rise of slavery and the impact of the Age of Revolutions throughout the Americas. The last four chapters are devoted to abolition and emancipation in Britain and the United States.

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  • Davis, Darién J., ed. Beyond Slavery: The Multilayered Legacy of Africans in Latin America and the Caribbean. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.

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    Though primarily composed of work published elsewhere, this volume brings together important work, particularly on post-emancipation Latin American societies. Chapters are loosely organized around three themes: struggles for independence, citizenship, and displacement. A final essay considers race and contemporary media representations.

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  • Drescher, Seymour. Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    An important survey with broad-based geographic and chronological coverage of Atlantic abolition and its impact. Drescher argues that ideological ferment during the Age of Revolutions prompted radical rethinking about slavery at the end of the 18th century, and he then follows these ideas as they were adapted by regions of the Atlantic world. The work is truly comparative in scope.

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  • Frey, Sylvia R., and Betty Wood, eds. From Slavery to Emancipation in the Atlantic World. London: Frank Cass, 1999.

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    Though the title implies a balance between slavery and emancipation, the majority of essays in this collection explore post-emancipation experiences, in particular former slaves’ political and collective activism and the power of historical memory. Case studies explore Brazil, North America, the British Caribbean, and Africa.

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  • Holt, Thomas C. The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832–1938. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

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    An important study that explores the political, economic, and social transitions from slavery to freedom. While most chapters focus on the years during and immediately following apprenticeship, the final essays compare continuities between the Baptist Rebellion of 1831–1832 and labor resistance in 1938.

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Textbooks And Surveys

Several textbooks explore the complicated path from slavery to freedom, though most opt either to focus on specific nations or do comparative analyses. Franklin and Moss 2000 and Bergad 2007 offer the broadest analyses of the region as a whole, with the former exploring experiences in North and South America, the Caribbean and—in the most recent edition—West Africa, and the latter looking at Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. Engerman 2007 is both brief and accessible; it considers United States emancipation in comparative perspective and is a good choice for undergraduate courses. Foner 1988 is a classic study of post-emancipation North America; it suggests that confrontations and inequities during the immediate post-emancipation period continue to reverberate in American race relations today. Klein and Vinson 2007 offers the most comprehensive study of slavery and its aftermath for Latin America and the Caribbean, with particular attention to French, Spanish, and Portuguese regions, while Wilmot 2009 offers an important retrospective on the study of emancipation in the former British West Indies. Standard Atlantic history textbooks, such as Games and Rothman 2007 and Benjamin 2009, also include abolition and emancipation in their final chapters.

  • Benjamin, Thomas. The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans, Indians, and Their Shared History, 1400–1900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Broad-based survey of Atlantic world history. The last three chapters focus on how ideas of liberty and equality spread during the Age of Revolutions, as well as how they shaped debates about and the eventual dissolution of slavery.

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  • Bergad, Laird W. The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    An accessible comparative synthesis of the history of slavery in the three Atlantic regions where it persisted the longest. Includes analyses of the adoption and expansion of slavery in each region, the diversity of slaves’ experiences, and the political processes that led to abolition.

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  • Engerman, Stanley L. Slavery, Emancipation, and Freedom: Comparative Perspectives. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007.

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    Short and accessible, the book considers how slavery evolved in the United States from a global perspective, rather than being truly comparative. More than half of the volume is about North America, but it nonetheless contains a valuable, comprehensive bibliography for both slavery and emancipation.

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  • Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Business, 1863–1877. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

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    A work that redefined how historians viewed Reconstruction, chronicling how Americans—black and white—responded to the changes unleashed by war and the end of slavery. Now a classic work on the post–Civil War period that suggests how legacies of that period still reverberate in the United States today.

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  • Franklin, John Hope, and Alfred A. Moss Jr. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. 8th ed. New York: Knopf, 2000.

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    First published in 1947, this textbook provides a solid overview of slavery, emancipation, and post-emancipation societies in North America, Latin America, and the West Indies, though it is weighted toward the United States, particularly in the chapters on abolition and emancipation. Recent editions have expanded information on Africa.

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  • Games, Alison, and Adam Rothman, eds. Major Problems in Atlantic History: Documents and Essays. 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. Includes an especially strong final chapter on the legacies of slavery.

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  • Klein, Herbert, and Ben Vinson III. African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A strong survey of the economic and social history of slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean, with particular attention to Portuguese, Spanish, and French-speaking regions. The final three chapters deal with resistance, the social and cultural roles of freed men and women, and the adjustment of former slaves to post-emancipation conditions in their respective societies.

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  • Wilmot, Swithin, ed. Freedom: Retrospective and Prospective. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2009.

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    Based on an edited collection of papers initially presented at the University of the West Indies to mark the bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Explores how the legacy of slavery continues to shape contemporary Caribbean experiences, including memorialization, reparations, sovereignty, globalization, gender, education, and migration.

