Black men in early America strived for masculine recognition in their society which did not provide many opportunities for Black men to publicly present themselves as men. In 2007, through The William and Mary Quarterly, maritime historian W. Jeffrey Bolster published “Letters by African American Sailors, 1799-1814,” which is useful in examining how Black men performed masculinity to not only provide for themselves and their families, but also to provide opportunities to be recognized as men. In my first post for The Junto, I decided to focus on the life of one of the Black sailors involved in the letters named Jacob Israel Potter. As an early nineteenth century impressed, or captured, Black sailor from Lewes, Delaware by the British Royal Navy, conceptually speaking, the parameters of freedom were far different for him as a person of African descent than someone white. Generally, Black freedom was always in tension with Black mobility. Scholars like Elizabeth Pryor examine this tension in the lives of Black antebellum activists from the late 1820s until just before the Civil War, but this post, in part, examines this tension with the added caveats of how Black masculinity and Black patriotism coincided with this tension as well. Continue reading
Jessica Blake is a PhD candidate in U.S. History at the University of California-Davis, where she is completing a dissertation entitled, “A Taste for Africa: Imperial Fantasy and Clothes Commerce in Revolutionary-era New Orleans.” She is currently a dissertation fellow at the Winterthur Museum and Archive.
In 1808, the New Orleans trader John Joly placed an advertisement in the Moniteur de la Louisiane for a shipment of large Angola shawls (grands shals d’Angola), a rectangular cloth of African construction meant to drape over the shoulders. Joly marketed the cloth for the general consumer, making no indication that he considered it a product intended solely for use by enslaved or free people of color.
This is the fifth and final post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, the second was by Mark J. Dixon, the third was by Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan, and the fourth was by D. S. Battistoli. Ryan Reft is a Historian of Modern America in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. He also writes for KCET in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in journals such as Souls, Southern California Quarterly, California History, and the Journal of Urban History, and the anthologies, Barack Obama and African American Empowerment and Asian American Sporting Culture.
When A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) dropped its final album We Got It From Here . . . Thanks 4 Your Service, for a generation of Americans who attended college in the 1990s, it hearkened back to Clintonian multiculturalism, Afrocentric rap groups of the Native Tongues movement (De La Soul, Black Sheep, Jungle Brothers, and ATCQ), and hazy apartment parties carried by the rhythms of hip hop and its variants. Though a thoroughly modern creation, hip hop like that of ATCQ results from the accretion of political, social, and cultural forms arising from the Black Atlantic; the transnational culture created by the intersection of European empires, slavery, and colonization from the 1600s forward. Birthed and nurtured by the Black Atlantic, hip hop is our countermemory to American exceptionalism and chauvinistic nationalism. Continue reading
This is the fourth post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, the second was by Mark J. Dixon, and the third was by Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan. D. S. Battistoli is a rural development practitioner, working in West Africa and the Caribbean. He holds a B.A. in English literature from Binghamton University, and, since 2011, has more than a thousand days’ field experience among the Saamaka Maroons of Suriname, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and later independently.
Cynthia McLeod’s Hoe Duur Was De Suiker, published in 1987 in the middle of Suriname’s Interior War, was the country’s first bestselling novel and a sort of foundational myth for the Creole population of the country. The book takes its name from Voltaire’s famous rejoinder from Candide, “C’est à ce prix que vous mangez du sucre en Europe.” The plantation colonies of the Caribbean took turns being the richest, and also the most violent and exploitative toward the blacks who produced the wealth; for much of the eighteenth century, the distinction belonged to Suriname. Continue reading
This is the third post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, and the second was by Mark J. Dixon. Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan holds a PhD in early American history from the University of Leicester and is Coordinator and Instructor of Public History at Rutgers University. She is currently completing a manuscript on vagrancy and indigent transiency in the early nineteenth century US.
The early modern Atlantic Ocean was traversed by countless seafarers with varying degrees of maritime experience, in varying degrees of (un)freedom. People used mobility, including travel by sea, to negotiate new identities for themselves, however precarious. Continue reading
This is the second post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey. Mark Dixon is a PhD candidate in Church History at Princeton Theological Seminary writing a dissertation on the interaction and exchange between German Pietists and enslaved Africans in colonial South Carolina. He spent the past year (2015-16) as a Fulbright Graduate Fellow researching in Pietist archives in Halle and Herrnhut, Germany. He produces Church History Chat, a podcast featuring interviews with historians of Christianity, which will begin publishing episodes in February 2017.
If it sounds strange to speak of a German Atlantic in the first place, it must sound even stranger in a conversation dedicated to new scholarship and understandings of the Black Atlantic. After all, Germany was not an Atlantic colonial power, and German speakers were not as deeply involved in the slave trade as their British, Dutch, Portuguese, or Spanish neighbors. Indeed, Aaron Fogleman’s 2015 keynote lecture, “A German Atlantic, or Germans in the Atlantic?” delivered at the McNeil Center’s spring workshop, questioned the label’s usefulness for historians. I want simply to assert the reality of the German Atlantic, and more importantly speak to its surprising utility for scholars interested in the experiences of Africans and people of African descent in the eighteenth-century Atlantic. In particular, the activities of German Pietists (and their surviving sources) can enrich Black Atlantic studies. Continue reading
When Paul Gilroy wrote his now-classic critique of cultural nationalism in 1995, he conceived a Black Atlantic that was a geo-political amalgamation of Africa, America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Gilroy was particularly interested in the construction of a modern, post-colonial cultural space in which slavery remained a part of modern black consciousness. His book is particularly noted for the introduction of race as a critical consideration in exploring the Black Atlantic.
It is fitting then, that we kick off our week-long discussion of the Black Atlantic with a post by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, which explores considerations of race in the Iberian Atlantic. Subsequent posts will consider Black responses to freedom (and unfreedom), historical narrative, race, and of course, power. Marley-Vincent Lindsey is a PhD student at Brown University. He is interested in writing the history of a Medieval Atlantic, tracing connections of land and labor grants between fourteenth-century Iberia and sixteenth-century New Spain. He also writes about history and the web with Cyborgology, and can sometimes be found tweeting @MarleyVincentL.
Juan Garrido was a typical conquistador: arriving in Hispaniola by 1508, Garrido accompanied Juan Ponce de León in his invasion of Puerto Rico, and was later found with Hernan Cortés in Mexico City. Yet his proofs of service, a portion of which was printed by Francisco Icaza in a collection of autobiographies by the conquistadors and settlers of New Spain, made a unique note: de color negro, or “of Black color.” Continue reading