Review: Browne, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean

Browne, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of  Pennsylvania, 2017)

Surviving Slavery (Randy M. Browne

In the early Americanist community’s conception of #VastEarlyAmerica we constantly attempt to push the boundaries of what and where early America is. Randy M. Browne’s Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean will appeal to proponents of a vaster early America in part because it pushes the geographical limits of early America. Browne’s study of slavery in Berbice (present-day Guyana), takes his readers to one of the most understudied slave societies in the Americas, to understand how enslaved Berbicians attempted to survive their bondage from the beginning of the nineteenth century in the Dutch period, to 1834 when British slavery ended. This is an important distinction from other studies of slavery which focused on understanding and fighting against notions of “agency” and “resistance” such as Marisa Fuentes’ prize-winning Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, and Vincent Brown’s  2009 American Historical Review article “Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery,” among others [1]. By contrast, instead of highlighting the voices of those in open rebellion, Browne focuses on those whom attempted to better their situation despite remaining under the yoke of bondage. Browne does this by accessing one of the most bountiful, yet underutilized, archival records of the voices of enslaved people [2]. Browne mines information about how enslaved Berbicians attempted to survive and carve out lives in one of the most oppressive slave regimes in the Americas. Whether describing the use of obeah as a spiritual defense mechanism to sustain themselves through the institution of slavery, the use of Black slave drivers, or how enslaved women and men attempted to sort out marital and partner discourses, Browne adeptly traces how enslaved Berbicians attempted to live, and most importantly, to survive, slavery. Continue reading

Review: Parisot, How America Became Capitalist

James Parisot, How America Became Capitalist: Imperial Expansion and the Conquest of the West (London: Pluto Press, 2019).

parisot_coverIn just under 200 pages, Parisot traces the intertwined expansion of white settler colonialism in British North America and the transition to capitalism from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. A historical sociologist, Parisot synthesizes a great deal of historical scholarship in order to offer a framework for “how a society with capitalism became a capitalist society” while embracing “multi-linear complexity” (2, 6). He argues that both capitalist and “not-so-capitalist” relations drove American Indian dispossession and westward imperial expansion. Inspired by the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, Parisot’s framework seeks to take race and gender into account “to explain capitalism, imperialism, and empire as processes reaching down into daily life and stretching back to broad historical structures which they in turn co-shape” (16). Continue reading

Q&A with Katharine Gerbner, author of Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World

Today the Junto features a Q&A with Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Katherine Gerbner conducted by Kristen Beales. Gerbner teaches courses on Atlantic History, History of Religions, Magic & Medicine, and The Early Modern Archive. Her work has been featured in Atlantic Studies, New England Studies, and Early American Studies. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2013 and received fellowships and awards from the University of Minnesota, the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Haverford College, and the John Carter Brown Library.

Kristen Beales is a PhD Candidate at the College of William and Mary finishing a dissertation titled “Thy Will Be Done: Merchants and Religion in Early America, 1720-1815,” which explores how merchants from different Protestant backgrounds in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston navigated economic debates between 1720 and 1815. Her project is structured around four case studies: reactions to the South Sea Bubble in 1720, discussions about the relationship between religion and business practice prompted by the revivals of the so-called “Great Awakening” between 1739 and 1746, debates over nonimportation and nonconsumption between 1765 and 1776, and the controversy surrounding the Embargo Act of 1807. Kristen’s research has been supported by a number of institutions, including grants and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society, the Clements Library, the David Library of the American Revolution, Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections, the Huntington Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Continue reading

Announcing the Launch of Freedom on the Move

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An ad placed in the Charleston Mercury, Charleston, SC, on July 11, 1829. Accessed via: Freedom on the Move 

Thousands of enslaved African Americans emancipated themselves by taking flight and escaping their enslavers. One way that this form of resistance to slavery can be studied is through the advertisements that enslavers and jailers placed in newspapers in hopes of turning those who had run away back into “property.” The ads allow us a glimpse of both enslavers’ desires and the defiance of the enslaved. In them, it is possible to read pain and suffering in the record of scars and maimed bodies. The ads hold both the grief of separation from kin left behind and the relief of family mentioned at possible destinations. Historians have long used advertisements for fugitives from slavery to study the institution of slavery and the lives of enslaved people. But it can be difficult for the public to access them because the ads exist in multiple formats across multiple archives.

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“The Runaway” Anti-slavery record. New York: Published by R.G. Williams, for the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1835-1837. Accessed via The Fels African Americana Image Project at Library Company of Philadelphia

Freedom on the Move (FOTM), an online project devoted to fugitives from slavery in North America, launches today, February 14, 2019. FOTM asks the public to help in creating a database that makes the stories and lives of fugitives from slavery in North America accessible. The website is designed for use by scholars, researchers, educators, students, genealogist, and the public. After quickly setting up an account, users can begin transcribing digitized versions of advertisements and recording important information included in each ad. Participants can even choose to work on ads from specific time periods or geographic locations. Users can also search for and browse through digitized ads.