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Journals

Reviews of past journal indexes or search engines such as Historical Abstracts reveal a wealth of recent publication on the history of emancipation. Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, especially the annual bibliographic review, remains the best source for information about new scholarship; information is arranged geographically rather than thematically, so that studies appear under the region under consideration rather than under “emancipation” itself. No other journals focus on emancipation specifically, but material on Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States appears in the Hispanic American Historical Review the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, the Journal of African American History, and The Americas. Two less circulated periodicals, Afro-Ásia and Cuban Studies offer current scholarship on Brazilian and Cuban slave societies. Finally, the History Workshop Journal featured an especially strong special issue on the commemoration of abolition and emancipation in 2007 that blends questions of academic and public history.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are available both in edited collections and, increasingly, online databases, often available by subscription. While such resources offer advanced and junior scholars easy access to significant documents, most pertaining to abolition and emancipation focus on Britain or the United States. Coverage of additional regions of the Atlantic world will ultimately be necessary to provide a balanced overview of the regional importance of slavery and its aftermath.

Collections

A variety of sources pertaining to the histories of emancipation have been collected and published in useful document collections. Some—such as Blassingame, et al. 1980–1984, Ragatz 1932, Ripley, et al. 1985, and the American Colonization Society records—replicate collections more easily available online, but often only by subscription. Berlin, et al. 1982–1993 offers the most comprehensive collection of documentation on African Americans’ post-emancipation experiences in the United States. Vorenburg 2010 and Peabody and Grinberg 2007 offer selected document sets for teaching; both focus on legal questions and debates surrounding emancipation and the definition of freedom, the former for the United States and the latter for the Caribbean. Conrad 1994 remains the definitive primary document collection on Brazilian slavery, with final chapters exploring abolition and its aftermath.

  • American Colonization Society. Records and Photographs of the American Colonization Society. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division and Prints and Photographs Division.

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    Includes American Colonization Society correspondence, reports, and financial papers from 1792 to 1964 covering administrative matters, the status of slaves and freed men and women in the antebellum United States, and the society’s role in founding and colonizing Liberia and supporting Liberian education. Image collection includes five hundred prints, watercolors, and drawings of Liberia and West Africa. Basic information about the collection is available online.

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    • Berlin, Ira, et al., eds. Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867. 5 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982–1993.

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      Explores the varieties of African American slaves’ post-emancipation experiences between the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and the beginning of Radical Reconstruction in 1867. Five of a projected nine volumes are complete and chronicle the decline of slavery, wartime labor, the black military experience, and land redistribution. A larger description of the online project, the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, appears in Databases.

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    • Blassingame, John W., Mae G. Henderson, and Jessica M. Dunn, eds. Antislavery Newspapers and Periodicals. 5 vols. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980–1984.

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      Following publication of his landmark study, Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), Blassingame began compiling a record of the black newspapers published in the 19th century. These five volumes are the annotated index of this work.

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

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      Chapter 10, in particular, deals with abolition and helps balance out the field’s overwhelming emphasis on US and British perspectives.

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    • Peabody, Sue, and Keila Grinberg. Slavery, Freedom, and the Law in the Atlantic World. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007.

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      Contextualized collection of primary sources from the French, British, Spanish, and Portuguese empires. Explores how slaves, slaveholders, jurists, legislators, and others struggled to define, overturn, or simply describe the social order in which they lived. Many documents relate to debates about abolition and critiques of emancipation.

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    • Ragatz, Lowell J. A Guide for the Study of British Caribbean History, 1763–1834, Including the Abolition and Emancipation Movements. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1932.

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      Includes medical, legal, legislative, and historical materials from both the greater and lesser British Antilles, with special attention to literature on abolition and emancipation. Reprinted in 2000 (Eastford, CT: Martino), and available online for free from Internet Archive.

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    • Ripley, C. Peter, et al., eds. Black Abolitionist Papers, 1830–1865. Vol. 1, The British Isles, 1830–1865. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

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      The first volume of a five-volume collection of documents recording black involvement in the abolitionist movement. The full collection contains approximately fifteen thousand articles and documents of nearly three hundred black abolitionists in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Germany. Available both in print and digitized forms, the latter produced by Proquest.

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    • Vorenburg, Michael. The Emancipation Proclamation: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

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      The introduction summarizes the history and national debate over slavery from the country’s founding through the Civil War and beyond, supported by several strong contextualizing essays and more than forty documents and images. Traces both Union and Confederate emancipation debates, concluding with a reevaluation of Reconstruction.

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    Databases

    Important primary sources and other resources are increasingly appearing in electronic formats. Several collections specific to abolition, emancipation, and colonization provide both academic and general researchers access to a wide-range of digitized documentation. Some focus on specific kinds of collections and offer opportunities to explore the impact of emancipation from the perspective of the formerly enslaved. For example, African American Newspapers: The Nineteenth Century, part of the Accessible Archives collection, includes information about African Americans’ role in abolitionist efforts, as well as reports of apprenticeship and post-emancipation developments in the British Caribbean after 1833. The University of Maryland’s Freedman and Southern Society Project includes letters from former slaves and slave owners, as well as a host of other primary sources; while the online version is not as complete as the printed volumes, there are nonetheless an impressive number of sample documents from each volume available online in full text. Other online repositories, such as the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, offer both primary document collections as well as gateways to other online and bibliographic resources. Finally, though available by subscription only and still under development, Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice: 1490–2007, run by Adam Matthew Digital, and Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive, from Gale Cengage Learning, are ambitious online projects that bring together documentation from archives and libraries around the Atlantic, offering the potential for truly comparative online research.

