Born into slavery, they rose to be elite New York Jews. A new book tells their story.

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-08 14:05Z by Steven

Born into slavery, they rose to be elite New York Jews. A new book tells their story.

Religion News Service
2021-10-05

Yonat Shimron, National Reporter and Senior Editor


Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family” and author Laura Arnold Leibman. Courtesy images

In her new book, ‘Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family,’ Laura Arnold Leibman shows that Jews were not only slave owners. They were also slaves.

(RNS) — Jews are proud of the biblical story from Exodus that recounts their deliverance from slavery in Egypt in the third century B.C.

But few U.S. Jews consider that some of their ancestors were slaves in the trans-Atlantic slave trade that ended in the 19th century.

In her new book, “Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family,” Laura Arnold Leibman, a Reed College English professor, conclusively shows that Jews, who were typically thought of as white, were not only slave owners. They were also slaves.

Leibman does this by excavating the genealogies of Sarah and Isaac Lopez Brandon, siblings born in the late 18th century to a wealthy Barbadian Jewish businessman and an enslaved woman. The siblings eventually made it New York, where they were able to pass as white. They became accomplished and affluent members of New York City’s oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel.

Sarah and Isaac’s father, Abraham Rodriguez Brandon, was a Sephardic Jew who traced his ancestry to the expulsion of Jews from Spain. He settled in Barbados as part of a Jewish community of between 400 and 500 families that worked on the island’s sugar plantations and refineries.

Brandon secured his children’s manumission fees, and in 1801 they became “free mulattos.” In Barbados, that still meant they could not vote or hold office, or for that matter be married in the island’s synagogue or buried in its cemetery.

But America was kinder to them. Both Sarah and Isaac immigrated to America and married into prominent and wealthy U.S. Jewish families while hiding their past. One granddaughter had no clue about their origins.

Religion News Service talked to Leibman about her discovery of the Brandon genealogy and what it means for the U.S. Jewish community to grapple with its multiracial past and present. The interview was edited for length and clarity…

Read the entire interview here.

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Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-07 15:45Z by Steven

Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Oxford University Press
2021-08-30
320 Pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780197530474

Laura Arnold Leibman, Professor of English and Humanities
Reed College, Portland, Oregon

Highlights

  • Provides a rare historical portrait of life as a Jewish American of color
  • Examines the history of racial “passing” in an international context
  • Uses an intersectional lens to untangle a family history

An obsessive genealogist and descendent of one of the most prominent Jewish families since the American Revolution, Blanche Moses firmly believed her maternal ancestors were Sephardic grandees. Yet she found herself at a dead end when it came to her grandmother’s maternal line. Using family heirlooms to unlock the mystery of Moses’s ancestors, Once We Were Slaves overturns the reclusive heiress’s assumptions about her family history to reveal that her grandmother and great-uncle, Sarah and Isaac Brandon, actually began their lives as poor Christian slaves in Barbados. Tracing the siblings’ extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts they left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and, finally, New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and–at times–white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived, and sheds new light on the fluidity of race–as well as on the role of religion in racial shift–in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Origins (Bridgetown, 1793-1798)
  • Chapter 2: From Slave to Free (Bridgetown, 1801)
  • Chapter 3: From Christian to Jew (Suriname, 1811-12)
  • Chapter 4: The Tumultuous Island (Bridgetown, 1812-1817)
  • Chapter 5: Synagogue Seats (New York & Philadelphia, 1793-1818)
  • Chapter 6: The Material of Race (London, 1815-17)
  • Chapter 7: Voices of Rebellion (Bridgetown, 1818-24)
  • Chapter 8: A Woman Valor (New York, 1817-19)
  • Chapter 9: This Liberal City (Philadelphia, 1818-33)
  • Chapter 10: Feverish Love (New York, 1819-1830)
  • Chapter 11: When I am Gone (New York, Barbados, London, 1830-1847)
  • Chapter 12: Legacies (New York and Beyond, 1841-1860)
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: Family Trees
  • Abbreviations
  • Bibliography
  • Notes
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Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2021-09-20 13:57Z by Steven

Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas

University of Georgia Press
2018-10-01
240 pages
5 b&w images
6.000in x 9.000in
Hardcover ISBN: 9-780-8203-5403-3
Paperback ISBN: 9-780-8203-5404-0

Edited by:

Daina Ramey Berry, Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History
University of Texas, Austin

Leslie M. Harris, Professor of History
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Foreword by:

Catherine Clinton, Denman Endowed Professor in American History
University of Texas, San Antonio

An examination of the many facets of sexuality within slave communities

In this groundbreaking collection, editors Daina Ramey Berry and Leslie M. Harris place sexuality at the center of slavery studies in the Americas (the United States, the Caribbean, and South America). While scholars have marginalized or simply overlooked the importance of sexual practices in most mainstream studies of slavery, Berry and Harris argue here that sexual intimacy constituted a core terrain of struggle between slaveholders and the enslaved. These essays explore consensual sexual intimacy and expression within slave communities, as well as sexual relationships across lines of race, status, and power. Contributors explore sexuality as a tool of control, exploitation, and repression and as an expression of autonomy, resistance, and defiance.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword / Catherine Clinton
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction / Daina Ramey Berry and Leslie M. Harris
  • Chapter 1 : Early European Views of African Bodies: Beauty / Stephanie M. H. Camp
  • Chapter 2: Toiling in the Fields: Valuing Female Slaves in Jamaica, 1674-1788 / Trevor Barnard
  • Chapter 3: Reading the Specter of Racialized Gender in Eighteenth-Century Bridgetown, Barbados / Marisa J. Fuentes
  • Chapter 4: As if She Were My Own: Love and Law in the Slave Society of Eighteenth-Century Peru /Bianca Premo
  • Chapter 5: Wombs of Liberation: Petitions, Law, and the Black Woman’s Body in Maryland, 1780-1858 / Jessica Millward
  • Chapter 6: Rethinking Sexual Violence and the Marketplace of Slavery: White Women, the Slave Market, and Enslaved Peoples Sexualized Bodies in the Nineteenth-Century South / Stephanie Jones-Rogers
  • Chapter 7: The Sexual Abuse of Black Men under American Slavery Thomas A. Foster
  • Chapter 8: Manhood, Sex, and Power in Antebellum Slave Communities / David Doddington
  • Chapter 9: What’s Love Got to Do with It? Concubinage and Enslaved Women and Girls in the Antebellum South / Brenda E. Stevenson
  • Chapter 10: When the Present Is Past: Writing the History of Sexuality and Slavery / Jim Downs
  • Contributors
  • Index
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Rihanna: Barbados World Gurl in Global Popular Culture

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Women on 2016-03-20 20:08Z by Steven

Rihanna: Barbados World Gurl in Global Popular Culture

University of the West Indies Press
2015
220 pages
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 978-976-640-502-1

Edited by:

Hilary McD. Beckles, Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados

Heather D. Russell, Associate Professor of English
Florida International University, Miami, Florida

Rihanna is arguably the most commercially successful Caribbean artist in history. She is Barbadian and has been unwavering in publicly articulating her national and regional belonging. Still, there have been varied responses to Rihanna’s ascendancy, among both Barbadians and the wider Caribbean community. The responses reveal as much about our own national and regional anxieties as they do about the artist herself. The boundary-transgressing, cultural icon Rihanna is subject to anxieties about her body language and latitude from her global audiences as well; however, the essays in this collection purposely seek to de-centre the dominance of the Euro-American gaze, focusing instead on considerations of the Caribbean artist and her oeuvre from a Caribbean postcolonial corpus of academic inquiry.

