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Article

Patricia Acerbi

was born into slavery in the northern Brazilian city of São Luís do Maranhão in the mid-nineteenth century. During the middle decades of the Brazilian Empire (1822–1889), São Luís was a prosperous port city organized around the export of sugar, tobacco, cacao, and cotton to major trading centers of the Atlantic world. Adelina participated in the region’s long-established tobacco sector by selling cigars (charutos) on the streets of São Luis as a wage-earning slave (female: ganhadeira; male: ganhador). The slave labor she performed peddling cigars earned her the nickname Charuteira (cigar vendor). Adelina was the daughter of an enslaved woman known as Boca da Noite and a wealthy slaveowner. Her biological father became impoverished and entered the local cigar trade to make ends meet.

Considering common characteristics of small property owners in Brazilian urban slave societies it is likely that Adelina s owner purchased ...

Article

Yesenia Barragan

enslaved rebel in the province of Chocó in New Granada modern day Colombia was born in the late eighteenth century Agustina lived in the small town of Pueblo Viejo present day Tadó located south of Quibdó where she was the slave of Miguel Gómez Agustina was admired for her tremendous physical beauty and like all female slaves faced the danger of sexual assault by her master especially common among slaves who lived and worked in close quarters This was the case for Agustina who worked as a cook in addition to performing other household tasks Sometime in the late eighteenth century Agustina was raped and impregnated by Gómez Upon discovering her pregnancy Gómez demanded that Agustina abort the child immediately to avoid public scandal but she refused Abortion infanticide and refusal to abort were common forms of resistance employed by enslaved women to control their bodies and livelihoods Consequently Gómez ...

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Juan Navarrete

black slave of the Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro, who led an expedition to Chile, was reportedly born in 1498. Her place of birth is unknown, but the first archival notices of her date from 1523 when Antón Palma, a resident of Seville, purchased a pregnant slave woman named Malgarida for 12,000 maravedies from the artisan Juan Fiuco. In Seville in 1526, Francisco Díaz Sahagún committed to paying twelve gold ducats to a Genoese traveler to transport this slave woman to the Indies, where Malgarida was acquired by Diego de Almagro, probably in Panama, for the purpose of caring for his son, Diego.

Twenty years younger than her master, Malgarida was known to be profoundly beautiful, and she and Almagro reportedly became lovers. He brought her with him to Peru, and from there to Chile in 1535 as part of the first European expedition to the region ...

Article

Marcelo Ahumada

enslaved woman in Santiago del Estero, a province in northeastern Argentina, accused and condemned together with her mother, Simona, and one of her sisters for practicing witchcraft. María, another of her sisters, managed to evade legal prosecution. Antonia was, along with the rest of her family, a slave of Don Antonio de Luna y Cárdenas. She was freed after his death, at some point before March 1725, when a judicial proceeding was initiated against her for homicide resulting from enchantment and witchcraft. Within a short period, Antonia’s sister was burned to death for these alleged crimes, while their mother, Simona, managed to escape. Though Antonia was condemned to death on six charges of murder, evidence suggests that she managed to avoid the punishment, and her ultimate fate remains unknown.

The judge in the case López Caballero made statements that noted his prior familiarity with Antonia and the alleged infamy ...

Article

Eduardo R. Palermo

was born in Africa in the mid-eighteenth century and brought to the River Plate region as a slave at an unknown date. After she was freed and purchased her own land, Barberá donated her property for the establishment of Tacuarembó, a city in northern Uruguay, in 1832. The donation represents the only documented case of a person of African descent contributing land for the subsequent founding of a town or city.

The existing historical record refers to Barberá as a freedwoman or “morena libre.” Until the late 1790s, she is registered as residing in rural northern Uruguay, with the respective landowner’s permission. She settled at the intersection of the Tranqueras and Tacuarembó Chico rivers, a site that became known among locals as “el rincón de Tía Ana” (Aunt Ana’s Corner). In July 1804 in Montevideo Barberá signed a commitment to officially purchase the plot of land with an ...

Article

an African woman enslaved in Bermuda in the sixteenth century, was the grandmother of a young woman named Beck, who was enslaved by Thomas and Sarah Foster. Bassett was convicted of attempting to kill both the Fosters and their enslaved domestic woman Nancy (spelled by some sources as Nancey), by poison, in June 1730. Her story significantly chronicles how African communities, and black women in particular, resisted slavery in Bermuda and the wider Americas. In 2008, Bermuda’s Progressive Labour Party government erected a monument, “The Spirit of Freedom,” to honor Bassett’s fight against slavery. This launched a racially polarized debate about race and the memory of slavery in Bermuda.

During her trial it was claimed that Bassett gave Beck several types of poison including ratsbane white toad and manchineel root along with specific instructions on how to apply them one as a powdered inhalant the other to be ...

