Paper Abstracts

Paper Abstracts:

Carlos Aguirre, University of Oregon

“Abolition in Spanish America: Rethinking Slave Agency”

During the last two or three decades scholars of Spanish American slavery have been studying the role of slaves in the abolitionist process. We now have a much more comprehensive picture of the multiple ways in which slaves shaped (and in some cases, accelerated) the path towards emancipation. This presentation will take stock of these contributions, discuss their limitations, and offer possible new avenues for research.

George Reid Andrews, University of Pittsburgh

“Spanish American Abolition: Three Connections”

This talk briefly explores historical connections between Spanish American abolition and: (a) Spain’s abolition of indigenous slavery three hundred years earlier; (b) the abolition of the Spanish and Portuguese caste laws; and (c) Latin American ideologies of racial democracy.

Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University

“Slavery, Abolitions, and the Politics of Public Memory in the Atlantic World”

This presentation discusses how the problem of slavery and its abolitions in the Spanish Atlantic World has been memorialized in the public space. Exploring examples from Latin America, as well as from the French and Spanish Caribbean, the paper examines how the recent developments in the historiography of slavery have impacted the memorialization of slavery and its abolitions. By identifying the major trends of a process that is making slavery and abolitions more visible in the public space, the paper emphasizes how various historical actors have appropriated and politicized the slave past in order to construct particular identities and to address present social and racial inequalities.

Alice Baumgartner, Yale University

 “Rethinking Abolition in Mexico”

On September 16, 1829, President Vicente Guerrero of Mexico celebrated Independence Day by ending slavery. To most historians, this decree was a fait accompli, the inevitable result of slavery’s declining importance to the Mexican economy. But slavery was important in the sugar-producing south and the cotton-growing north, where slaveholders staunchly defended their right to own human chattel. Although scholars date abolition in Mexico to Guerrero’s 1829 decree, slavery continued both in practice and as a matter of law. By showing that the end of slavery was not a fait accompli, this paper proposes a new account of abolition in Mexico.

 Peter Blanchard, University of Toronto

“Slave Militancy and the Abolition of Slavery in Spanish South America”

The process of abolition in Spanish South America began with the wars of independence in the early nineteenth century as thousands of slaves fought throughout the region in return for their freedom.  Simultaneously, anti-slavery legislation was passed that seemed to ensure the institution’s rapid demise.  However, despite continued agitation and anti-slavery pressures, slavery managed to survive in most of the new nations, reflecting the strength of the slaveholders and the importance of the institution.  As a result, the eventual declaration of abolition in these countries a generation later often required further slave pressure and even the threat of new military action.

Alex Borucki, University of California-Irvine

“Atlantic History and the Slave trade to Spanish America”

Using the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database as well as new archival sources, David Eltis, David Wheat, and myself have conducted a new evaluation of the slave trade to the Spanish colonies. This provides new appreciation of not only the African presence in the Spanish Americas, but also—given the links between slavery and economic power—the status of the whole Spanish imperial project. Overall, more enslaved Africans permanently entered the Spanish Americas than the whole British Caribbean, making Spanish America the most important political entity in the Americas after Brazil to receive slaves. The history of the slave trade to Spanish America had implications for the whole Atlantic in the sense that it drew on all European branches of this traffic, and captives from all African regions engaged in this traffic landed in at least one of the many Spanish colonies.

Marcella Echeverri, Yale University

“Slavery and Anti-Slavery in the Spanish American Republics during the Nineteenth Century”

Anne Eller, Yale University

“Abolition and Emancipation in the “Non”-Plantation Caribbean”

Scholars have developed various tropes to conceptualize the connection of plantation and non-plantation spaces in the Caribbean, including Franklin Knight’s “systadial development,” Dale Tomich’s “mutually formative loci,” and Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s “repeating islands.”  In this presentation, I consider the nineteenth-century Dominican Republic, a putatively non-plantation space, in connection with its neighbors. Dominican experiences with abolition and emancipation present an opportunity to consider the travel of news and information beyond moments of rebellion.  They hint, for example, at how news of post-emancipation restrictions might have traveled, influencing small-scale migration, organizing, and regional political connections in ways that left few archival traces.  I analyze how in Dominican territory, fears about enslavement or re-enslavement were a grammar of assessment and worry, not only about domestic contests but over the fate of abolition in sites around the Caribbean.

Roquinaldo Ferreira, Brown University

“Enslaved Africans’ Agency and the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Central Africa (Angola and Congo)”

While contextualizing central Africa in the broader Atlantic world, this talk also develops a fine-grained and bottom-up narrative that centers on enslaved Africans’ contribution to the suppression of the slave trade in Africa. Scholars of abolitionism have quite properly spent a great deal of time trying to understand the causes and motivations for abolitionism, providing insights into the social and economic impact of the transition from the slave trade to “legitimate” commerce in commodities in West Africa, as well as thorough analyses of the relationship between ending the slave trade and European territorial claims in Africa. However, scholars have spent correspondingly little energy delving into how individuals most directly affected by the slave trade – enslaved Africans – contributed to ending shipments of slaves from Africa. 

