ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The histories of early North America and the Caribbean are intimately intertwined. The same European empires we encounter in our study of early America also appear in the Caribbean. The colonies of these respective empires often traded goods, people, and ideas between each other.

Marisa Fuentes, an associate professor of history and women and gender studies at Rutgers University and author of Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, joins us to explore some of the connections mainland North America and the British Caribbean shared in their practices of slavery in urban towns.

Show Notes: https://www.benfranklinsworld.com/173

 

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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00Ben Franklin's world is a production of The omohundro Institute and the sponsor for this episode is the Georgian papers program
00:00:08Ben Franklin's World podcast about early American history with Liz cotard the study of history is key to understanding we are and how we can affect a better future than Frank introduce you to historical people and events that impacted and shaped our present-day world and now your host let's go Barbie 3 of Ben Franklin's World podcast dedicated to helping you learn more about how the people and events of early American past that shaped the present a world we live in you know we don't really get the full picture of the history of North America unless we also look at the history of the Caribbean because when we look at the Historical records at tell us about the past we all can find at the histories of North America and the Caribbean islands are intimately intertwined and this makes sense the same European Empires that we encounter in our study of early North America also appear in the Caribbean
00:01:06Spain France Great Britain and another one's all had Caribbean colonies and these colonies often traded with their Imperial counterparts on the mainland of course as we know from our exploration in episode 161 smuggling in the American Revolution the people of early North America and the various Caribbean islands also often traded outside of their Imperial bounce think of trade we often think of goods but goats weren't the only thing that people traded between the islands in the mainland they also traded people people move between the islands in the mainland and we also moved from the mainland to the islands and people also traded aspects of culture and many ideas between the islands in the mainland today we're going to explore some of the connections between Mainland British North America and what a Great Britain's Caribbean islands Barbados specifically we're going to explore Connections in the practices of urban slavery between the two regions and in the historical records we
00:02:06about these regions
00:02:09Fuentes a professor of history of Rutgers University it's going to help us explore these connections with details from her award-winning book dispossessed lives and slave women violence and the archive Note 3 or exploration research reveals details about Bridgetown Barbados in the 18th century differences between urban slavery in Plantation slavery in information about the historical records historians use to recover and reconstruct the lies of people from the past but first Ben Franklin's role has any newsletter each week it places the show notes for the new episode right in your inbox in every once in awhile I use it to send you timely news with information about a meet-up or some other exciting happening signing up for the newsletter is really easy just text BF world to 33444
00:02:58alright are you ready to explore some of the connections between North America and the Caribbean allow me to introduce you to Our Guest historian
00:03:08with Tidings and wisdom to share about our early American past here is this week's special guest
00:03:15Marcus is an associate professor of both women and gender studies in history at Rutgers University where she researches slavery gender and sexuality in the modern Atlantic World she's also the author of The award-winning book dispossess Lies and slave women violence in the archive welcome to Ben Franklin's World Mauricio Fuentes you so much for having me as a really interesting book because it offers us a look at Caribbean slavery in an urban environment by explaining Urban slave Society Bridgetown Barbados nice would you tell us about Bridgetown Barbados in the 18th century what does urban area look like and what was its practice of slavery like wood found it around 1630 The Colony itself was settled in 1627 and then a few years later Bridgetown was Twitter made the central governing city of the colony moved from whole town which was further up on the west coast so it would be
00:04:16British Caribbean slave Society to develop in that region I think starting with the size of the town in comparison to other Atlantic port cities is a great place to start and not would be comprable to a place like Boston which it was just slightly smaller than so it was a large bustling Port Town with business shipping and Export and import both of enslaved people but also Goods such as sugar and rum and molasses it resembled other Port Towns in The Wider Atlantic world and it was actually modeled on pre 1666 London to the street layout the neighborhoods were sort of the merchant districts were where enslave people are concentrated where to have wine with so they're all for the mapped out in a way that modeled on pre 1666 London and in terms of enslavement in the town most people enslaved in the town Labor Day
