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Beyond Bondage

Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Bondage
    Book Description:

    David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine's Beyond Bondage outlines the restricted spheres within which free women of color, by virtue of gender and racial restrictions, were forced to carve out their existences. Although their freedom, represented by the acquisition of property, respectability, and opportunity, always remained precarious, the collection supports the surprising conclusion that women of color often sought and obtained these advantages more successfully than their male counterparts.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09136-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)

    • CHAPTER 1 Maroon Women in Colonial Spanish America: Case Studies in the Circum-Caribbean from the Sixteenth through the Eighteenth Centuries
      (pp. 3-18)
      Jane Landers

      With rare exceptions, women have remained largely invisible in the literature about maroons.¹ The generalized maroon experience—a daring and dangerous escape from closely supervised plantations, followed by a harrowing chase by slave catchers and dogs through rough forests and swamps inhabited by dangerous creatures—is most often depicted as a male endeavor, as in the case of war. Marronage became so threatening and disruptive in many colonies of the circum-Caribbean region that officials engaged in what they termed “maroon wars.” Their reports described military leaders and rebel tactics in some detail, but because these reports were basically battlefield accounts...

    • CHAPTER 2 Of Life and Freedom at the (Tropical) Hearth: El Cobre, Cuba, 1709–73
      (pp. 19-36)
      María Elena Díaz

      The inhabitants of El Cobre, an Afro-Cuban village on Cuba’s eastern frontier region, were slaves of the king of Spain during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this corner of the Caribbean, royal slavery became an ambiguous and gendered status that blurred boundaries between freedom and bondage in many spheres of life. The court testimonies of Jose Basilio Maestre and Francisco Xavier de Quiala suggest ways in which the blurring of status occurred, or was perceived to occur, among these enslaved villagers.¹

      Having houses of their own, living with their own families and relatives, heading their own households, and...

    • CHAPTER 3 In the Shadow of the Plantation: Women of Color and the Libres de fait of Martinique and Guadeloupe, 1685–1848
      (pp. 37-59)
      Bernard Moitt

      Although it was always possible for slaves in the French Antilles to acquire freedom, not all who did so followed legal and official channels. From the very early development of slave society in these colonies there existed a group of people—libres de savane,also known aslibres de fait—who lived in a state of quasi-freedom, having been manumitted by their owners without the authority of the state or the official documents of free status.

      Libres de fait were male and female, black and of mixed race, African and Creole, urban and rural, and specialized and nonspecialized by profession or...

    • CHAPTER 4 “To Be Free Is Very Sweet”: The Manumission of Female Slaves in Antigua, 1817–26
      (pp. 60-81)
      David Barry Gaspar

      By 1823 the antislavery campaign in Britain reached a significant milestone when Parliament supported a new attempt to ameliorate slavery by legislation in the colonies. An earlier attempt at amelioration had been launched during the 1780s and 1790s. It was aimed at achieving sufficient improvement in the conditions of slavery through several measures, including some of a pronatalist variety, to reduce, if not to eliminate, reliance on the slave trade. The amelioration strategies followed in the colonies generally strengthened slavery. The colonial plantocracy was therefore able to survive many of the effects of the abolition of the slave trade in...

    • CHAPTER 5 “Do Thou in Gentle Phibia Smile”: Scenes from an Interracial Marriage, Jamaica, 1754–86
      (pp. 82-105)
      Trevor Burnard

      The great crisis in the thirty-four-year relationship between Thomas Thistlewood, a white English immigrant to western Jamaica, and Phibbah, a native-born Jamaican slave, came in June 1757, three and a half years after Phibbah had established herself as his principal partner. Thistlewood had long been unhappy with his situation as an overseer on Egypt estate. He had had numerous arguments with his feckless employer, John Cope. Consequently, on June 18, 1757, Thistlewood agreed with “Mr John Parkinson to live at Kendal,” an estate about ten miles further inland from Egypt in Westmoreland Parish. He was “to have an hundred per...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Fragile Nature of Freedom: Free Women of Color in the U.S. South
      (pp. 106-124)
      Loren Schweninger

      In 1813 Lucinda, a free woman of color, petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for relief. Following her owner’s death, she explained, she and a number of other slaves had been manumitted by the owner’s last will and testament. According to the will, they were required to leave the state. Their owner knew that if they remained in Virginia they would be returned to slavery under an 1806 statute that required freed slaves to emigrate from the state within a year or be reenslaved.¹ “[A]ll the slaves so emancipated (except your petitioner) were removed this year to the State of...


    • CHAPTER 7 Out of Bounds: Emancipated and Enslaved Women in Antebellum America
      (pp. 127-144)
      Wilma King

      By the onset of the Civil War, African American women made up slightly more than 50 percent of the free black population in the United States. Unlike most of their enslaved sisters, large numbers of free women left a variety of published and unpublished records in private collections and the public domain that elevate many of these women above the mass of free persons. These sources can be used to probe into relationships between free black and bound women of color across class and geographical lines.¹ This chapter explores why some emancipated women ignored southern customs and boundaries and risked...