Ada Ferrer, New York University

“Islands of Freedom and Unfreedom: On the Time and Space of Cuban Slavery”

This paper will briefly examine pivotal moments in the history of Atlantic antislavery—revolutionary emancipation in the French Caribbean in 1793-1794, British and U.S. slave trade abolition in 1807-1808, slave emancipation in the British Caribbean in 1834-1838, and the US Civil War—from the vantage point of Cuban ports and Cuban plantations. How did these major antislavery milestones shape the history of slavery and the possibilities for freedom in Cuba?

Alejandro E. Gómez, Université de Lille

“Attitudes and Sensibilities Towards Coloured Afro-Descendants in the Revolutionary Spanish Atlantic, 1781-1854”

This paper focuses on the most significant cases of individuals who shared a white identity and who advocated against slavery, slave trade and socio-racial discrimination of subaltern sectors (especially Free Coloureds). It argues that the many egalitarian proposals made during the Spanish American revolutions and at the Cortes of Cádiz represent a second golden moment (after the ‘Mulatto Affaire’ during the French Revolution) in the struggle for the granting of political equality to subaltern sectors in the Atlantic World. In the end, it aims to provide a clearer picture of how the socio-racial sensibilities (both negative and positive) contributed to accelerate, or to postpone, the introduction of abolitionist or equalitarian measures vis-à-vis the coloured afro-descendant sectors in the Spanish Atlantic in the Late Modern Age.

John Harris, Johns Hopkins University

“Circuits of Wealth, Circuits of Sorrow: Financing the Illegal Transatlantic Slave Trade to Cuba, 1850-1867”

The transatlantic slave trade had been banned throughout the Atlantic world by 1850, yet traffickers were still smuggling African captives to one final destination: the island of Cuba. This paper outlines how slave traders based in New York, Angola, and Cuba financed this illegal traffic. In many cases, they did so corporately, pooling investment from all three regions in single voyages. This strategy gave regional players a stake in voyages and encouraged them to mitigate the risks from slave trade suppression on behalf of all. Investors also recruited an international array of traders and bankers who assisted them in laundering illegal slave trade money and distributing it to investors after voyages had been completed in Cuba. These transnational flows of slave trade capital – hidden in plain sight in the Atlantic world economy – were vital in sustaining the traffic until its final demise in 1867.

Richard Huzzey, University of Liverpool

“The Anti-Slavery Empire and the Anti-Slavery Republics: British Suppression of the Slave Trade in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World”

This presentation will explain why the British, who had dominated the eighteenth-century slave trade to Spanish America, became such persistent and forceful advocates of its suppression. In doing so, I will explore the domestic motives for the Royal Navy’s campaign and the international context of unprecedented legal imperialism, comparing the experiences of independent Latin American nations with Brazil, Spain, and Portugal. The paper will ask fellow conference attendees how far the British campaigns really figured in national abolitions of slavery in the anti-slavery republics of the Spanish Atlantic?

Rafael Marquese, Universidade de São Paulo

 “The Other Side of the Antislavery Republics: The Empire of Brazil and the Making of the Second Slavery”

This presentation explores how Spanish American wars of independence – especially the abolitionist processes that accompanied them - affected the trajectory of the Brazilian slave system during the nineteenth century. The foundation of a constitutional monarchy that managed to maintain the same territorial borders of what once was Portuguese America and recreate the institution of slavery was a direct outcome of how the revolutionary experiences of the Iberian Atlantic were received in Brazil. The main goal is to analyze the relations between the Iberian imperial rupture of 1808 and the making of the Second Slavery.

Dale Tomich, Binghamton University

“Anti-Slavery, the Inter-State System, and British Hegemony in the “Age of Revolution”

This paper examines Britain’s anti-slavery position in terms of the real and ideal interests of the British state. Britain promoted support for the principle of the abolition of the slave trade as a key component of its geo-political strategy. Britain sought to establish control over the European Balance of Power by controlling world trade. The campaign to end the international slave trade was an important aspect of Britain’s strategy to restructure interstate relations and conditions of sovereignty in the Atlantic in the “Age of Revolution.” Britain’s anti-slavery crusade articulated political, legal, and moral dimensions and is interpreted as part of Britain’s effort to establish hegemony over the world-economy.

Justin Wolfe, Tulane University

“Slavery and the Politics of Race in 19th-Century Central America”

A boom in scholarship on race and Afro-descendants in Central America has helped to place the region into wider conversations about slavery and its aftermath in Latin America. My paper discusses these advances and their regional variation against a backdrop of new scholarship in the history of early post-independence life in Latin America, placing Central America into a wider sweep of post-emancipation politics and socio-cultural transformations. I end with a closer reading of this period in Nicaragua to suggest how vital these issues are to an understanding of post-independence history and to discuss methodological difficulties and opportunities.