00:05:16domestic round so in the household doing work such as laundry seamstress work childcare and that was primarily for the female and slave role in the household where is enslave men in Bridgetown primarily works on the docks and in public work projects around town fixing streets picking up waste from the streets that also doing a lot of work transporting people to and from the larger ships that were harbored in Carlisle day dispossess lies is that it's a study that focuses on Urban slavery and this is curious to me because when most historians study slavery in the 18 century Caribbean typically study the development of plantations in Plantation economies and slavery is different from Plantation slavery in the 18th century Caribbean
00:06:16similar and different to Plantation slavery and save people to do the bulk of the heavy lifting of just everyday life so similar to the plantation and there was a domestic round in which enslaved people labored both on a plantation and in the town that the differences would be that thinking about the plantation as a kind of complex with a very finite boundary around it when Slave people could not really leave the plantation without passes and without permission from Planters and overseers pound life which much more fluid enslaved people often labored without the overseeing of their owners in particular so they could go across town doing odd jobs being hired out in a way that was much more fluid than on the plantation white with more kind of regimented labor for those are too kind of very very
00:07:16differences and of course life expectancy you know when you think about plantation labor and you think about sugar in particular sugar with a very hard crop to produce from the planting of it to the harvesting and the long season that it took this story is often say that it was a particular at a cultural production that shorten the life of enslaved people off so if you're arriving on a plantation and your laboring on a sugar Plantation your life expectancy was between 1 and 70 years was a very deadly labor in contrast to Urban Life which enslaved people in an urban realm often have more access to a variety of food that was different from the plantation labor was difficult but it was different so it wasn't as hard on the body necessarily as working and sugar in amended heavy lifting loading and unloading ships and that's a different kind of labor than cutting
00:08:16clean the access to food becomes really important because enslave people on plantations particular Sugar We're not necessary given enough calories for the labor that they were required to do we're at the daily cycle of Labor in the urban context one could do work in the morning walk across town or do something else and then go back to work so there was more of a kind of fluctuation in terms of Labor in so I would say that that's similarities because they were regulated in the same way subject to the same laws and subject to the same types of punishment but the actual labor was quite different on enslave people's bodies as we know Urban slavery also existed was practiced in many places and Mainland British North America in places like Boston New York City Charleston there any distinct differences between urban slavery has practice in the Caribbean vs. Urban slavery practiced in Mainland North America
00:09:16differences would be I don't think that they were vastly different especially ports that you know the main industry was shipping and Export or import so Bridgetown was very similar to Charleston for example where they were both huge slave trading ports large porch that had a constant influx of slave ships and shipping to enslave people were employed in the same way in both places a place like Boston right so whether it's going to affect types of Labor and the ability to sort of Labor Around the Clock into labor 3 season obviously you can't do everything you can in snow as you can when the weather is more mild as in the Caribbean but I would say that they were very similar and perhaps differences in terms of numbers of people you know Bridgetown and Charleston had majority black population in the 18th century in a place like Boston did not so then enslave life is going to be a bit different perhaps
00:10:16even have more of an ability to form community and to be a little bit more buffered by and from White life in a place like Charleston our place like Bridgetown where is Boston and so people could be intended to be a little bit more isolated because there were fewer of them specifically explore the experiences of enslaved women the experiences of enslaved women in 18th century Bridgetown Barbados why you chose to study women specifically to study women specifically because Barbados and Bridgetown had a very unique population in that women made up the majority of the population and when I say women I mean both black women and white women so to think about studying slavery in a place where women are the majority changes the way we think about the role of men patriarchy and power and I thought it was a real
00:11:16which site to explore the gendered nature of slavery and intra gendered in particular because Bridgetown also had a majority female population and white women were the majority slave owners in Bridgetown so thinking about white women as slave owners also changes the way we think about slavery in the Atlantic world at this time so it's a very unique place to think about gender and how gender affects one's enslavement but the typical life I think I alluded to that in another answer and thinking about the ways in which enslaved women labored in town so obviously they were in the domestic round they were Cooks they were in charge of cleaning the household they were doing the laundry they were also texter so hucksters of the word that means Peddler so many women were out in the street and in the market selling household where's to both local white Bridgetown
