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In the Shadow of Slavery

In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World

Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    In the Shadow of Slavery
    Book Description:

    The transatlantic slave trade forced millions of Africans into bondage. Until the early nineteenth century, African slaves came to the Americas in greater numbers than Europeans.In the Shadow of Slaveryprovides a startling new assessment of the Atlantic slave trade and upends conventional wisdom by shifting attention from the crops slaves were forced to produce to the foods they planted for their own nourishment. Many familiar foods-millet, sorghum, coffee, okra, watermelon, and the "Asian" long bean, for example-are native to Africa, while commercial products such as Coca Cola, Worcestershire Sauce, and Palmolive Soap rely on African plants that were brought to the Americas on slave ships as provisions, medicines, cordage, and bedding. In this exciting, original, and groundbreaking book, Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff draw on archaeological records, oral histories, and the accounts of slave ship captains to show how slaves' food plots-"botanical gardens of the dispossessed"-became the incubators of African survival in the Americas and Africanized the foodways of plantation societies.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94485-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    THE POPULAR IMAGE OF AFRICA today is of a hungry continent, a continent chronically unable to feed itself, one that continually requires massive infusions of charity to keep its citizens from starvation. Yet this was not always so. In the thousands of years before the advent of recorded history, African peoples embarked upon the process of plant and animal domestication. Aswith their counterparts in tropicalAsia and theAmericas, Africans participated fully in the agricultural revolution that was taking place simultaneously around the world. By four thousand years ago, African food plantswere on the move. They crossed the IndianOcean and revolutionized the...

  7. ONE Food and the African Past
    (pp. 6-26)

    OUR AWARENESS OF AFRICA BEGINS as the place where our hominid ancestors evolved. But it remains a “Dark Continent” in terms of broader understanding of what African peoples accomplished in themillennia preceding the transatlantic slave trade, when the continent’s history again comes into focus for modern audiences. Unexamined views of Africa carry the presumption of a continent on the sidelines ofworld history, where little occurred until theAtlantic slave trade swept awaymillions of its people. In theNewWorld, so these viewsmaintain, Europeans taught their unskilled bondsmen to plant crops and tend animals. Nevertheless, one of the remarkable achievements of Africans over the...

  8. TWO African Plants on the Move
    (pp. 27-45)

    THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA WAS anything but peripheral to the vast trading networks that connected peoples of the ancient world across land and sea. Africa intersected themaritime routes that initially linked Asia to theMediterranean. Plants and animals that came out of Africa through these routes are rarely appreciated as African domesticates. The donkey, for instance, became the dominant beast of burden throughout much of the OldWorld. It appears throughout the Old and New Testaments and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs. WhenCarthaginianHannibal crossed the Italian Alps during his campaign against Rome, he did so with African forest elephants (a species smaller...

  9. THREE African Food Crops and the Guinea Trade
    (pp. 46-64)

    THE INSTITUTIONAL APPARATUS THAT CUMULATIELY removed millions of Africans from the continent depended critically on the availability of food. First, the African militias and raiders who took slaves had to be fed. Likewise, so did the Africans who awaited deportation to the NewWorld. The resident slave traders and European officials stationed at forts along the Guinea coast also depended upon food availability. Finally, the slave ships that carried Africans on the Atlantic crossing required provisions enough for journeys that lasted two or more months. The feeding of these multitudes—all involved in the globalizing economy by consent or coercion—depended...

  10. FOUR African Food and the Atlantic Crossing
    (pp. 65-79)

    THE LITERATURE ON THE TRANSATLANTIC slave trade largely focuses on the commodities exchanged between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. In the classic formulation known as the Triangle Trade, Europeans sold firearms, iron bars, spirits, textiles, and beads in Africa in order to purchase slaves. Slaveswere carried fromthere to theNewWorld, and fromtheAmericas the commodities produced by enslaved labor were transported to Europe. Sugar, coffee, and tobacco became items of everyday European consumption. Butmissing fromthis narrative is the critical importance of food to the entire enterprise. Only through the availability of food could each segment of the Triangle Trade operate. The exchange...

