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Black Ranching Frontiers

Black Ranching Frontiers: African Cattle Herders of the Atlantic World, 1500-1900

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Black Ranching Frontiers
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking book Andrew Sluyter demonstrates for the first time that Africans played significant creative roles in establishing open-range cattle ranching in the Americas. In so doing, he provides a new way of looking at and studying the history of land, labor, property, and commerce in the Atlantic world.

    Sluyter shows that Africans' ideas and creativity helped to establish a production system so fundamental to the environmental and social relations of the American colonies that the consequences persist to the present. He examines various methods of cattle production, compares these methods to those used in Europe and the Americas, and traces the networks of actors that linked that Atlantic world. The use of archival documents, material culture items, and ecological relationships between landscape elements make this book a methodologically and substantively original contribution to Atlantic, African-American, and agricultural history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18323-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Atlantic Networks and Local Frontiers
    (pp. 1-18)

    The role of africans in establishing cattle ranching in the Americas has long remained unknown. Until recently the literature on creation of the colonial landscapes of North, Middle, and South America generally emphasized the labors of enslaved blacks over their ideas, both those that survived the Middle Passage and those created in novel environments through innovation and hybridization with those of people of native, European, and mixed origins. In part such an emphasis on the unskilled labor of blacks over their knowledge and creativity derives from reliance on documentary archives created by racially biased whites. And in part it derives...

  6. CHAPTER TWO New Spain
    (pp. 19-60)

    I clearly recall how in the mid-1990s, while perusing sixteenth-century land grants at a long wooden table in the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City, I dropped my pencil in surprise when I read the name Villalobos and it made me think I might be able to locate the very first cattle ranch of New Spain. The archive of those land grants, known asmercedes, permits reconstruction of the process through which cattle ranches came to dominate the lowlands of Veracruz over the century following 1519 (fig. 2.1).¹ That year the conquistadors landed there under the command of...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Louisiana
    (pp. 61-97)

    Scanning through microfilm of colonial documents in the Special Collections Reading Room at Louisiana State University, I was stunned by a single row in the summary table of a census of Louisiana from 1766 (fig. 3.1). The existence per se of an eighteenth-century Spanish census of Louisiana did not seem surprising given that the Bourbon bureaucracy produced many such enumerations during its imperial incorporation of the former French colony in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War. Quite predictably, in that Louisiana thereby became the frontier between the Spanish and British empires in North America, each row of the summary...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Barbuda
    (pp. 98-139)

    As the trail entered the grassy opening in the midst of the shrubland, the well for watering livestock that came into view astonished me. Amy Potter, a graduate student, and I were on the Caribbean island of Barbuda to conduct research on its system of land tenure, one based on usufruct rights to a commons rather than on private property (fig. 4.1). Potter intended to use the experience as a foundation for her doctoral dissertation project on the Barbudan transnational community, many of whom live in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City. We had read a lot about that...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Pampas
    (pp. 140-168)

    As i sat in the biblioteca rocha in July 2008 looking through issues of theGaceta Mercantilfor shipping news about nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, the notice that serves as the epigraph above caught my eye—for two reasons.¹ First, although scholars have increasingly demonstrated that blacks comprised a large proportion of the population of the Pampas during much of the colonial period and into the nineteenth century, most of the emphasis has been on blacks who lived in the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo rather than those of the surrounding countryside.² The notice in theGaceta Mercantilnamed two...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Tasajo Trail
    (pp. 169-210)

    I have so far largely followed the prevailing currents of the Atlantic world’s emergence, that suite of latitudinal flows and counter-flows that swept across the ocean from Europe and Africa to the Americas and vice versa. An eastward setting current of precious metals matched a westward one of deadly pathogens: silver and gold to Europe in exchange for smallpox and yellow fever to the Americas. Other currents carried crops such as maize and potatoes eastward in a flow opposite to those carrying cattle and grasses westward. The flow of African slaves along the middle passage matched that of Caribbean sugar...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Legacy and Promise
    (pp. 211-220)

    The preceding case studies significantly improve our understanding of the legacy of blacks in the establishment of cattle ranching in the Americas. Concerted analysis of the limited primary sources, from eyewitness accounts to shipping lists and material culture, has confirmed that the Andalusian Marismas provided the overall model for the herding ecology of early New Spain, but also that blacks added key elements, specifically lassoing from horseback and live fencing. Both practices may have been critical to the operation of that herding ecology in particular times and places. While the passage of time has obscured most of the details of...

  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 221-224)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 225-296)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 297-308)