    Economics

    In 1834, the British Empire became the first empire to permanently free its slaves, after which it mounted efforts to promote global emancipation. There has been ongoing debate over the motivations behind this decision, with most early work vacillating between economic and moral justifications. Scholars today are more likely to suggest multiple causes, though they generally emphasize the importance of one factor over others. Scholarship on British and American emancipation efforts has overshadowed those from other parts of the Atlantic world, though important new work is beginning to correct this imbalance. Williams 1944 pioneered the argument that emancipation occurred because slavery was economically inefficient, rather than because it was immoral. Moreno Fraginals 1964 built on Williams’s thesis, concluding that, in Cuba, slave labor was incompatible with a 19th-century industrializing sugar industry. Drescher 1977 and Drescher 1987 strenuously argue the opposite: that emancipation in the British Empire continued to be profitable into the 19th century. Drescher coined the phrase “econocide” to describe what he saw as the willful destruction of an economic system. Fogel 1992 concurs with Drescher and attempts a cliometric analysis of the fiscal health of slave systems in both the US and British Caribbean. The debate over slavery’s profitability is far from resolved, however, particularly as economic circumstances varied widely around the Atlantic world. Blackburn 1988, for example, suggests that slavery’s falling profit margin combined with growing unrest among slaves themselves to make the system less efficient. Other scholars have opted to explore the economic impact of emancipation. Butler 1995 examines the effect of compensated emancipation in the British West Indies, while Conrad 1993 focuses on the impact of US political and fiscal pressure on Brazil to end both the transatlantic slave trading and slavery itself. Moreno Fraginals, et al. 1985 takes a broader chronological view, arguing that economic disparities exacerbated by emancipation contributed to disparities of wealth throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

    • Blackburn, Robin. The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776–1848. London: Verso, 1988.

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      An important comparative analysis of the factors contributing to emancipation throughout the Atlantic world. Builds on the work of Eric Williams, David Brion Davis, and Eugene Genovese to suggest that a combination of industrialization and slave mobilization ultimately made plantation economies unprofitable.

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    • Butler, Kathleen Mary. The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 1823–1843. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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      Examines the effect of compensated emancipation (almost £20 million paid to recompense former slave owners for losing their slave property) on colonial credit, landownership, plantation land values, and the broader spheres of international trade and finance. Butler also brings the role and status of women as creditors and plantation owners into focus for the first time.

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    • Conrad, Robert Edgar. The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery, 1850–1888. 2d ed. Malabar, FL: Krieger, 1993.

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      Provides a concise look at Brazil’s abolition movement, with a particular focus on the end of the transatlantic slave trade, the rise of an internal slave trade, US abolition and its impact on Brazil’s policy of gradual emancipation through free birth, and slave resistance.

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    • Drescher, Seymour. Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977.

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      A polemical study, summarizing and critiquing existing scholarship about the motivations and impact of abolition. In particular, Drescher challenges the “decline theory,” which suggests that slavery ended with the transition to mechanized and industrial labor. Now a field classic, this work proposes that abolition destroyed a profitable labor system.

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    • Drescher, Seymour. Capitalism and Antislavery: British Mobilization in a Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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      Explores the period between 1787, the year of the first mass campaign against the British slave trade, and 1838, when the system of apprenticeship for former slaves ended, and concludes that contributions from working-class men and women not only ensured the abolition of slavery but also distinguished this effort from all antislavery efforts in past societies.

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    • Fogel, Robert. W. Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. New York: Norton, 1992.

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      A cliometric approach to the study of emancipation that continues Fogel’s earlier work with Stanley Engerman in Time on the Cross (1974). The first half of the book argues that the southern United States was more industrialized than previously recognized, suggesting that new methods of production and slave labor were not mutually exclusive. The latter half compares the profitability of US and British slave systems.

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    • Moreno Fraginals, Manuel. El ingenio: complejo económico social cubano del azúcar. 3 vols. Havana, Cuba: Comisión Nacional Cubana de la UNESCO, 1964.

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      An elegantly written and encyclopedic account of the Cuban sugar industry, with numerous insights into slave labor and the abolition/emancipation process. Particular attention is given to the idea of slaves as a “factor of production.” Drawing from classical economic theories and Marxism, Moreno Fraginals regarded slave labor as incompatible with the increasingly industrial nature of 19th-century sugar production. Reprinted in 1978 (Havana, Cuba: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).

