Free communities of color and the revolutionary Caribbean : overturning, or turning back?
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.