The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2012-04-29 22:26Z by Steven

The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

Harvard University Press
March 2012
448 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674059870
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
19 halftones, 2 maps

Lawrence N. Powell, Professor of History
Tulane University

This is the story of a city that shouldn’t exist. In the seventeenth century, what is now America’s most beguiling metropolis was nothing more than a swamp: prone to flooding, infested with snakes, battered by hurricanes. But through the intense imperial rivalries of Spain, France, and England, and the ambitious, entrepreneurial merchants and settlers from four continents who risked their lives to succeed in colonial America, this unpromising site became a crossroads for the whole Atlantic world.

Lawrence N. Powell, a decades-long resident and observer of New Orleans, gives us the full sweep of the city’s history from its founding through Louisiana statehood in 1812. We see the Crescent City evolve from a French village, to an African market town, to a Spanish fortress, and finally to an Anglo-American center of trade and commerce. We hear and feel the mix of peoples, religions, and languages from four continents that make the place electric—and always on the verge of unraveling. The Accidental City is the story of land-jobbing schemes, stock market crashes, and nonstop squabbles over status, power, and position, with enough rogues, smugglers, and self-fashioners to fill a picaresque novel.

Powell’s tale underscores the fluidity and contingency of the past, revealing a place where people made their own history. This is a city, and a history, marked by challenges and perpetual shifts in shape and direction, like the sinuous river on which it is perched.

Table of Contents

  • 1. An Impossible River
  • 2. A Landjobbing Scheme
  • 3. Utopian by Design
  • 4. Improvising a City
  • 5. Changing of the Guard
  • 6. In Contraband We Trust
  • 7. A Creole City
  • 8. Slavery and the Struggle for Mastery
  • 9. The Slaves Remake Themselves
  • 10. A New People, a New Racial Order
  • 11. The American Gateway
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Tags: , , ,

A Contested Presence: Free Blacks in Antebellum Mississippi, 1820–1860

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2012-04-29 19:55Z by Steven

A Contested Presence: Free Blacks in Antebellum Mississippi, 1820–1860

Mississippi History Now: An online publication of the Mississippi Historical Society
August 2000

Denoral Davis, Profesor of History
Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi

During its first half century as a territory and state (1810-1860), Mississippi was an agrarian-frontier society. Its population was made up of four groups: Indians, whites, slaves, and free blacks. All four groups were present in Mississippi from its territorial beginnings.

Blacks in Mississippi, and elsewhere in the South, became free in several ways. Prior to 1825, it was common and legal for slaves to become free either by purchasing their freedom or by slaveholders freeing them. Beginning in the mid-1820s, both forms of emancipation became increasingly less common and even illegal. The primary pathways to free status for blacks were blocked.

In the decades after the 1820s, the legal avenues to freedom and emancipation were limited only to children born to free mothers and parents and to those approved by the Mississippi legislature through petitions for emancipation. With the passage of an 1822 law, the legislature became directly involved in slave emancipation for the purpose of limiting the state’s free black population. The 1822 law gave the legislature authority to approve or reject all slave emancipations in the state. Largely as a result, slave emancipations sharply declined and Mississippi’s free black population remained small, never exceeding 1,400…

…Free blacks as a group tended to be biracial and mulatto. In 1860, roughly 80 percent of Mississippi’s free black population of 800 were of mixed racial ancestry. By contrast, among the state’s more than 400,000 slaves on the eve of the Civil War, fewer than 10 percent were mulatto. Whites, slaveowners in particular, contributed to both the origins and existence of a free black, mulatto-dominated population in Mississippi. Court records from local chancery cases and records of the Mississippi Supreme Court clearly indicate the role of white slaveowners. In wills slaveowners sometimes admitted fathering mulatto offspring, and they frequently emancipated their children and left them property…

…The inheritance of money probably accounts for some slaveownership among free blacks. Fully 12 percent, 45 of the 519 free persons of color in 1830, owned slaves or were in slave-owning households. Most of these slaveowners, nearly 70 percent, were mulatto. Free black slaveholders owned an average of four slaves. However, William Perkins of Claiborne County held seventeen in bondage, and George Winn’s household in neighboring Adams County included sixteen slaves.