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    • Moreno Fraginals, Manuel, Frank Moya Pons, and Stanley L. Engerman, eds. Between Slavery and Free Labor: The Spanish Speaking Caribbean in the Nineteenth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

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      Edited collection featuring a number of noted Spanish Caribbean scholars. Essays are clustered by region (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic), with an especially strong concluding section offering a comparative economic interpretation of emancipation and thoughts about the legacies of this transition for the region today.

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    • Williams, Eric Eustace. Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944.

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      A foundational study that argues that slavery and the slave trade created the capital and conditions necessary to finance Europe’s industrialization, but that this very modernization of labor and financing ultimately undermined slave-based economies and led to British emancipation. Reprinted in 1972 (London: Andre Deutsch).

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    Morality and Religion

    Scholars opting not to emphasize the economic origins of emancipation have plumbed what most 19th-century historians and political commentators focused on, the role of religion and moral sentiment. Drescher 2002 has taken the strongest stance in this regard, though Schmidt-Nowara 1999 also credits metropolitan political mobilization for the rise of emancipation in the Spanish Empire. More recent analyses similarly emphasize the importance of religion to abolitionist causes, such as Hochschild 2005, and to slaves themselves. Turner 1982 argues that slaves appropriated Christian teachings to both reject planter authority and embrace martyrdom. Bolt and Drescher 1980, while somewhat dated, offers the best comparative analysis of the importance of religious sentiment to emancipation efforts in the British, French, and Dutch empires. Brown 2002 focuses solely on Britain but suggests new ways to interpret religious fervor, looking at it less as a standard for morality than as a litmus test for racial and imperial anxiety.

    • Bolt, Christine, and Seymour Drescher, eds. Anti-Slavery, Religion, and Reform: Essays in Memory of Roger Anstey. Folkstone, UK: W. Dawson, 1980.

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      An important collection of scholarship from the leading scholars of the field. Essays are divided into four categories: international patterns of abolitionism (including British, French, and Dutch case studies); antislavery and religion; antislavery, race, and class, and the cultural implications of emancipation.

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    • Brown, Christopher. Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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      Challenges prevailing scholarly arguments that locate the roots of abolitionism in economic determinism or bourgeois humanitarianism. Brown instead connects the shift from sentiment to action to changing views of empire and nation in Britain at the time, particularly the anxieties and dislocations spurred by the American Revolution.

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    • Drescher, Seymour. The Mighty Experiment: Free Labor versus Slavery in British Emancipation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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      Argues that the plan to end British slavery was the crucial element in the greatest humanitarian achievement of all time, rather than the end of a failing system.

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    • Hochschild, Adam. Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

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      Though this volume does not necessarily revise the moral imperative argument for abolition, it presents it in an accessible format geared towards a more popular audience. A finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, it focuses primarily on Britain, with some attention to the impact of the Haitian Revolution.

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    • Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher. Empire and Antislavery: Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, 1833–1874. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.

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      Gives an excellent account of the Spanish abolition process, following Drescher’s 2002 model of new politics and mobilzation in the metropole.

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    • Turner, Mary. Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787–1834. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

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      Demonstrates how 19th-century Protestant teachings were appropriated by Jamaican slaves to resist enslavement, despite disclaimers of missionaries. This religious refashioning led to both a rejection of planter authority and a willingness to embrace martyrdom, which culminated in the Baptist War of 1831.

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    Emancipation And Resistance

    Haiti is certainly the best-documented example of slaves’ participation in their own emancipation, though a variety of studies throughout the Atlantic hold the potential for cross-imperial analysis, most notably Chaloub 1990, which analyzes the role of everyday slave resistance in hastening Brazilian abolition. Both Dubois 2004a and Fick 1990 place greater emphasis on the importance of slaves, in addition to mulatto and revolution leaders, for the success of the Haitian Revolution. Childs 2006, da Costa 1994, and Matthews 2006 likewise argue that slave insurrection was essential for emancipation in Cuba and the British Caribbean, respectively; while neither Cuba’s 1812 Aponte Rebellion nor the slave revolts in Barbados in 1816, Demerara in 1823, and Jamaica in 1831–1832 led to immediate emancipation, as occurred in Haiti, these uprisings forced metropolitan policymakers to reevaluate both the profitability and stability of slavery. Silva 2006 explores the importance of alliances for emancipation, suggesting that Brazilian Maroons and Quakers united across race and religious lines in a common humanitarian effort. Finally, Dubois 2004b, a study of Guadeloupe, provides an interesting foil. In Guadeloupe, slavery was first abolished in 1794 and then reinstated in 1802, a fate not shared by Haiti, which declared its independence. Dubois provides a detailed and nuanced account of how mulattos, free blacks, and former slaves negotiated changing ideas about liberty, equality, and the law.

    • Chaloub, Sidney. Visões da liberdade: uma história das últimas décadas da escravidão na corte. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1990.

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      A detailed analysis of how slaves struggled to define their own freedom during the last decades of Brazilian slavery. Focusing on individual action set against the larger structural transformation that ushered in abolition, Chaloub argues that the everyday actions of slaves decisively influenced and sped up the abolition of slavery.

