Roundtable: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

Dams that powered grain mills but choked off fish migrations. Cassava bread that replaced wheat. A breakfast that turned into an ambush. The lenses of food and scarcity can transform our views of familiar places in early American history—Massachusetts, Virginia, the Caribbean. Continue reading

Q&A: Kate Egner Gruber, Curator of “Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia”

kateheadshotToday at The Junto, Philippe Halbert interviews Katherine Egner Gruber, who is Special Exhibition Curator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a state agency that operates two living history museums in Virginia. This Q&A focuses on her most recent exhibition, Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia, which opened at Jamestown Settlement in November of 2018 and runs through January of 2020. She was also responsible for content oversight of the Yorktown American Revolution Museum‘s award-winning introductory film, Liberty Fever, and contributed to the development of new galleries that opened there in 2015. Kate earned a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation and classical humanities from the University of Mary Washington and a master’s degree in American history from the College of William and Mary. 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

Review: Katharine Gerbner, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World

On the heels of its recent release in paperback, today The Junto features a review of Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with the author, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Katharine Gerbner.

Scholarship on the Anglo-Caribbean has tended to minimize the role of the Anglican Church in Caribbean society through an emphasis on the greed and irreligiosity of the English colonists who profited from the exploitation of enslaved labor. This tendency is especially striking when compared to the historical work on Catholic institutions in neighboring French and Spanish territories. In the Anglo-Atlantic, missionary work among free and enslaved Africans and Afro-Caribbean people tends to be equated with antislavery thought and activism. Katharine Gerbner’s new book, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, challenges these historiographic tendencies and presents a welcome reinterpretation of the relationship between race, religion, and slavery in the Protestant Atlantic. 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

Q&A: Edward Rugemer, author of Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World

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Today at The Junto, we’re featuring an interview with Ed Rugemer about his new book, of Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World, which Casey Schmitt reviewed yesterday. Ed Rugemer is an Associate Professor of History and African American Studies and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of History at Yale University. A historian of slavery and abolition, Rugemer’s first book The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War was published by Louisiana State University Press and his work has appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly, Journal of Southern History, Slavery and Abolition, and the Journal of the Civil War Era.

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Review: Edward Rugemer, Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World

Today The Junto reviews Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World by Yale Associate Professor of African American Studies and History, Edward Rugemer. Stay tuned for a Q&A with the author tomorrow!

Historians have long argued that enslaved people’s resistance to bondage shaped the political economies, legal structures, and societies of the early Atlantic World. As a comparative history of slavery in Barbados, Jamaica, and South Carolina, Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance coheres around “the existential struggle between the master and the slave” that forms the core dialectic between control and resistance at the heart of slavery (1). Edward Rugemer places these slave societies in comparison because, as he argues, they developed out of the same legal genealogy rooted in seventeenth-century English imperial expansion but experienced the end of slavery in dramatically different ways. In just over three hundred pages, the book traces the dialectic between control and resistance in these societies “after an epic struggle of eight generations” (2). Rugemer’s approach combines a synthesis of a rich body of scholarship on the development of legal systems of bondage with strategic archival research. And, as the book demonstrates, the “combination of similarities and differences” between Jamaica and South Carolina yields “a novel approach to understanding the political dynamics of slave resistance and their relation to the law” (3).

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