William Johnson (1809-1851), perhaps Mississippi’s best known free black, was a slaveholder as well. In 1834, the Adams County native owned three slaves and roughly 3,000 acres in real property. He went on to diversify his financial interests. He speculated in farmland, rented real estate, and owned a bath house, delivery firm, and toy shop. He even hired out his slaves to haul coal and sand. Throughout his life, the white community in Natchez and Adams County held Johnson in high regard. He associated with and was close to many of Adams County’s most prominent white families. Following Johnson’s untimely death at the hands of a free black, Baylor Winn, the Natchez Courier was moved to comment that Johnson held a “respected position [in the community] on account of his character, intelligence and deportment.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Gender and the manumission of slaves in colonial Brazil: The prospects for freedom in Sabará, Minas Gerais, 1710–1809

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2012-04-29 19:21Z by Steven

Gender and the manumission of slaves in colonial Brazil: The prospects for freedom in Sabará, Minas Gerais, 1710–1809

Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies
Volume 18, Issue 2, 1997
pages 1-29
DOI: 10.1080/01440399708575208

Kathleen J. Higgins

On 9 December 1735 Manoel da Costa Braga declared before the notary of Sabará, Minas Gerais, his decision to free from slavery his own children, Joseph, Marianna and Maria, and to recognize them as heirs to his estate. In this declaration Manoel da Costa Braga did not, however, choose to free the children’s mother, Magdalena, who presumably remained enslaved.

Fifty-five year later, on 10 February 1790. Senhora Maria Rodrigues Pereyra freed a child named Faustino in exchange for 40 drams of gold paid to her by the father, Sebastião Angola. The records do not show whether or not Faustino’s mother was ever set free.

These two manumissions, each typical of the time in which they were granted, reflect the transformation of Minas Gerais by its renowned eighteenth-century gold rush. Manoel da Costa Braga owned slaves in the first half of the eighteenth century when gold production was booming, slave prices were extraordinarily high, and the colonizers or Sabará were largely white men rarely accompanied by while women. In contrast, by the time Maria Rodrigues Pereyra owned slaves in Minas Gerais, the gold rush was long over and the importance of gold production to the overall economy had diminished significantly. The populations of both slave and free in Sabará were, nonetheless, much larger in Maria Rodrigues Pereyra’s day, and although white women were still outnumbered by white men, women slaveholders were by no means a novelty. Furthermore, by the end of the eighteenth century whites had long since ceased to be in the majority within the free population. In this slave society, manumission decisions had ultimately led to a population of free people (and slaveholders) that was both racially mixed and racially diverse (see Table 1).

Both the decline of gold mining and changes within the slaveholding population had a major impact on the manumission of slaves. Through a…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,

Manumission in nineteenth-century Virginia

Posted in Articles, Economics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2012-04-29 18:21Z by Steven

Manumission in nineteenth-century Virginia

Cliometrica: A Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History
Volume 5, Issue 2 (June 2011)
pages 145-164
DOI: 10.1007/s11698-010-0056-x

Howard Bodenhorn, Professor of Economics
Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina

Using previously unexploited data, this paper explores the ages at which slaves were manumitted. OLS estimates reveal that mixed-race slaves, slaves in the tobacco-producing Piedmont, and female slaves of female slave owners were manumitted at younger ages. Weibull proportional hazards estimates imply that the same groups were more likely to be manumitted. The results also reveal a markedly diminishing likelihood of manumission after Nat Turner’s 1831 insurrection in south-central Virginia. The results are consistent with a principal–agent model in which slave owners contracted with slaves over consumption and future manumission to elicit effort and control shirking or other unproductive activities.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , ,

Blackness in the White Nation: A History of Afro-Uruguay

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2012-04-29 17:52Z by Steven

Blackness in the White Nation: A History of Afro-Uruguay

University of North Carolina Press
October 2010
256 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 14 illus., 9 tables, notes, bibl., index
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8078-3417-6
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8078-7158-4

George Reid Andrews, Distinguished Professor of History
University of Pittsburgh

2011 Arthur P. Whitaker Prize, Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies

Uruguay is not conventionally thought of as part of the African diaspora, yet during the period of Spanish colonial rule, thousands of enslaved Africans arrived in the country. Afro-Uruguayans played important roles in Uruguay’s national life, creating the second-largest black press in Latin America, a racially defined political party, and numerous social and civic organizations.

Afro-Uruguayans were also central participants in the creation of Uruguayan popular culture and the country’s principal musical forms, tango and candombe. Candombe, a style of African-inflected music, is one of the defining features of the nation’s culture, embraced equally by white and black citizens.

In Blackness in the White Nation, George Reid Andrews offers a comprehensive history of Afro-Uruguayans from the colonial period to the present. Showing how social and political mobilization is intertwined with candombe, he traces the development of Afro-Uruguayan racial discourse and argues that candombe’s evolution as a central part of the nation’s culture has not fundamentally helped the cause of racial equality. Incorporating lively descriptions of his own experiences as a member of a candombe drumming and performance group, Andrews consistently connects the struggles of Afro-Uruguayans to the broader issues of race, culture, gender, and politics throughout Latin America and the African diaspora generally.

