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Alvin O. Thompson

Black slavery in the Caribbean was primarily an economic phenomenon although it had important political and social ramifications A large cheap docile labor force was the ideal the Europeans sought for their sugar coffee cocoa cotton and other tropical plantations The sparsity of the indigenous Caribbean populations in most of the islands at the time of the European arrival and their subsequent decimation by inhuman treatment and epidemic diseases introduced from Europe and Africa led to a critical shortage of labor for the new European plantations The geographical location of Africa and the collaboration of the African ruling classes with the European purveyors of the slave trade ensured continuous supply of slaves from that source Over time the introduction of Africans radically changed the demographic economic social and cultural landscape of the Caribbean Peoples of African descent today constitute the largest population groups in most of the islands and are ...


Nicolás Ocaranza

slave and wet nurse for the South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar, was born on 13 August 1763 in San Mateo, Aragua State, in the general captaincy of Venezuela. She was best known as la negra Hipólita (Black Hipólita), and lived much of her life in San Mateo State, where the Bolívar family had sugar plantations dependent on black slave labor.

From 1773, at around age 10, Hipólita served as a domestic servant in the household of Juan Vicente Bolívar and Maria de la Concepcion Palacios y Blanco, the parents of Simón Bolívar, who owned over two hundred slaves across several estates engaged in mining and the cultivation of cacao. As was the custom in a society based on slavery, Hipólita took her master’s last name as her own.

In 1781 the Bolívar family moved some black slaves from the Santo Domingo de Macaira estate in Caucagua to the ...


zambo (son of a Guaraní Indian father and a black mother), infantry soldier, and Argentine national hero killed at the Battle of San Lorenzo (February 1813). It was in the midst of this battle that the leader of the revolutionary forces, General José de San Martín, had his horse shot from under him. According to both legendary and historical accounts, as the general was about to be killed by a Spanish soldier, Cabral sacrificed himself for the sake of San Martín, though the exact details of Cabral’s actions remain open to speculation. In his martyrdom for the revolution, Cabral entered the pantheon of Argentina’s heroes, remembered and commemorated in verse, song, and monuments. In addition, streets and public schools throughout Argentina bear Cabral’s name, and even the army’s school for noncommissioned officers is named after the hero of San Lorenzo.

Much of Cabral s life remains a matter ...


Verene A. Shepherd

The use of the labor of enslaved Africans became a part of the strategic economic thinking of European wealth accumulators in the Americas by the early seventeenth century as soon as it became clear that indigenous and white servant labor were both numerically inadequate to serve the needs of the expanding agricultural economy Having conquered the land resources of the indigenous peoples and with no desire to work this land themselves Europeans turned to the coerced labor of outsiders to extract returns from the land The success of the colonization project depended on the export of agricultural commodities to provide raw material and consumer goods for Europe Sugar rice indigo coffee cotton and tobacco were among the crops that provided planters in the Americas with the exportable agricultural commodities they needed There was no inherent reason why export led growth had to be associated with slavery Smallholders in other parts ...


Dale Tomich, Francisco A. Scarano, Michael Craton, Pieter Emmer, and Carolyn Flick

[To chart the history of slavery in various European colonies throughout the Caribbean, this entry comprises five articles:

British Caribbean

French Caribbean

Spanish Caribbean

Dutch Caribbean

Danish and Swedish Caribbean

For further discussion of the scope and documentation of slavery in the region,see Historiography, article on Latin ...


The European conquest and colonization of the American continent was done with very little knowledge of the new territory's inhabitants or its lands. Partly as a consequence of this and partly due to their roles as colonizers, Europeans imposed their ideas and institutions on the indigenous peoples and the slaves brought from Africa. The colonizers recreated their cultural, legal, and political orders without necessarily taking into account the diversity of the population that came together as a consequence of the colonial process.



Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka

Dance in Africa is as diverse and as complex as the myriad of cultures and peoples on the continent. An art form, it is a product of, and part of, the engendering culture. Albeit nonverbal, dance is especially valued on the African continent for its expressiveness and dynamic form, and features prominently as a medium of communication during religious worships and at instructional levels. Whether in ancient times or in more contemporary times, dance retains its popularity among African peoples as a creative outlet at numerous levels—from the sublime to the predictable, from the sacred to the secular.

All embracing all encompassing dance in the African context quite often becomes a focal point of display and repository for other art forms enhancing them with its dynamic attributes The claim can be made that many other African art forms have been created expressly with dance in mind it is essentially through ...