00:12:16residents would also there were many many people coming in and out of the town to shipping and sailors and military men so all of these people circulating in town require particular Goods that enslaved women primarily were responsible for selling so domestic from the market and slave women also were involved in an informal economy and that is prostitution in brothel houses and also owners who rent it out there and slave women for particular amount of time to work for Resident military men and that were in town for months or a year to take care of their household needs anywhere from dressing man to bathing them to Macon close to making food but there was often times an underlying intention of prostituting them to these men in hopes that they would become pregnant and then the owner would then have access to another property right because they would own the
00:13:15children of these arrangements so it's also a slightly different again from Plantation labor in that women were hired out more often than they were on the plantation and they had much more kind of mobility in that way by then don't mean the same ability as a kind of freedom but perhaps they moved around more and perhaps they had more experience with a different owners over their lifetime then they would on a plantation know if you really curious about how historians do research then you should check out this possess slides because Maurice's expiration and discussion of people goes hand-in-hand with her discussion of the archives she used to uncover and recover their stories Marissa would you tell us about the archives that you use to investigate the lives of bridge towns and slave women so I used archives that are typical for studying this era for sitting anybody in this era. Particularly when looking at enslave people you're not necessarily going to get source
00:14:15that are produced by enslaved people so most of the sources if not the majority of what I looked at or actually sources written by white people slave owners government official those people that were slave owners or in control of law and the legal Valium I looked at probate records so wills and deeds exchange of property I looked at government records so the life of the colony when the council with me or the assembly would meet and discuss the Affairs of the island either internally or in relationship to the kind of colonial mother in England or in relationship to other colonies that they were surrounded by the French in the Spanish I looked at Colonial newspapers which held many advertisement for the sale of enslaved people but also advertisements for runaways and say people that have run from anywhere on the island and often times they would run to town for those records would repeat in the newspaper
00:15:15and actually had access to one novel about a particular kind of Infamous person that I work with in the book but all of these records are very typical of the air and their typical of people studying enslavement what I didn't look at because I felt that it wouldn't necessarily get me closer to the experiences of the enslaved which was the purpose of this book is long letters between slave owners although I did dabble in that I really was concentrating on the kind of life of the town from a kind of public perspective what you're talking about her records that really just provide us with Snippets and fragments of information about and save people's lives
00:16:02how do you go about interpreting these fragments of information from the historical record these Snippets often contain just a little bit of information something is shortest just the name of her percent of the word negro how do you use these fragments to find more information about the person mention of the record or about the world the person lived in I think my experience in the archive led me to question why there was so few sources or so few mentions of any kind of deep engagement of the lives of the enslaved you obviously if a person is experiencing wife as a piece of property they're not going to have information about them that tells you about their family life or their thoughts and feelings or perhaps where they're from but if they were born in Barbados or where they were born in Africa and brought across and those are the kinds of information that I really desired to be able to tell these stories and these life stories
00:17:02came across was mentions of women whether they were being sold or whether they were being punished or whether they were being sought after like runaway advertisements perhaps they were captured and someone was saying hey I found an enslaved woman and she looks like this and you have to come get her and I'm putting her in the cage in town until the owner can come and look for that the place I started in trying to do this work with to really think about why why are the records so slim in regards to enslave people full lives and that is kind of the explicit narrative that I write as I try to reconstruct the stories so I talked about power and the power of enslaved owners to kind of right and played women into history and it's particularly distorted way and there's sort of tragedy of that loss that becomes part of trying to recreate their lives perhaps by talking about what we cannot find in the archive about that
00:18:02but in terms of fragments what I tried to do is to take a fragment and think about okay we have some information about a person we have that's what they look like or perhaps where they were running two or perhaps you know they were caught up in the legal system and they were going to be executed we have the snippet of information what I pushed the boundaries of historical methods to do is to think about what is in the realm of possibility in this person's life by thinking about other enslaved people and they put a kind of social history of enslavement in the Caribbean to fill out what was possible of a person's life and to think through the silence is in the archive and the negative space so you know thinking about how we could tell a story of a person as they move through space what would they see this could be anybody this could be a planter this could be a military man we know what Bridgetown look like we have Maps