    • CHAPTER 8 Free Black and Colored Women in Early-Nineteenth-Century Paramaribo, Suriname
      (pp. 145-168)
      Rosemarijn Hoefte and Jean Jacques Vrij

      During the period of slavery, Paramaribo, capital of the colony of Suriname, was the only urban center in a society dominated by plantation agriculture. When the Dutch took over the colony from the English in the late seventeenth century, Paramaribo was scarcely more than a hamlet. Fifteen years later it still consisted of no more than fifty or sixty houses, but during the following years its growth was steady.¹ J. D. Herlein, who lived in the colony during the first decades of the eighteenth century, reported in 1718 that Paramaribo consisted of about five hundred wooden houses.² In 1772 there were...

    • CHAPTER 9 Ana Paulinha de Queirós, Joaquina da Costa, and Their Neighbors: Free Women of Color as Household Heads in Rural Bahia (Brazil), 1835
      (pp. 169-201)
      B.J. Barickman and Martha Few

      In 1835 Ana Paulinha [sic] de Queirós, a sixty-year-old, never formally married, freeborn woman of mixed African and European ancestry (“parda”), found herself heading a fairly prosperous household in São Gonçalo dos Campos, a largely rural parish in the region known as the Bahian Recôncavo in the province (now state) of Bahia in Northeastern Brazil. The census takers who visited the household in that year listed Ana Paulinha’s occupation as “farming” (lavoura), which in São Gonçalo dos Campos almost certainly meant that she grew tobacco for export in combination with food crops for home consumption and for sale...

    • CHAPTER 10 Libertas Citadinas: Free Women of Color in San Juan, Puerto Rico
      (pp. 202-218)
      Félix V. Matos Rodríguez

      In 1824 Balbina Alonso, aliberta(free woman of color) who lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was accused of having an illicit love affair with Don Antonio Cordero. Church authorities complained that although she had been banned to the small town of Patillas on Puerto Rico’s southeastern shore, Alonso was still in San Juan, enjoying the company of Cordero, who was married.¹ Alonso wrote to the governor to defend her innocence, honor, and good name. She demanded that her ecclesiastical accusers take her to court to substantiate their claims. The trial never materialized. The governor instead asked Cordero to...

    • CHAPTER 11 Landlords, Shopkeepers, Farmers, and Slave-Owners: Free Black Female Property-Holders in Colonial New Orleans
      (pp. 219-236)
      Kimberly S. Hanger

      During the era of effective Spanish rule (1769–1803) freelibre(black) women—whether single, married, or widowed—came to control a substantial portion of the economic resources of New Orleans. There emerged what might be considered a free black elite, although not on the scale of the gens de couleur (people of color) of Saint-Domingue in the same period or of the large free black property-holders that made Louisiana distinctive in the antebellum U.S. South.¹ Nevertheless, it was during the Spanish period that free black women in New Orleans made their greatest advances in regard to demographics, privileges, responsibilities,...

    • CHAPTER 12 Free Women of Color in Central Brazil, 1779–1832
      (pp. 237-270)
      Mary C. Karasch

      The most invisible group in colonial Brazilian history must be free women of color. They rarely appeared in official correspondence except when their role inbatuques(social dances) was denounced or when they were accused of prostitution. Not even the many surviving censuses of the colonial period record their presence in Brazil. Slaves and former slaves have received more scholarly attention than free women of color.¹ This chapter is, therefore, an initial attempt to explore the lives of free women of color during the late colonial period between 1779 and 1832 in a frontier society in Central Brazil, in what...

    • CHAPTER 13 Henriette Delille, Free Women of Color, and Catholicism in Antebellum New Orleans, 1727–1852
      (pp. 271-285)
      Virginia Meacham Gould

      In the early morning hours of April 1, 1838, Henriette Delille, a twenty-six-year-old free Creole woman of color, left her family home on Burgundy Street in New Orleans and walked eight blocks to the nearby chapel of the St. Claude Street Convent. It was the second Sunday before Easter, the Paschal period during which the Catholic church traditionally baptized its adults.¹

      Delille arrived early at the chapel on this chilly Lenten morning, shivering perhaps from the cold but also from anticipation. She came to the chapel well before mass in order to take part in a short ceremony during which...

    • CHAPTER 14 Religious Women of Color in Seventeenth-Century Lima: Estefania de San Ioseph and Ursula de Jesu Christo
      (pp. 286-316)
      Alice L. Wood

      Seventeenth-century Franciscan narratives from Spanish Peru contain two valuable portraits of religious women of color. The first, the “Vida de Estefania de San Ioseph” written by the Franciscan chronicler Diego de Cordova Salinas, was published in hisCoronica de la Religiosissima Provincia de los Doze Apostoles del Perúin 1651. The second, the story of Ursula de Christo, is found in an unpublished manuscript entitled “Espejo de Religiosas” (1698), which is preserved in the Convent of San Francisco in Lima.¹

      The stories of Estefania de San Ioseph and Ursula de Christo demonstrate that even under restrictive conditions...

  6. Index
    (pp. 317-326)
  7. Contributors
    (pp. 327-329)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 330-330)