This collection brings together US- and Caribbean-based scholars to discuss issues of class, gender, sexuality, race, culture and economy. Using the concept of diasporic citizenship as a theoretical frame, the authors intervene in current questions of national and transnational circuits of exchange as they pertain to the commoditization and movement of culture, knowledge, values and identity. The contributors approach the subjects of Rihanna, globalization, gender and sexuality, commerce, transnationalism, Caribbean regionalism, and Barbadian national identity and development from different disciplinary and at times radically divergent perspectives. At the same time, they collectively work through the limitations, possibilities and promise of our best Caribbean imaginings.

Contents

  • Selected Discography and Awards
  • INTRODUCTION “Baadest-Bajan, Wickedest World-Gurl” HILARY McD. BECKLES AND HEATHER D. RUSSELL
  • CHAPTER 1 Westbury Writes Back: Rihanna Reclaimed HILARY McD. BECKLES
  • CHAPTER 2 Rihanna as Global Icon and Caribbean Threshold Figure DON D. MARSHALL
  • CHAPTER 3 International Identity: Rihanna and the Barbados Music Industry MIKE ALLEYNE
  • CHAPTER 4 “What’s My Name?” Reading Rihanna’s Autobiographical Acts ESTHER L. JONES
  • CHAPTER 5 She Dances on the Holodeck CURWEN BEST
  • CHAPTER 6 From “F Love” to “He Is the One”? Rihanna, Chris Brown and the Danger of Traumatic Bonding DONNA AZA WEIR-SOLEY
  • CHAPTER 7 Rihanna and Bajan Respectability AARON KAMUGISHA
  • CHAPTER 8 Rihanna: Diaspora Citizen, Bajan Daughter, Global Superstar HEATHER D. RUSSELL
  • Contributors
  • Acknowledgements
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A Family Tree That Includes Slaves — And Slave Owners

Posted in Articles, Audio, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2013-08-19 21:42Z by Steven

A Family Tree That Includes Slaves — And Slave Owners

Tell Me More
National Public Radio
2013-08-15

Celeste Headlee, Host

Part of our summer reading series Island Reads, highlighting authors from the Caribbean

Andrea Stuart was curious about her family’s history in Barbados. And through years of careful research, she found that her bloodline includes both slave owners and slaves. She has written about her own family, as well as a detailed history of slavery in the Caribbean, in her book Sugar in the Blood. Guest host Celeste Headlee talks with Stuart about her family history, the moral complexity of slavery and finding roots in the past.

Interview Highlights

On the founder of a mixed-race dynasty:

“When I read about George Ashby, or rather, wrote about him, I remember thinking, ‘My goodness. What bravery it must have taken to take this huge step to leave England, in his case, to go to the New World.’ I mean, in those days the journey itself was so traumatic and long, the chances of being killed by raiders or pirates — everything was so difficult about this journey, and then to kind of confront this untrampled land, where at least half of the early settlers died just because things were so difficult. It seemed to me that he was extraordinarily brave. But then his generation and the subsequent generations make this terrible mistake. They become slave owners, and therefore become part of the whole institution of slavery. So I am deeply ambivalent about him. I admire him on one hand, and I lament him on the other.”…

Listen to the story here. Download the audio here. Read the transcript here.

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The Original Slave Colony: Barbados and Andrea Stuart’s ‘Sugar in the Blood’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2013-01-25 03:55Z by Steven

The Original Slave Colony: Barbados and Andrea Stuart’s ‘Sugar in the Blood’

The Daily Beast
2013-01-24

Eric Herschthal
Columbia University

Barbados provided the blueprint for all future British slave settlements in the American South. Andrea Stuart talks to Eric Herschthal about how her family was entwined in the island’s tormented history.

On the face of it, what happened in the tiny island of Barbados 400 years ago seems irrelevant to Americans today. Even now, the island matters to Americans for perhaps one reason: the weather—it’s a popular tourist getaway. But in her exceptional new book, Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire, Andrea Stuart insists Barbados, with its long history of slavery, matters more than we know.

