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In 1850, most white Americans interpreted black resettlement as meaning one institution and one location: the American Colonization Society (ACS) and the African settlement that it had founded three decades earlier, Liberia. As politicians from North and South sparred over dividing the acquisitions of the Mexican-American War (1846–8) into territories where slavery would be prohibited and those where it would not, they turned to the compromise of Liberian colonization, which promised to remove the source of their antagonism by simply removing black people. State legislators, endowed with greater power than their federal counterparts to proscribe African Americans, also redoubled their support for the ACS and the “black laws” that excluded, even expelled their black compatriots. Yet as lawmakers found it easier to persecute African Americans than to offer them positive alternatives, and as the citizens of a now-independent Liberia protested Americans’ presumption in foisting manumitted slaves and “recaptives” from the Atlantic slave trade on a small, struggling settlement, commentators contended that black Americans might need to colonize other parts of the world instead.
Chapter 5 sets the stage for the rest of the story. While several infectious agents were exported from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean during the slave trade, this was not the case with HIV, which indirectly confirms its relatively recent emergence in central African populations. This chapter briefly tells the story of the European colonisation of central Africa by France and Belgium. It explains how the Franco-Belgian incursion in south-east Cameroon during World War I (1914–16) created much greater intermingling of populations and may have provided a route for HIV to reach the Stanley Pool.
This case study focuses on two epidemic diseases in Sierra Leone. Ebola in 2014–15 drew international response, but was contained within the Upper West African region. COVID-19 reached Sierra Leone in April 2020 as part of a global pandemic. Local social knowledge has been an important factor in shaping responses to both diseases. In the case of Ebola, infection was concentrated in families, and responders needed a good knowledge of family interactional dynamics. COVID-19 is a more public disease. Responders have to assess risk factors in workplaces, markets, and places of worship. Comparing and contrasting the two cases also draws attention to different aspects of the historical context. Ebola response indexes Sierra Leone’s history as a humanitarian project associated with the abolition of the slave trade. The pandemic challenge of COVID-19 draws attention to Sierra Leone’s nodal position within a global diaspora rooted in Atlantic slavery and emancipation. Responders are forced to consider the ways in which the two infections articulate different aspects of calls for global social justice.
This chapter follows the transformation of the issue of slavery in the nation’s capital into the 1830s across four sections. The first section provides the broad setting of a growing sense amongst abolitionists of the “Americanization” of slavery following the initiation of a gradual emancipation of slaves in the British Empire. Given the importance of the District for the domestic slave trade, examined in the second section, this reconceptualization was not without merit. The third section traces the ways in which immediate abolition and its reconceptualization of slavery within the District, in light of the trends discussed in the first and second sections, saw continuities but also important departures from the antislavery position on the District of Columbia in the 1820s. The final section examines the ways in which the District of Columbia grew in significance for defenders of slavery over roughly the same period.
In Africa, the Dutch settled at the Cape of Good Hope, originally planned as a stop-over for the East Indiamen en route to and from Asia, in addition to the conquest and construction of several forts in present-day Ghana, which became important in the Dutch slave trade. In some ways the Dutch expansion in the Atlantic resembled that of England and France. All three founded settlement and plantation colonies and all three, together with Portugal, established some footholds on the African coast. The Dutch in South Africa, however, incorporated large numbers of foreigners both as settlers and as soldiers.
The Dutch traded with all of the other Atlantic empires in spite of the increasingly protectionist policies. That is why the Dutch activities in the Atlantic consisted for the most part of trade and that is why the Dutch presence in that region has been labelled as ‘expansion without empire’. This chapter, however, tells the story of the Dutch colonial expansion in the Caribbean in a comparative perspective. Here the Dutch founded several plantation colonies in addition to conquering several small islands that were used for the transit trade. Much of this chapter is devoted to the Dutch participation in the Atlantic slave trade. The Dutch might have been the first to introduce that trade in the Middle and North Atlantic; they were unable to oust the Portuguese in the South Atlantic. Very quickly the Dutch encountered strong competition from English and French slavers, and in about 1700 the Dutch slave trade concentrated more and more on selling slaves in the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. Only during the periods of war were the Dutch able to resume their role as neutral suppliers of slaves, particularly to the French West Indies.