Article

Camilla Townsend

an enslaved Afro-Ecuadorian who confronted Simón Bolívar in order to secure her freedom, was born in the cacao-producing Guayas region in the first few years of the nineteenth century. Batallas was not famous in her own day nor is she now, but she provides an excellent example of the strategizing Afro-Ecuadorians often engaged in to gain their own freedom during the Wars of Independence, a time of political flux. Nothing is known of her childhood, but in November 1821, when she was a young woman living as a slave in Guayaquil, she attracted the attention of a 27-year-old merchant named Ildefonso Coronel. He purchased her from her master and placed her in a house he secured for her. She later said that he did not force himself upon her, but rather courted her, promised to free her, and waited for her to respond voluntarily to his advances.

In these ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Enrique Salvador Rivera

the enslaved caretaker and teacher of the South American independence hero Simón Bolívar, was born on 21 September 1773 in San José de Tiznados, Venezuela. Matea Bolívar was the daughter of two enslaved parents who were forced to work for the affluent Bolívar family on one of their properties in San José de Tiznados. Matea was forced to leave her parents at the age of 9 to live and work on the Bolívar family’s plantation in San Mateo. Simón Bolívar was an infant when Matea arrived, and she was tasked with caring for him. Matea would later be in charge of providing a basic education for Simón.

Bolívar lived on San Mateo for nearly forty years, and she was there during the Venezuelan War of Independence, witnessing the famous Battle of San Mateo, including the independence hero Antonio Ricaurte’s death by self-immolation. In March 1814 when Matea was 31 ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Atlantic slave-trade survivor presented as a gift to Britain's Queen Victoria, was born in the early 1840s in or near the southern Beninese town of Okeadon. Her birth name is not known, but her marriage certificate would list her name as Ina Sarah Forbes Bonetta, perhaps indicating that her original name was Ina. Southern Beninese states had fought for years against the inland kingdom of Dahomey for autonomy, as the slave-trading empire sought to force its southern neighbors to pay tribute and accept Dahomean control over the slaves that were often sold to European and South American merchants. In 1846 Dahomean soldiers seized her and killed her parents during the Okeadon War between Dahomey and its enemies in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta after a traitor had allowed Dahomean troops entry to the town Bonetta was fortunate she did not join the 600 or so town residents ...

Article

K. Russell Lohse

forebear of Costa Rican president and Nobel Prize laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez, was born into slavery, the child of an enslaved mother. Her history exemplifies that of a number of other such enslaved women about which less is known. They were the ancestors of many Central American presidents and major political figures in the nineteenth century, including Costa Ricans Vicente Aguilar Cubero and Leonardo Zavaleta, and the Nicaraguans Dionisio de la Quadra and Ponciano Corral, whose family trees had roots in not only elite society but also slavery, a fact that was well known at the time but subsequently forgotten or suppressed.

Cardoso was born in Cartago, Costa Rica, to a slave mother owned by Ana Pereira Cardoso about 1650 When she was approximately 20 years old Ana was purchased by Tomás Calvo and his wife Eugenia de Abarca for 400 pesos Ana became involved in a sexual relationship ...

Article

Júnia Ferreira Furtado

also known as Francisca da Silva de Oliveira, Brazilian slave, was born in the village of Tejuco, located in the Minas Gerais captaincy in Brazil. More than any other slave, her figure became an icon, representing Brazilian mulatto power and symbolizing Brazil’s so-called racial democracy.

Chica da Silva was a slave who lived at the height of eighteenth century diamond extraction in colonial Portuguese America She became legendary in large part because of her relationship with the contractor João Fernandes de Oliveira a white man who held the royal concession on private extraction of diamonds in the region of the village of Tejuco today s Diamantina in the northeast of the captaincy the current state of Minas Gerais It was in this region that rich gold and diamond mines were discovered in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries becoming important economic resources for the Portuguese empire Throughout the twentieth ...

Article

Sandra Lauderdale Graham

Afro-Brazilian wet nurse born in Mozambique presumably in 1826, was shipped to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a slave. It is possible that she arrived after 1830, when an Anglo-Brazilian treaty against the transatlantic trade took effect. Clementina was among slaves from Mozambique who made up an estimated one-quarter of all slaves in Rio de Janeiro after 1830. Exactly when Francisco de Paula Barboza Leite Brandão, an attorney of moderate means judging by his address in the capital of Rio de Janeiro, and his wife bought Clementina is not known, but as a younger woman she earned their trust as the ama-de-leite (wet nurse) to their son. Her life was to be riddled with uncertainties.

Privileges came with the work entry into the family s private living quarters better clothes or choice leftovers from the family table but at the price of being closely watched whereas house ...