Julia Gaffield

general in the Haitian Revolution, first leader of independent Haiti, and a lwa in the Haitian Vodou pantheon. The specifics of Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s early life are not well documented and historians have not come to a consensus regarding his date and place of birth. He was born around the year 1758 in either west central Africa or in the Grande Rivière region in the north of the French colony of Saint Domingue in the Caribbean where he spent much of his life as a slave on two plantations In the late eighteenth century Saint Domingue was the most wealth producing colony in the Americas Much of this wealth was generated through the cultivation and export of sugar and coffee crops Enslaved people often purchased by the plantation owners through the transatlantic slave trade were forced to work on plantations to produce wealth for their masters Some enslaved people were ...


George Boulukos

slave, sailor, writer, and activist (widely known in his time as Gustavus Vassa), became the most famous African in eighteenth-century Britain as the author of his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789 While the scholar Vincent Carretta has found some evidence placing his birth in South Carolina Equiano identifies his birthplace as Essaka a small ethnically Igbo town in present day Nigeria His parents remain unknown but Equiano s family was prominent he expected to undergo a scarification ritual but was kidnapped by slavers as a young boy He experienced slavery in a variety of West African communities until he was brought to a seaport and sold to European slavers Neither Essaka nor the name Equiano has been definitively identified although both have plausible Igbo analogs such as Isseke and Ekwuano Both his African origin and his exact ...


The Haitian Revolution began as a rebellion against slavery and French plantation owners, but became a political revolution that lasted for thirteen years and resulted in independence from France. By 1804 the revolution had destroyed the dominant white population, the plantation system, and the institution of slavery in the most prosperous colony of the Western Hemisphere. The colony then became the first independent black republic in the world, the republic of Haiti.

The effects of the Haitian revolt spread far beyond the island. It contributed to the end of French colonial ambitions in the Western Hemisphere, which led France to sell its vast territory in North America to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 Refugees from Haiti settled in Louisiana helping to establish that area s distinct French Creole culture The uprising also inspired fear of similar revolts in other slave holding areas of ...


Matthew Francis Rarey

was born in Salvador da Bahia, then capital of the Portuguese colony of Brazil, to António Feliciano Borges and Josefa de Santana. A pardo described as forro (freed), Jesus began his artistic career in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, a period of high artistic output for Bahia’s many artists of color, such as Francisco das Chagas (fl. eighteenth century). Early in his life, Jesus began studying with noted Bahian painter José Joaquim da Rocha (1737–1807) and worked as a painter’s assistant and gilder on a number of Rocha’s projects in Salvador.

In 1788 Jesus entered military service with Salvador s Fourth Artillery Regiment Later Rocha paid for Jesus to study painting at the Escola das Belas Artes School of Fine Arts in Lisbon To supplement Rocha s offer Jesus took out a loan from Salvador s Santa Casa de Misericórdia Holy House of Mercy a ...


Amy J. Buono

was born around 1738 in Rio de Janeiro. Historians and critics consider Joaquim to be one of the most important and innovative artists working in late-colonial Rio, largely because of his secular subject matter, colorful palette, and pioneering role in a “native” representation of the Brazilian landscape. Although details of his early life, including his birth date and parentage are obscure, the first clue as to his Afro-descent comes from nineteenth-century historian Cunha Barbosa (Leite, 2010, p. 373). Until his death in his eighties, Joaquim lived and worked in his native Rio. He trained under the artist João de Sousa and was a member of the Fluminense School of painting, the name given to the most prominent group of artists active in Rio de Janeiro during the eighteenth century.

Joaquim s artistic production coincided with a shift of the center of Brazil s economic political and cultural political ...


Barrymore Bogues

Former slave, and political and military leader during the late eighteenth century of the revolutionary slave army in the Caribbean French colony of Saint Domingue, Toussaint L’Ouverture is a historical figure of world significance. By the early nineteenth century, he was known as one of the most remarkable men of those times. The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth honored him with a sonnet; major Western newspapers wrote editorials about him, and when he died in a French prison, one newspaper called him a “truly great man.” In the late nineteenth century, the American writer Henry Adams devoted a chapter of his nine-volume history of the United States to Toussaint L’Ouverture. In Adams’s judgment, “The story of Toussaint Louverture [sic has been told almost as that of Napoleon but not in connection with the history of the United States although Toussaint exercised an influence as decisive as that of any ...


Mónica Domínguez Torres

better known as O Aleijadinho, is by far the most famous Brazilian artist of the colonial era. He left an impressive body of works in architecture and sculpture in the prosperous captaincy of Minas Gerais, especially in his hometown of Vila Rica de Ouro Preto, one of the richest mining settlements of the eighteenth-century Americas. Few details about his life are known, most of them coming from the first biography that Rodrigo José Ferreira Bretas published in 1858, based by and large on an interview with the artist’s daughter-in-law, Joana Lopes (c. 1770–?), in whose house the artist lived during his last years.