In 1834, an enslaved woman named Minerva submitted a petition to the U.S. District Court of Western Louisiana, claiming that her late master had freed her and her three children in his will but that his wife, Rachel, had “forcibly carried” them from their home in Arkansas to Mexico in order to continue holding them in bondage. Minerva’s story, recovered from previously unexamined records of the U.S. District Court of Western Louisiana, reveals that freedom was less a “natural state” to be enjoyed than a legal claim to be defended. Cases like Minerva’s also had consequences beyond the courtroom, contributing to a growing misperception in both Mexico and the United States that the Mexican authorities had adopted the “freedom principle” and fully abolished slavery. These rumored policies would prove what the Anglo colonists in Texas had long suspected—that their rights would never be assured under Mexican rule.
This chapter shows how representations of the perpetrators of post-bellum slavery used scientific racism to conceptualize slavery using racially motivated anti-imperialism. However, the rhetoric used in othering the slave owner in the Middle East & Pacific World was contested in popular culture, as comparison with ‘old slavery days’ was also used to humanize and justify forced labour practices. These rhetorical strategies sought flexibility in the definition of slavery, often resulting in a refusal to define particular practices as slavery.
Chapter 6 begins with an analysis of the inter-imperial political context within which the abolition of the slave trade was enacted, focusing in particular on the Danish and British edicts outlawing the trade in 1803 and 1807, respectively. It continues with an examination of the practical implementation of the ban and ends with a more detailed treatment of the continuation of the illicit intercolonial trade as carried out within the microregion of the Leeward Islands. The history of the abolition of the slave trade has most often been told from the perspective of imperial legislators and advocates of abolition. When the implementation of the abolition has been treated with serious effort, it has typically been done either through a top-down analysis of diplomacy and international politics or via studies of the places most notably evading the abolition. Employing a microregional perspective and using the Leeward Islands as the historical case reveals a different side of the story of abolition. This analysis largely confirms the hierarchical dimension of the slave trade abolition in an inter-imperial context, but it also illustrates the vast gaps between imperial policy and colonial practice by showcasing the myriad ways in which local actors and networks circumvented official decrees and continued trading in slaves.
Violence permeated every aspect of the slave trade. By the late eighteenth century, highlighting the violence in the trade was a central plank of an emerging abolitionist campaign against the institution. The slave trade seemed to presage the worst features of a developing merchant capitalism. It was out of step with rising Enlightenment ideas of sentimental attachment to others. It came to be seen as an almost uniquely horrible industry, one that, however valuable it was to European commerce, needed to be ended as soon as possible. But if the slave trade was a scene of horrors, it also aroused a different emotion – terror. The careful application of violence was central to every part of the slave trade experience. The anticipation of such violence was carefully used as a tool by participants in the trade to keep captive Africans in check, and helps to explain the transformation of African captives into enslaved persons. The terror of the slave trade can be seen graphically in James Field Stanfield’s The Guinea Voyage. Stanfield used mechanistic metaphors to describe the trade. He showed how captives and sailors were kept powerless so that the ‘vast machine’ could make money for British and African merchants.
This article, largely on the basis of in-depth research in archives in Lisbon, provides an account of the trading systems linking Delagoa Bay to its southern hinterland. Within this framework we argue that the role of the slave trade has been previously underestimated. There is evidence that the booming demand for slaves in Brazil and on the Mascarene Islands hit this region with force. The scale of that trade is difficult to establish because it was, by and large, illicit and so not systematically recorded. There are indications of a significant trade prior to 1823 and a substantial one after that date. There is also evidence that northern Nguni groups, including the Zulu kingdom, were deeply involved in this trading system. The main sources of captives, however, were militarily weak societies, like the Tembe, which lived closer to the Bay.