Article

Jessica Swanston Baker

was born on 26 August 1767 on Mountravers plantation, in the Leeward Caribbean island of Nevis. Like many African slaves in the Americas, Coker left no written accounts of her own, and all that is known about her has been derived from business and personal records left by her owner and later employer John Pinney (1740–1818), who inherited Mountravers in 1762. It should be noted that the vast majority of information currently known about Frances Coker has been gathered via archival research of the Pinney family records, carried out by Christine Eickelmann and David Small. Eickelmann and Small’s larger project aimed to provide a revisionist history that shed light on slavery’s role as integral to the prosperity of John Pinney. Pinney was a British plantation owner and important figure in the history of Bristol, one of the most active British slaving ports of the eighteenth century.

Frances ...

Article

José Maia Bezerra Neto

an emancipated African who challenged her illegal re-enslavement in nineteenth-century Brazil, was born in Luanda, the capital of the Portuguese colony of Angola, probably in 1846. As proof of origin or place of birth, Albina’s right chest carried a hot-iron brand characteristic of the African coast in the form of an “I,” acquired when still young. As a young child, she was abducted by a slave merchant and transported to the Americas. The slave ship that carried her across the Atlantic was captured at sea under antislavery measures intended to suppress the slave trade from Africa to Brazil. Formally, the trade had been banned since November 1831, yet it continued to exist in the form of contraband trade until finally extinguished by the Brazilian parliamentary act of 4 September 1850, known as the Eusébio de Queiróz Law.

Sent on to Rio de Janeiro capital of the Brazilian ...

Article

Sandra Lauderdale Graham

quitandeira (vendor) in nineteenth-century Brazil. The date of her birth is not known, but other facts about her life suggest the early 1830s, in Yoruba-speaking West Africa. She never forgot her African origins and in Brazil always identified herself as Mina. By the late 1840s she had been traded as a slave to Salvador, Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, where she likely sold sweets, fruit, or trinkets, ribbons, and cloth in the crowded, busy lower city. She was sold again, probably to a slave trader in Rio de Janeiro, where Roza Maria de Jesus, a former slave herself judging by her adopted name, bought her and put her to work selling fruits and vegetables on the street.

Henriqueta worked ao ganho meaning that she hired out her own labor paid her owner a weekly amount and lived unsupervised on whatever surplus she earned In the mid 1840s she and Rufino ...

Article

Cecily Jones

Enslaved husband and wife abolitionists whose self‐liberation from slavery in Georgia to freedom in England represents one of the most daring escapes from American enslavement. In 1848 light‐skinned Ellen conceived a plan to escape by cutting her hair, donning male clothing, and ‘passing’ as a southern white male slaveholder travelling to the North for medical treatment, while her darker‐skinned husband William posed as a faithful slave valet. After a dangerous journey through the South, the couple reached Boston, where their story of escape made them causes célèbres in abolitionists circles. With the fugitive slave William Wells Brown, the Crafts gave a series of anti‐slavery lectures throughout New England. Their freedom was threatened, however, by the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters in the South, and also mandated the assistance of northerners in the fugitives' capture. In November ...

Article

María Eugenia Chaves Maldonado

was born near the city of Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast of present-day Ecuador, but then part of the Royal Audience of Quito, in the Viceroyalty of Peru. When María Chiquinquirá was around 45, she decided to legally claim her own and her daughter’s freedom in a major legal battle that lasted nearly five years, from 1794 to 1798. She was the daughter of an African woman brought as a slave to Guayaquil, presumably in 1730 Named María Antonia she was one of the many slaves belonging to the Cepeda family among the most influential and richest in Guayaquil Some years before Díaz was born María Antonia had become infected with leprosy Expelled from the family house she finally died abandoned in a miserable hut by the Baba River in the mountainous outskirts of the city Her illness did not prevent her from becoming pregnant with several offspring ...

Article

Mariana de Aguiar Ferreira Muaze

who served a wealthy family in the Paraiba Valley, a prosperous coffee-producing region of southeastern Brazil, was born between the third or fourth decades of the nineteenth century. Felisberta was a slave on a large coffee plantation known as fazenda Pau Grande, located near Paty do Alferes township in Rio de Janeiro Province. The archival documentation relative to Felisberta is sparse, but the Capivary Baron inventory says that she was a Cabinda slave from Africa, which was not very common among the household slaves at that time. According to the historian Robert Slenes, domestic slaves were often crioulos (Brazilian born) chosen among established slave families who had demonstrated a record of loyalty to their masters.

Felisberta served Joaquim Ribeiro de Avellar Junior (1820–1888), the future viscount of Ubá, when he was still a young landowner and recently wed to Mariana Velho de Avellar (1827–1898). In January ...