  11. FIVE Maroon Subsistence Strategies
    (pp. 80-99)

    THE FIRST GENERATIONS OF AFRICANS who arrived in theAmericas found themselves in environments not yet wholly transformed by European colonization. The outposts of empire fronted vast tracts of unknown territory, and these provided refuge formany enslavedAfricanswho opted for freedom. Despite the dangers, some runaways were able to formor join free communities of other escapees in the hinterlands that lay outside the bounds of colonial authority. They escaped to rugged environments whose inaccessibility discouraged pursuit and provided defensible shelter. Indeed, through most of the eighteenth century, more slaves in theNewWorld gained their freedomas escapedmaroons than by legal manumission.¹ In the mountainous...

  12. SIX The Africanization of Plantation Food Systems
    (pp. 100-122)

    JEAN BARBOT WAS A FRENCH commercial agent who made two slave voyages from Africa to the New World. At the conclusion of his first voyage, to French Guiana in 1679, Barbot sold his cargo of enslavedAfricans to sugar plantation owners and turned his attention to the plant and animal species thatmade tropical America a NewWorld to him. He would later set down his observations in a book describing his experiences in the slave trade. Accompanying the text is an illustration of the botanical species that defined the surrounding landscape (figure 6.1). Barbot includes keyAmerindian foodstaples: manioc, sweet potato, and the...

  13. SEVEN Botanical Gardens of the Dispossessed
    (pp. 123-138)

    THE HISTORICAL RECORD ON THE question ofAfrican plant introductions to the Americas is not so silent as we might suppose. A salient footnote of the plantation period is the number ofEuropean accounts that actually credit slaves with the introduction of specific foods to the Americas, all previously grown inAfrica. These accountswere mostlywritten by planters and naturalists of different nationalities, working in colonies throughout theCaribbean andNorth and Latin America.

    TheseEuropean commentaries inadvertently attribute an agency to enslaved Africans that contrasts with colonist narratives of how slaves came only with their bodies, bereft of farming skills and knowledge, andwere given these skills...

  14. EIGHT Guinea’s Plants and European Empire
    (pp. 139-154)

    EUROPEANS IN THE NEW WORLD tropics discovered many plants new to them in the food plots of slaves. Having often no names for these plants and lacking an appropriate classification or nomenclature, they simply borrowed the African-language names from the slaves who grew them. Some of these loan words were absorbed into the borrowers’ tongues and survive to this day as the popular word for the crop. This process of applying extant vocabulary to new knowledgewas especially vigorous in the early plantation period, as peoples and plants from three continents were thrown together.

    When Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo reported Hispaniola’s...

  15. NINE African Animals and Grasses in the New World Tropics
    (pp. 155-176)

    FOOD CROPS WERE NOT THE only African biota to leave their imprint on the Americas. Packed onto ships arriving fromAfrica were livestock and small animals that captains purchased as fresh meat for the crews’ Atlantic crossing. In an era before refrigeration, African food animals were bought live and slaughtered as needed. Their flesh provided relief fromthe saltedmeats and fish boarded in Europe. African livestock were also exported to the Americas as breeding stock. The transport of live animals required sufficient supplies of fodder and bedding to maintain them en route to the Americas, and indigenous African pasture grasses, the natural...

  16. TEN Memory Dishes of the African Diaspora
    (pp. 177-186)

    AFRICAN INGREDIENTS AND COOKING PRACTICES gave the foodways of former plantation societies their distinctive culinary signatures. Their metamorphosis to the diaspora cuisines of todaywas originallymediated by enslaved womenwho guidedmodest foods out of the subsistence plot and into the cooking pot. These foodways began, to borrowthewords of historian JamesMcWilliams, as “cuisines of survival.”¹ At the hearths of their dwellings and in the kitchens of plantation gentry, African women and their descendants created the fusion cuisines and memory dishes that attest to the African presence in the Americas.

    A signature ingredient of the foodways of Africa and the diaspora is greens. Perhaps...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 187-238)
    (pp. 239-260)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 261-280)