There exist discrepancies about the year of Lisboa’s birth. Some scholars cite 1738, based on his surviving death certificate that states he died in 1814 at age 76, while others follow the information provided by Bretas from a lost baptismal record dated 1720 ...


Antônio Francisco Lisboa, better known by his nickname “Aleijadinho” (the Little Cripple), was born in Villa Rica do Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil, where he later distinguished himself as an artist during the baroque and rococo artistic periods. The Minas Gerais variant of the baroque and rococo styles is distinct; unlike the coastal states of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, whose frequent contact with Portugal kept the art and architecture of those provinces in tune with European artistic developments, Minas Gerias's location in the interior largely insulated it from European influences. Minas Gerais was also a more recently settled province, and it had few convents or monasteries of the regular orders, which would have otherwise encouraged the duplication of European architectural designs.

During the colonial era in Latin America the church was the center of social life and the principal patron of the arts Virtually all of Aleijadinho ...


was born in the French sugar colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), in the west of the island of Hispaniola sometime in the early 1740s. In the first phase of his life he was known as Toussaint à Bréda, his surname adopted from the plantation where he served his time in slavery, not far from the colony’s cultural capital, then called Cap-Français. Legend has it that Toussaint was the son of a royal African warrior, Gaou-Ginou, brought to Saint-Domingue as a captive, and his second wife, known only as Pauline.

As a slave Toussaint served as a herdsman coachman horse trainer veterinarian general assistant to Bréda s French manager Bayon de Libertat nurse at a nearby Jesuit hospital and herbal doctor practicing traditional African medicine After his emancipation he became a planter himself then a military officer politician and de facto head of state Unusual for a slave in Saint Domingue ...


Aaron Myers

From the beginning of slavery in the Americas in the sixteenth century through abolition in the nineteenth century, male and female slaves escaped from plantations and established semi-independent, self-governing communities. These communities were often located in inaccessible areas, such as forests, swamps, and mountains. They were known variously as palenques, quilombos, mocambos, cumbes, mambises, ladeiras, and maroons. Over time the term maroon—derived from the Spanish cimarrón, which, in turn, is based on a Taíno word meaning “fugitive”—became the standard word for an individual escaped slave or a community of escaped slaves. The phenomenon of escaped slaves forming communities, known as maroonage, represented a common response to slavery throughout the Americas. Maroon communities ranged in size from small bands that came together for less than a year to powerful groups of thousands that survived for generations or even centuries.

Current scholarship on ...



Richard Price

The man who was to become the first African-American maroon arrived on the first slave ship to reach the Americas, within a decade of Columbus's landfall; one of the last maroons to escape from slavery was still alive in Cuba in the 1970s. For more than four centuries the communities formed by escaped slaves dotted the fringes of plantation America, from Brazil to the southeastern United States and from Peru to the American Southwest. Known variously as palenques, quilombos, mocambos, cumbes, mambises, or ladeiras these new societies ranged from tiny bands that survived less than a year to powerful states with thousands of members that survived for generations or even centuries Today their descendants still form semi independent enclaves in several parts of the hemisphere for example in Suriname French Guiana Jamaica Colombia and Belize remaining fiercely proud of their maroon origins and in some cases at least ...


José María Morelos y Pavón was born in Valladolid, New Spain—what is now the city of Morelia in the Mexican state of Michoacán (the city was named in his honor). Educated there, Morelos worked as a scribe and accountant from 1770 to 1790, when he began studies for the priesthood. The Catholic Church had long forbidden blacks, mulattos, and zambos (Afro-Indians) from becoming priests. Morelos's baptismal record, however, had been tampered with—he was originally designated a mulatto, but the record later indicated he was white—and throughout his life the leader maintained that he was of Spanish (white) descent. In all likelihood his parents paid the local priest to make the change in his baptismal record so he would receive more favorable treatment in New Spain's rigid caste system.

Morelos's studies took him to the College of San Nicolás, where he met Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811 future ...


David Geggus

The slave revolt that between 1791 and 1803 transformed France's immensely wealthy colony of Saint Domingue was among the largest in world history, and the sole fully successful one. It brought about the first wholesale act of emancipation in a major slave society (August 1793) and the creation in January 1804 of Haiti, the first modern black state. Of all the American struggles for colonial independence it involved the greatest degree of mass mobilization, and it caused the greatest degree of social and economic change. In twelve years of devastating warfare, the world's major producer of sugar and coffee was economically ruined and its ruling class entirely eliminated. For slaves and slave-owners throughout the Americas, the Saint Domingue or Haitian Revolution was an inspiration and a warning.

Historians have disagreed about the extent to which the revolution resulted from internal factors and how far it was a byproduct ...