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    • Childs, Matt D. The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

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      Argues that slaves and free people of color responded to the 19th-century “sugar boom” in the Spanish colony by striking alliances and rebelling, prompted by a widespread belief in rumors promising that emancipation was near. Childs compares this rebellion to other emancipation efforts in Brazil, Haiti, the British Caribbean, and the United States.

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    • da Costa, Emelia Viotti. Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood: The Demerara Slave Rebellion of 1823. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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      Explores one of the most massive slave rebellions in the history of the Americas—the uprising of nine thousand to twelve thousand blacks in August 1823 in Demerara, the British colony in northeastern South America, later known as Guyana. Explores the role of kinship, ethnic loyalties, and shared oppression in mobilizing resistance and envisioning freedom.

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    • Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004a.

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      Attributes the revolution’s success to mulatto and free black discontent and mobilization, as well as the ideals of the French Revolution, which opened a debate on the racism prevalent in France’s Caribbean colonies. Provides a nuanced image of the Haitian Revolution’s best-known leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture, torn between goals of liberty and colonial success.

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    • Dubois, Laurent. A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004b.

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      Offers a compelling, detailed account of seventeen years of revolution, civil war, and counterrevolution in late 18th-century Guadeloupe. Traces the course of events from unrest about mulatto and enslaved blacks throughout the Caribbean to the French abolition of slavery in 1794—and its subsequent reinstatement under Napoleon Bonaparte.

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    • Fick, Carolyn. The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990.

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      Emphasizes the role of slaves in the Haitian Revolution above those of other groups, international events, or revolutionary leaders. Also suggests that alliances among mulattos, free blacks, and slaves developed differently in various regions of the colony, focusing primarily on the understudied southern coast, and explores the significance of marronage and voodoo for popular mobilization.

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    • Matthews, Gelien. Caribbean Slave Revolts and the British Abolitionist Movement. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.

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      Focuses on slave revolts that took place in Barbados in 1816, in Demerara in 1823, and in Jamaica in 1831–1832 to argue that slave rebellions in the British West Indies influenced the tactics of abolitionists in England, and to show how the rhetoric and actions of the abolitionists emboldened slaves.

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    • Silva, Eduardo. “Symbols, Organizers, and Revolutionaries: Black Abolitionists in the Quilombo de Leblon, Rio de Janeiro.” In Beyond Slavery: The Multilayered Legacy of Africans in Latin America and the Caribbean. Edited by Darién Davis, 109–122. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.

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      Argues that abolitionists allied with Brazilian Maroon communities, known as quilombos, formed important alliances in the second half of the 19th century, furthering each other’s goals. Suggests similar connections between Maroon communities and abolitionists in Jamaica and underground railroad organizers and Quaker communities in the United States.

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    Apprenticeship

    Apprenticeship began in the British Empire in 1834 and was initially scheduled to extend through 1840, although most ex-slaves were scheduled for full freedom after four years. Parliament considered it an effort to ameliorate the effects of emancipation for slave owners, who needed time to transition to wage labor, and slaves, who—proponents argued—needed to acclimate to new personal and political freedoms. Escalating agitation by ex-slaves, persistent lobbying by abolitionists, and administrative problems ended the program for all apprentices by 1 August 1838. While unique to the British Empire, the apprenticeship program marks an important moment in the path from slavery to full emancipation, and several good studies have explored its implications. Burn 1937 and Bennett 1958 first addressed the topic based on plantation accounts, exploring how the daily lives of slaves changed as they became apprentices, as well as whether they had access to legal recourse in the event former owners abused the system. Marshall 1977 and McDonald 2001 study the issue from the perspective of the Special Magistrates assigned to oversee apprenticeship’s implementation. Both are based on close readings of diaries magistrates kept while in the West Indies, one in Barbados and St. Vincent, and the other in St. Vincent alone. Higman 2008, while broader chronologically, explores the impact of gradual emancipation from the perspective of a plantation attorney or overseer, while Williams 2001 offers a rare opportunity to see apprenticeship from the standpoint of an apprentice, James Williams of Jamaica, whose account of the years following 1834 was published by Quaker abolitionists hoping to hasten full freedom.

    • Bennett, Harry J. Bondsmen and Bishops: Slavery and Apprenticeship on the Codrington Plantations of Barbados, 1710–1838. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1958.

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      A pioneering study of slave life and labor, focusing particularly on the impact of one plantation’s transition from family to corporate management by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1710, the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, and the beginning of apprenticeship in 1834.

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    • Burn, William L. Emancipation and Apprenticeship in the British West Indies. London: Jonathan Cape, 1937.

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      The first comprehensive analysis of the apprenticeship system. Burn explores the ways in which former owners and former slaves both sought to define this new status to their advantage, and how their various claims were reviewed by stipendiary magistrates appointed to oversee the transition to freedom.

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    • Higman, B. W. Plantation Jamaica, 1750–1850: Capital and Control in a Colonial Economy. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2008.