“I wanted to take slavery out of its niche,” she said. “It’s not a black story, it’s not a white story. I want to remind people that this story belongs to us all.” Slavery and its legacy—race—still shape our world. But more specifically, the creation of Barbados, the British empire’s earliest, most profitable settlement in the New World, provided the blueprint for all its future slave colonies: South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, you name it.

The island’s first settlers, like Stuart’s white ancestor George Ashby, arrived in the early-1600s. Spain was raking in huge profits with their New World colonies, mainly by extracting gold and silver. The British wanted to catch up, but when they arrived in the Caribbean, no precious metals were found. Within a few decades, however, they discovered they could make money by cultivating another precious commodity: sugar, or as it was called by many at the time, “white gold.”

That demanded workers, and the British quickly found a cheap labor source: African slaves. By century’s end, 80 percent of Barbados’s 85,000 inhabitants were Africans, giving rise to a rigid racial hierarchy: a small elite of whites on top; the masses of black workers on bottom; and, somewhere in between, a small caste of illegitimate mixed-race children, born to masters and their preyed-upon female slaves.

Given how small the island was, many of the whites who couldn’t establish a large plantation moved on to other British colonies. Many went to places that would become part of the United States. They replicated the Barbadian plantation model, growing mainly rice and tobacco, and had an outsized impact on early America. In colonies like South Carolina, six of the governors were Barbadians between 1670 and 1730. Other Barbadian émigrés, like George Ashby’s Quaker brother, helped settle Pennsylvania. Barbados was so important to the British colonial system that even George Washington, who only left North America once in his life, made that stop on the island, to help his sick brother recover from an illness…

…The “small people” she chose to focus on are her own descendants: George Ashby; his descendants like the wealthy plantation owner Robert Cooper; and several of Cooper’s slave concubines and their black children. Stuart’s mixed racial heritage helped her paint such a ruthlessly honest portrait of slavery, where she can both admire and revile slave-owners like Cooper—even wonder whether some of the slaves he slept with may have loved him.

“The reality is that most blacks have mixed blood,” she said. “When I was doing research on George Ashby, I felt some empathy. There’s something brave about leaving the world you know. If you can make that empathetic journey, you can show a more complicated picture.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2013-01-25 03:07Z by Steven

Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire

Knopf
2013-01-22
384 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-307-27283-6
eBook ISBN: 978-0-307-96115-0

Andrea Stuart

In the late 1630s, lured by the promise of the New World, Andrea Stuart’s earliest known maternal ancestor, George Ashby, set sail from England to settle in Barbados. He fell into the life of a sugar plantation owner by mere chance, but by the time he harvested his first crop, a revolution was fully under way: the farming of sugar cane, and the swiftly increasing demands for sugar worldwide, would not only lift George Ashby from abject poverty and shape the lives of his descendants, but it would also bind together ambitious white entrepreneurs and enslaved black workers in a strangling embrace. Stuart uses her own family story—from the seventeenth century through the present—as the pivot for this epic tale of migration, settlement, survival, slavery and the making of the Americas.

 As it grew, the sugar trade enriched Europe as never before, financing the Industrial Revolution and fuelling the Enlightenment. And, as well, it became the basis of many economies in South America, played an important part in the evolution of the United States as a world power and transformed the Caribbean into an archipelago of riches. But this sweet and hugely profitable trade—“white gold,” as it was known—had profoundly less palatable consequences in its precipitation of the enslavement of Africans to work the fields on the islands and, ultimately, throughout the American continents. Interspersing the tectonic shifts of colonial history with her family’s experience, Stuart explores the interconnected themes of settlement, sugar and slavery with extraordinary subtlety and sensitivity. In examining how these forces shaped her own family—its genealogy, intimate relationships, circumstances of birth, varying hues of skin—she illuminates how her family, among millions of others like it, in turn transformed the society in which they lived, and how that interchange continues to this day. Shifting between personal and global history, Stuart gives us a deepened understanding of the connections between continents, between black and white, between men and women, between the free and the enslaved. It is a story brought to life with riveting and unparalleled immediacy, a story of fundamental importance to the making of our world.

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