The tumult of the Age of Atlantic Revolutions provided new opportunities for free communities of color in the Caribbean, yet the fact that much scholarship places an emphasis on a few remarkable individuals—who pursued their freedom and respectability in a high-profile manner—can mask as much as it reveals. Scholarship on these individuals focuses on themes of mobility and resilience, and can overlook more subversive motives, underrepresent individuals who remained in communities, and elide efforts by some to benefit from racial hierarchies. In these free communities, displays of social, cultural, and symbolic capitals often reinforced systemic continuity and complicated revolutionary-era tensions among the long-free, enslaved, and recently-freed.
This book contains seven fascinating studies, which examine Haiti, Caracas, Cartagena, Charleston, Jamaica, France, the Netherlands Antilles, and the Swedish Caribbean. They explore how free communities of color deployed religion, literature, politics, fashion, the press, history, and the law in the Atlantic to defend their status, and at times define themselves against more marginalized groups in a rapidly changing world.
This volume demonstrates that problems of belonging, difference, and hierarchy were central to the operation of Caribbean colonies. Without recalibrating scholarship to focus on this, we risk underappreciating how the varied motivations and ambitions of free people of color shaped the decline of empires and the formation of new states. This book was originally published as a special issue of Atlantic Studies.
1. Networks, tastes, and labor in free communities of color: Transforming the revolutionary Caribbean Robert D. Taber and Charlton W. Yingling
2. "A true vassal of the King": Pardo literacy and political identity in Venezuela during the age of revolutions Cristina Soriano
3. Crafting freedom: Race and social mobility among free artisans of color in Cartagena and Charleston John Garrison Marks
4. Smugglers before the Swedish throne: Political activity of free people of color in early nineteenth-century St Barthélemy Ale Pålsson
5. Revolutionary narrations: Early Haitian historiography and the challenge of writing counterhistory Erin Zavitz
6. A case of hidden genocide? Disintegration and destruction of people of color in Napoleonic Europe, 1799–1815 Margaret B. Crosby-Arnold
7. West meets east: Mixed-race Jamaicans in India, and the avenues of advancement in imperial Britain Daniel Livesay
8. "A mass of mestiezen, castiezen, and mulatten": Contending with color in the Netherlands Antilles, 1750–1850 Jessica Vance Roitman