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      Analyzes the important but neglected role of the attorneys who managed estates, chiefly for absentee proprietors, and assesses their efficiency and impact on Jamaica during slavery and freedom. Uses meticulous research based on a variety of sources, including the attorneys’ letters, plantation papers, and slave registration records.

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    • Marshall, Woodville, ed. The Colthurst Journal: Journal of a Special Magistrate in the Islands of Barbados and St. Vincent, July 1835–September 1838. Millwood, NY: KTO, 1977.

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      Based on the journal of John Bowen Colthurst, Special Magistrate to Barbados and St. Vincent, who oversaw the shift from enslaved to free labor between 1835 and 1838. Originally written for personal use, Colthurst later revised his journal for publication to defend the apprenticeship system. Includes an introduction to the history of the region and appendices of population and punishment statistics.

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    • McDonald, Roderick A., ed. Between Slavery and Freedom: Special Magistrate John Anderson’s Journal of St. Vincent during the Apprenticeship. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

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      An extensively annotated reprinting of Special Magistrate John Anderson’s journal, kept in St. Vincent when he oversaw the colony’s transition through apprenticeship, which was intended to be a period for ex-slaves to learn and accept the controls of freedom, and for former owners to convert from enslaved to wage labor. Includes a contextualizing introduction, the journal itself, and several appendices.

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    • Williams, James. A Narrative of Events, since the First of August, 1834, by James Williams, an Apprenticed Labourer in Jamaica. Edited by Diana Paton. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

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      An annotated first-person account of an apprenticed laborer in Jamaica, eighteen-year-old James Williams. Repeatedly accused of wrongdoing by his former owners, Williams spent significant time before Jamaica’s Stipendiary Magistrate, and he describes his punishments and prison conditions. Originally published in 1837 by Quaker abolitionists as part of a campaign to end apprenticeship.

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    Indentured Servitude

    Indentured servitude, a systematic effort to import substitutes for former enslaved laborers, is likewise predominantly associated with the British Caribbean, though it was modeled on earlier systems of contracted Indian labor in the French East Indies and spread to Spanish and French West Indian colonies and the United States during the second half of the 19th century. The indenture program recruited thousands of manual laborers from Asia, primarily India and China, and transformed the Atlantic world in important and enduring ways. Johnson 1988 and Yelvington and Brereton 1999 offer the broadest comparative analyses of indenture, comparing experiences of both Chinese and Indian labor throughout the British and French Caribbean. Kale 1998 focuses more specifically on British Guiana and Trinidad and the relationship between early indenture programs and the livelihoods of former slaves, while Look Lai 2003 explores similar questions about social and living conditions for Chinese contract labor in Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad. Dorsey 2004, Jung 2006, and Yun 2008 all focus on the cultural implications of racial diversity and tension created by Chinese contract labor. Dorsey argues that Chinese migrants were deemed racially white but socially inferior in Cuba, while Jung and Yun suggest that derogatory characterizations of Chinese, or “coolie,” labor played an important role in constructions of race and citizenship in the second half of the 19th century.

    • Dorsey, Joseph C. “Identity, Rebellion, and Social Justice among Chinese Contract Workers in Nineteenth-Century Cuba.” Latin American Perspectives 31.3 (May 2004): 18–47.

      DOI: 10.1177/0094582X04264492Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Compares and contrasts the social and cultural positions of former slaves and Chinese contract laborers to argue that late 19th-century Cuba allowed Chinese migrants to be considered racially white while still occupying a subaltern social position.

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    • Johnson, Howard, ed. After the Crossing: Immigrants and Minorities in Caribbean Creole Society. London: Frank Cass, 1988.

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      An important edited collection that compares the experiences of free African, Chinese, and Indian labor throughout the Caribbean, as well as inter-Caribbean migration between colonies. Case studies include the Bahamas, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Malaysia.

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    • Jung, Moon–Ho. Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

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      An important corrective that explores how racial tension after emancipation was more than a black-white dynamic. American ideas of Asian labor on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean contributed to the creation of “coolies” in American culture and law, which played a pivotal role in reconstructing concepts of race, nation, and citizenship in the United States between the 1830s and 1880s.

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    • Kale, Madhavi. Fragments of Empire: Capital, Slavery, and Indian Indentured Labor in the British Caribbean. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.

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      Examines Indian indentured servitude in British Guiana and Trinidad, from the original immigration scheme of John Gladstone, who pointed to existing models of Indian labor in Mauritius, through India’s official end to Indian immigration in 1917. Particular attention is paid to Colonial Office and abolitionists arguments for and against indentured servitude, as well as its impact on freed black labor.

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    • Look Lai, Walton. Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, 1838–1918. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

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      Comprehensive study of Asian immigration and indenture in the British West Indies, with particular emphasis on the experiences of indentured laborers in British Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica. Explores living and working conditions as well as the makeup of immigrant communities and their cultures. Originally published in 1993.

