Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, University of California / Irvine

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Emory University
From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identites in Montevideo, 1770-1850

This project provides a new route to addressing one of the central preoccupations in the literature on slavery in the Atlantic World. How did slavery reshape the identity of slaves, how did slaves develop collective ties within the confines of slavery, and how did this intersect with the origins of black culture? Colonial and early independent Montevideo -the capital of present-day Uruguay- provides an ideal environment in which to explore this central issue. In most parts of the Americas, the period from beginnings of slavery to abolition spans centuries. In Montevideo, the rise and fall of the slave trade and slavery stretches over a period of just eight decades (1770-1850). My provisional hypothesis is that social bonds arose from three elements of the black experience, shared African origins, shared experiences in the slave trade, and shared developments in the New World, and that these reinforced rather than conflicted with each other in the formation of black identity. I will analyze to what degree the earliest networks created by slaves were shaped more by the intra-American slave trade than by the trans-Atlantic passage. I will then examine how free and enslaved blacks engaged in new forms of social ties such as the participation in African-based associations and networks stemming from membership of free-colored colonial militias and black battalions of the War of Independence. To answer these questions, I will analyze sources as diverse as customs records of the transatlantic slave trade, marriage applications of slaves, censuses, military files, police and judicial records, local newspapers, and the papers of a free black who lived in the region from the late 1770s to the late 1830s -Jacinto Ventura de Molina- whose three-volume manuscripts -unknown until today- are one of the very few works making up the black nineteenth-century literarily canon in Latin America.