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In light of the complex process of deferral, legal disregard, and noncompliance with international treaties that characterized the abolition movement, slaves' own pursuit of emancipation became decisive. In other words, slave resistance, in the context of the abolitionist phenomenon, developed into the principal means by which the abolition of slavery would be hastened, bit by bit, from the bottom up. The cases of Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica are perhaps the most representative. Violent protests and revolts, collective escapes, individual reactions, presumed submission, destruction of property, cane fields set alight: all figure among the actions slaves took to gain their freedom.

In this sense enslaved men and women cannot be said to have been simple spectators or passive subjects who would leave the determination of their freedom in the hands of the slaveholding elite To imagine for instance that the news laws incidents and arguments common to an ...