Contrary to the belief that prisons never predated colonial rule in Africa, this article traces their emergence in the Gold Coast after the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. During the era of ‘legitimate commerce’, West African merchants required liquidity to conduct long-distance trade. Rather than demand human pawns as interest on loans, merchants imprisoned debtors’ female relatives because women's sexual violation in prison incentivized kin to repay loans. When British colonists entered the Gold Coast, they discovered how important the prisons were to local credit. They thus allowed the institutions to continue, but without documentation. The so-called ‘native prisons’ did not enter indirect rule — and the colonial archive — until the 1940s. Contrary to studies of how Western states used prisons to control black labour after emancipation, this article excavates a ‘debt genealogy’ of the prison. In the Gold Coast, prisons helped manage cash flow after abolition by holding human hostages.
This article aims to analyse some of the multilateral flows of capital that contributed to weaving a Global South during the second half of the eighteenth century. It specifically revisits the functioning and financing of the Portuguese slave trade from a global perspective, and offers insights for assessing older frameworks that explain it, in either triangular or bilateral terms. The article argues that the Portuguese slave traffic should be liberated from the South Atlantic borders to which it has been confined. In so doing, it offers an Atlantic history in a global perspective, disclosing the connections between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Putting the financing of the slave trade into a larger global perspective helps to more accurately explain how it actually operated in terms of the organization of trade. When the financial and institutional foundations of Asian and African trade are analysed together, it becomes evident that they were part of larger networks and capital flows, both westwards and eastwards, which were not just framed imperially or locally.
This preindustrial history of capitalism touches on the history of guilds, the domestic systems of cloth production in England, and medieval international commerce as well as the early-modern expansion of Britain into the spice and textile trade of the Indian Ocean. The Atlantic triangular trade used Indian textiles to buy slaves in Africa to work on plantations that originated for the cultivation of sugar. All these elements feed into the Industrial Revolution story in the next chapter, where it is painted as the response of an existing textile industry to global competition.
Nicknamed Cottonopolis, Manchester was the city most closely associated with the Industrial Revolution, as it became first the manufacturing center of cotton cloth in England and then the marketing center for its surrounding hinterland villages. Local history, from canal infrastructure and legal provisions to the technical choices its people made, shaped the technological paths and outcomes of industrialization. Extending the Industrial Revolution story beyond individual machines to “Cottonopolis” also supplies links between the industrial prowess of Manchester and the slave factories in Africa and plantations of North America, as well as to the cotton industry of India, to demonstrate the reverberations between technological change and its widening contexts. Cottonopolis describes Manchester in the Industrial Revolution, and links local history to global processes.
The movement to abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia continued unabated in the latter 1840s, now with the gag rule removed. Slavery placed increasing stresses on the nation as a whole, and Congress responded by passing the Compromise of 1850. One feature of this agreement was the suppression of the D.C. slave trade, which effectively shuttered William H. Williams’ Yellow House. The chapter ends by briefly recounting the careers of Williams’ slave–trading associates Rudolph Littlejohn, Ebenezer Rodbird, Joshua Staples, Nathaniel Boush, and, in greater detail, his brother Thomas Williams.
William H. Williams operated a slave pen in Washington, DC, known as the Yellow House, and actively trafficked in enslaved men, women, and children for more than twenty years. His slave trading activities took an extraordinary turn in 1840 when he purchased twenty-seven enslaved convicts from the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond with the understanding that he could carry them outside of the United States for sale. When Williams conveyed his captives illegally into New Orleans, allegedly while en route to the foreign country of Texas, he prompted a series of courtroom dramas that would last for almost three decades. Based on court records, newspapers, governors' files, slave manifests, slave narratives, travelers' accounts, and penitentiary data, Williams' Gang examines slave criminality, the coastwise domestic slave trade, and southern jurisprudence as it supplies a compelling portrait of the economy, society, and politics of the Old South.