Tags: , , , , ,

Finding Grace: Two Sisters and the Search for Meaning Beyond the Color Line

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2012-04-29 17:19Z by Steven

Finding Grace: Two Sisters and the Search for Meaning Beyond the Color Line

Simon & Schuster
July 2007
296 pages
Paperback ISBN-10: 0743200543; ISBN-13: 9780743200547

Shirlee Taylor Haizlip

In her widely acclaimed, bestselling memoir, The Sweeter the Juice, Shirlee Taylor Haizlip asked us to redefine our concepts of race and family by examining her biracial heritage—how different gradations of dark and light skin led to a split in her mother’s nuclear family, and how various relatives have been reunited many years later, some of them previously unaware of their layered racial makeup. In this eloquent, moving, and eagerly awaited continuation of her story, Haizlip pushes further into the fascinating terrain of family, race, and racial passing. Just over ten years ago, Haizlip’s African American mother was reunited with her sister, who had spent her whole life passing for white; both women were in their eighties and had not seen or heard anything about each other since early childhood. Now Haizlip answers the many questions that linger from the previous book: What happened between these long-separated sisters after their reunion? What did they learn about each other, and about themselves? Is it possible to heal the wounds caused by such a rift?

In rich, elegant prose, Haizlip contrasts her mother’s fulfilling adult life with her aunt’s solitary white existence. They lived on opposite sides of the race line, but both women, says Haizlip, were plagued by “America’s twin demons: a paranoia about purity and an anxiety about authenticity.” These women and other members of the author’s extended family come vividly, achingly to life in these pages, turning this astute cultural investigation into a poignant, delightful, and highly personal narrative. Haizlip deftly, fluidly conveys the complexities of this story—the sadness, comedy, danger, anger, confusion, shame, fear, longing, excitement, and joy of her family’s rupture and reunion. We learn how Haizlip’s mother’s abandonment by members of her immediate family affected her daily life; we learn about the lives of relatives who left her behind, and of the members of succeeding generations who knew of the rift, and of those who did not.

Haizlip’s readers, too, appear here—after The Sweeter the Juice, Haizlip was flooded by letters in which people shared similar family stories of bi-racial heritage, passing, and the eventual revelation of an extended racial makeup. She includes some of these letters here, affirming that her own seemingly unusual tale is actually a very familiar, very American story: of the tumultuous, complicated interactions between black and white communities and individuals—interactions marked by fear and distrust, but also by camaraderie, ardor, and love. In sharing her own and her readers’ stories, Haizlip forges a new picture of America’s hidden racial past and its multihued future. Passionate, indomitable, and always generous toward her subjects, Haizlip explores what happens when the race divide exists within one family, and the effect of secret racial histories and their revelation on individuals and America at large.


  • Part I When the Rainbow Is Not Enough
    • Prologue
    • 1. A Twice-Told Tale
    • 2. The Gift
    • 3. The Etiology of Passing
    • 4. Visible and Invisible
    • 5. Passport to Privilege
    • 6. A Place Beyond Loss
    • 7. Creating a New Vocabulary
    • 8. In the Best of Families
    • 9. A Whiter Shade of White
    • 10. The Indian Who Wasn’t
    • 11. Tracking Will
    • 12. Life Review
    • 13. Eyes Other than Our Own
    • 14. Unexpected Encounters of Kith and Kin
  • Part II Relativity
    • 15. In Their Own Voices
  • Part III The Color of Letters
    • 16. Open Hearts, Open Minds
    • 17. The Last Word
  • Epilogue
Tags: , , ,

Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs

Posted in Books, Canada, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy, United Kingdom, United States on 2012-04-29 17:10Z by Steven

Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs

Routledge: Routledge Studies on African and Black Diaspora
204 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-87226-3
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-415-89391-6
eBook ISBN: 978-0-203-85736-6

Daniel R. McNeil, Associate Professor of History
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

This is the first book to place the self-fashioning of mixed-race individuals in the context of a Black Atlantic. Drawing on a wide range of sources and a diverse cast of characters – from the diaries, letters, novels and plays of femme fatales in Congo and the United States to the advertisements, dissertations, oral histories and political speeches of Black Power activists in Canada and the United Kingdom – it gives particular attention to the construction of mixed-race femininity and masculinity during the twentieth century. Its broad scope and historical approach provides readers with a timely rejoinder to academics, artists, journalists and politicians who only use the mixed-race label to depict prophets or delinquents as “new” national icons for the twenty-first century.

Table of Contents

  1. New People?
  2. An Individualistic Age?
  3. “Je suis métisse”
  4. “I. Am. A Light Grey Canadian.”
  5. “I’m Black. Not Mixed. Not Canadian. Not African. Just Black”
  6. “Yes, We’re All Individuals!” “I’m Not.”
  7. Conclusion
Tags: , , ,