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    • Yelvington, Kevn, and Bridget Brereton, eds. The Colonial Caribbean in Transition: Essays on Postemancipation Social and Cultural History. Mona, Jamaica: University of West Indies Press, 1999.

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      Collected essays by important Caribbean scholars that explore the impact of emancipation and indentured immigrant labor on gender roles, family structure, ethnic stereotyping, and political protest.

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    • Yun, Lisa. The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.

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      Offers the first critical reading of a massive testimony case from Cuba in 1874, and suggests that a “coolie narrative” formed as a counterpart to the “slave narrative.” Based on the written and oral testimonies of nearly three thousand Chinese laborers in Cuba, who worked alongside African slaves.

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    Post-Emancipation Societies

    Abolition was the end of slavery, but it did not predict the direction that post-emancipation societies would follow, nor did it guarantee an end to discrimination or racism. Indeed, some historians argue that former slave owners’ lack of legal control over former slaves intensified both. Litwack 1979, a groundbreaking study, suggests that freedom was constantly negotiated and contested in the years between the Civil War and Reconstruction. Scott 2005 suggests much the same in an analysis of Louisiana and Cuba, though levels of violence and racism varied, influenced by the circumstances of each society prior to abolition. Johnson 1997, Figueroa 2005, Oostindie 1995, and Scott, et al. 1988 take longer perspectives, tracing tensions that emerged during emancipation through the ongoing race relations and struggles of the 20th century in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Dutch West Indies, and Brazil, respectively. Turner 1995 offers the most comparative approach, exploring how the use of labor contracts reflected power dynamics on the part of both former slave owners and former slaves in the Caribbean, US South, and Latin America. Hahn 2003 and Hall 2002, by contrast, explore the social and cultural dynamics of power, the former suggesting that networks developed during slavery were transformed into grassroots political activism following emancipation, and the latter that the freed slaves necessitated Britain’s reevaluation of race, no longer based on legal difference but on cultural difference and hierarchy.

    • Figueroa, Luis A. Sugar, Slavery, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

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      Argues that, unlike other parts of the Caribbean and the US South, where former slaves acquired some land of their own and became subsistence farmers, emancipated slaves in Puerto Rico had little access to capital or land. This account of how these libertos joined the wage-labor market locates the origins of the working class in Puerto Rico.

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    • Hahn, Steven. A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2003.

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      Explores how, in the six decades following slavery, former slaves transformed themselves into a political people, as rural African Americans became central political actors in the great events of disunion, emancipation, and nation-building. Emphasizes the importance of kinship, labor, and networks of communication developed under slavery as precursors for grassroots mobilization.

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    • Hall, Catherine. Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830–1867. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

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      Argues that emancipation meant the end of legal difference and required British citizens to create social and cultural distinctions between themselves and such “savage” groups as the “Aborigines” in Australia and the “Negroes” in Jamaica. Though focused on Britain, it places the Atlantic within a larger global imperial context.

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    • Johnson, Howard. The Bahamas from Slavery to Servitude, 1783–1933. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997.

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      A socioeconomic history of post-emancipation Bahamas, arguing that the last phase of slavery was foundational for later, often more exploitative, labor systems. Explores both urban and rural slave populations, systems of slave hire, apprenticeship, and indenture, and highlights how Bahamians often exerted more autonomy and power as slaves than as a “free” people.

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    • Litwack, Leon F. Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery. New York: Knopf, 1979.

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      A foundational study based on interviews with ex-slaves, diaries, and accounts by former slaveholders. Explores how North American slaves and their owners negotiated the shift from slavery to freedom, and how free and freed blacks created a sense of racial unity on the eve of Reconstruction.

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    • Oostindie, Gert, ed. Fifty Years Later: Antislavery, Capitalism, and Modernity in the Dutch Orbit. Leiden, The Netherlands: KITLV, 1995.

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      Comprises ten essays that explore Holland’s seemingly reticent reaction to abolition. Some contributors loosely follow an economic decline model, arguing that Dutch politicians and merchants saw abolition as inevitable but opted not to speed its demise. Robert Fogel’s essay, “Emancipations in Comparative Perspective: A Long and Wide View,” provides an especially useful comparative perspective.

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    • Scott, Rebecca. Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2005.

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      A comparative study of the divergent trajectory that emancipation took in two sugar-driven societies. Louisiana moved towards disenfranchisement and state-mandated racial segregation, while Cuba enacted universal manhood suffrage.

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    • Scott, Rebecca, George Reid Andrews, Robert M. Levine, and Seymour Drescher, eds. The Abolition of Slavery and the Aftermath of Emancipation in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988.

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      Provides a brief but important overview of the impact of emancipation in Brazil, passed by act of Parliament in 1888. Emancipation in the last nation to abolish slavery in the Americas is often depicted as foreordained and nonviolent, but these essays by leading scholars trace its impact on subsistence farming, indenture, race relations, and urban labor.

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    • Turner, Mary, ed. From Chattel Slaves to Wage Slaves: The Dynamics of Labour Bargaining in the Americas. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 1995.