Currently, FOTM has about 12,000 newspaper advertisements ready for crowdsourced transcription. The project will include additional ads soon and its organizers hope for future collaborations with additional scholars, archives, and organizations.  FOTM promises to be an invaluable resource in the classroom and for researchers. But beyond the academic applications of the project, organizers hope that the site will facilitate greater access to members of the public outside of the academy. By transcribing and working with the advertisements, participants can both contribute to a growing database of searchable ads and engage with the rich history that each ad presents.

FOTM is a joint project between Cornell University’s Department of History and the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research (CISER). Ed Baptist of Cornell University and William Block (Director of CISER) serve as the principal investigators for FOTM. Lead historians on the project include Vanessa Holden of the University of Kentucky, Hasan Jeffries of Ohio State University, Mary Niall Mitchell of the University of New Orleans, and Joshua Rothman of the University of Alabama. The project has received major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Archives.

To learn more about the project or to begin contributing to FOTM’s crowdsourcing, visit freedomonthemove.org

Roundtable: The History of Childhood & Youth: Anna Mae Duane

duane.photo.headshotToday is our final post in the roundtable series on the History of Childhood & Youth. If you missed previous posts click here. Thank you to each of our invited scholars for generously sharing tidbits of their research and their perspectives on this growing and dynamic field.

Dr. Anna Mae Duane, cited by several of our roundtable participants, rounds up this series. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Her scholarship focuses on children and race in a variety of constellations, including children as both victims and political actors in Puritan trial proceedings, antebellum literature, pre-and post-emancipation slave narratives, contemporary children’s literature, modern anti-slavery materials, and adult popular culture. Her current project, Educated for Freedom: Two Black Schoolmates who Changed a Slave Nation (forthcoming, NYU)  focuses on the role of childhood—their own and others—shaped the political imagination of two of antebellum America’s most influential Black abolitionists. She is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim (UGeorgia, 2010) and editor of The Children’s Table: Childhood Studies in the Humanities (UGeorgia, 2013), and Child Slavery Before and After Emancipation: An Argument for Child-Centered Slavery Studies (Cambridge, 2017). She is co-editor, with Kate Capshaw, of Who Writes for Black Children? African American Children’s Literature before 1900. (UMinnesota, 2017). Her work has been published in several scholarly journals, as well as public forums including Slate, Salon and Avidly.

Continue reading

Roundtable: The History of Childhood & Youth: Vanessa Holden

Venessa Holden 2017 - Edited-0496If you missed the first two posts in our new roundtable series on the history of childhood and youth, click here. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks, stop by to read about challenges and realities of researching and teaching childhood and youth across vast early America.

We are thrilled to have The Junto’s very own Dr. Vanessa M Holden join the roundtable today to discuss her work on African American children, free and enslaved. Dr. Holden is an assistant professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Holden’s current book project, tentatively titled, Surviving Southampton: Gender, Community, Resistance and Survival During the Southampton Rebellion of 1831(University of Illinois Press), explores the contributions that African American women and children, free and enslaved, made to the Southampton Rebellion of 1831, also called Nat Turner’s Rebellion. Dr. Holden’s work and writing has been published in Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, Perspectives on History, Process: A Blog for American History, and The Rumpus. She also blogs for Black Perspectives. In addition to her work on enslaved women and slave rebellion, Dr. Holden also co-organizes the Queering Slavery Working Group with Jessica Marie Johnson (Johns Hopkins University). Her second project, Forming Intimacies: Queer Kinship and Resistance in the Antebellum American Atlantic, will focus on same gender loving individuals and American slavery. Follow her on Twitter @drvholden Continue reading

Roundtable: The History of Childhood & Youth: Crystal Webster

WebsterIf you missed our first post on Friday in our new roundtable series on the history of childhood and youth with Bianca Premo, click here! On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks, stop by to read about challenges and realities of researching and teaching childhood and youth across vast early America.

Today, Dr. Crystal Lynn Webster joins us to discuss her work on nineteenth-century African American women and children. Dr. Webster is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received her PhD from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of African American Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst and was previously a long-term Mellon dissertation fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia (2016-17) program in African American history. Her current book project, Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: Northern African American Children’s Cultural and Political Resistance, examines the lives of Black children in the antebellum North and their experiences in juvenile reformatories, orphanages, schools, as well as their role in emerging social movements concerning race and childhood. Her research has been funded by the Library Company of Philadelphia, American Antiquarian Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she has received first place writing awards from the National Council for Black Studies and the Association of Black Women Historians. Continue reading

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