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      Truly comparative in scope, the essays in this volume investigate the terms under which slaves in the Caribbean, the southern United States, and Latin America worked, and how they struggled to establish informal contract terms after emancipation.

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    Representations and Commemorations

    The 1990s and 2000s witnessed a growing number of public memorials and commemorations of slavery and emancipation. Many of these have, to some degree, been influenced by the 2008 bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, particularly in Britain, where the number of conferences, museum exhibitions, and public events far outpaced those in other parts of the world (see Hamilton and Blyth 2007 and Prior 2007). But this anniversary resulted in other kinds of reassessments as well, such as Carey and Kitson’s decision to use the bicentennial to compare and contrast emancipations throughout the world and over time, rather than limiting consideration to the British Empire (Carey and Kitson 2007). Other analyses focus on how some former Atlantic colonies have chosen to commemorate emancipation, transforming it from a British parliamentary decision to an event imbued with local meaning and often highlighting ongoing local problems. Kerr-Ritchie 2007, for example, suggests that “August First Day” is an important place to explore shared understandings of cultural politics and memory throughout the former British Caribbean, while van Stipriaan 2004 explores similar themes and questions for Suriname. Kachun 2003 compares three moments—the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, August 1 emancipation day, and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—and suggests that each has been appropriated and transformed by African Americans to create a coherent “usable past” in which they are important actors in their transition to freedom. Barringer, et al. 2007 offers a welcome material-culture approach that provides a creative and engaging examination of images of emancipation, while Hasty 2002 considers emancipation, as celebrated in Ghana, as part of an increasingly popular historical tourism movement.

    • Barringer, Tim, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, eds. Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for British Art and Yale University Press, 2007.

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      Beautifully illustrated and coinciding with the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, this volume chronicles the iconography of sugar, slavery, and the topography of Jamaica from the beginning of British rule in 1655 to the aftermath of emancipation in the 1840s.

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    • Carey, Brycchan, and Peter J. Kitson, eds. Slavery and the Cultures of Abolition: Essays Marking the Bicentennial of the British Abolition Act of 1807. Woodbridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2007.

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      A collection of essays on the literary and cultural manifestations of slavery, abolition, and emancipation from the 18th century to the present day. Includes comparisons of Christian and Islamic slavery; visual representations of emancipation and slave rebellion; and discourses of race and slavery, memory and slavery, and captivity and slavery.

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    • Hamilton, Douglas, and Robert J. Blyth, eds. Representing Slavery: Art, Artefacts, and Archives in the Collections of the National Maritime Museum. Aldershot, UK: Lund Humphries, 2007.

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      Published to mark the 200th anniversary of Parliament’s abolition of the British slave trade in 1807. Explores the richness of the museum’s collections and highlights the unique insights they provide into the histories and legacies of slavery, the slave trade, and abolition from the mid-16th century until the early 20th century.

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    • Hasty, Jennifer. “Rites of Passage, Routes of Redemption: Emancipation Tourism and the Wealth of Culture.” Africa Today 49.3 (Autumn 2002): 47–76.

      DOI: 10.1353/at.2003.0026Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines how the Ghanaian government has appropriated and “repatriated” a Caribbean holiday, “Emancipation Day,” for celebration as a Pan-African event to attract summer tourists from the African diaspora, involving them in performances of culture and history.

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    • Kachun, Mitch. Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808–1915. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003.

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      Explores how the public commemoration of emancipation helped create a “usable past” identity based on common celebrations and cultural practices. Focus is on the reaction to and appropriation of three events: Britain’s and America’s abolition of the transatlantic slave trade on 1 January 1808; the end of British slavery in the West Indies on 1 August 1834; and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on 1 January 1863.

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    • Kerr-Ritchie, J. R. Rites of August First: Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007.

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      “August First Day,” also known as “West India Day” and “Emancipation Day,” became the most important annual emancipation celebration among people of African descent in the Anglo-Atlantic world. This book explores the event’s origins, nature, and commemorative trajectory to understand the intersection of emancipation, cultural politics, and memory.

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    • Prior, Katherine. “Commemorating Slavery 2007: A Personal View from Inside the Museums.” History Workshop Journal 64.1 (Autumn 2007): 200–212.

      DOI: 10.1093/hwj/dbm031Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An engaging overview of the variety of ways British institutions sought to commemorate the abolition of slavery on its bicentennial. Several other articles in this same special issue address similar questions and themes of history, memory, commemoration, and celebration.

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    • van Stipriaan, Alex. “July 1, Emancipation Day in Suriname: A Contested lieu de Mémoire, 1863–2003.” New West India Guide 78.3–4 (2004): 269–304.

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      Suggests the earliest Emancipation Day celebrations were used by the authorities to discipline and control the formerly enslaved, and thus strengthen the colonial status quo. By 1900, however, Afro-Surinamese began contesting the way of commemorating slavery and its abolition, including a wider sense of belonging to an African diaspora in the Americas. Available online.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199730414-0019

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