00:19:02Travelers accounts we have all of this information so it's not as if one is creating fiction one can think about the other records that help give us contact for what life was like and then we can place that fragment in that context to kind of try to fill out what is possible in this particular geography in this particular time. And experience each fragment that I worked with could tell a different story and require different methods to pull out more of a particular and slave women story so I could have used different methods in a chapter in order to kind of get out a story that the archives refused to reveal if we could see this process of interpretation and contextualisation that you just told us about an example
00:19:51would you tell us about Jane and the historical sources that you use to get the details about her life kind of perfect example of the methods that I use so Jane with a runaway Who's owner advertised for her return in one of the local newspapers her advertisement was particularly striking because it did not necessarily what she looks like but the marks on her body so she was covered in scars and the scars the owner took very careful time to tell you what types of scars they were so in the course of a very brief advertisement we have what the owner calls country marks which tend to be ethnic markings from a particular community in West Africa and how they identified themselves she had whip marks from enslavement from you know being punished in particular way she had a brand which tells you that she was
00:20:51likely a survivor of the Middle Passage and then Mark for the brand for that particular company that was trading her emergent company she also had a stab wound in her neck so it's just talks about all of these acts of violence on her body but that is all and that was what was striking about it we know nothing else about her except for this one advertisement so we don't know why she ran where she ran if she had family she was leaving or going to how old she was all the information that you desire as a historian of slavery so what I decided to do knowing the limitations of this particular fragment was talk about how maybe the scars become another type of archive within the actual written record and how to disguise produced meaning about her that historians often overlooked but then I pushed it more and I wanted to show you what life was like or
00:21:51a day in the life of an enslaved run away with like by taking Jane through town this is the first chapter so you were introduced to the book and you're introduced to Bridgetown through James eyes so I used maps and I used visitors accounts I use the history of the development of Bridgetown to tell a story that did not necessarily rely on the voice of her owner who made her into property and he was looking for his property rather I took her through town and I talked about what she would pass and what she would see I want to kind of emphasize this because again I'm not creating fiction I'm using other records to situate her in a context so everything that she would have seen and experienced was actually true if anybody walked through the town and it was a way for me to decenter the voice of the archive in the voice of the owner and try to have the readers
00:22:51experience this through James perspective I think we should talk about this a bit more because as you mentioned you used one runaway add to tell us about Jane and the world she lived in some of the information you just told us about is really speculative so should historians speculate when they only have small amounts of information about something or someone from the past and if they should speculate how do they know when and how to speculate I would say this about speculation I think all historians speculate it is part of the process of telling a story about the past it doesn't matter if you're talking about Thomas Jefferson or an indentured servant there's an aspect of being a historian that is about speculation when you're stuck here and you're thinking about what it's in the realm of possibility when they're talking about particular historical subjects that are very vulnerable in their own lives which makes them kind of invisible in the archives
00:23:51picking their ways you want to think about filling out their story in ways that challenge historical methods that require you to have a vast amount of information so that's for the traditional historical methodology required to have as many sources as possible to be able to make a definitive statement about something but I'm asking us to consider that that actually does more to erase and slave women as subjects then if we took the time to think about other ways to tell their stories that don't rely on a vast empirical Bayes so one of the ways you know I do this is by again going back to my last answer is thinking about ways to contextualize their lives by using other frames of reference and other types of sources that fill out the fragment that I have but I want to say that the language that you use to speculate I think we all do it
00:24:51I think that there's particular ways to do it that keep it tied to an archival Source but also give an indication that this is not absolutely in the archival starts necessarily but this was still true and possible for the time. And for the location and some of these words you use or you'll come across in a particular historical monograph for an article is possibly this was possible or perhaps this right and those are tools to use to still really commit to telling a story that might be more difficult to tell I'd like for us to look at one more example of this earlier you mentioned that one of your sources was a fictional account of a rather Infamous woman after we take a moment to discuss our sponsor for this episode the Georgia papers program I'd like for you to tell us about that accountant about that woman Rachel Pringle po green
00:25:46history in archival work go hand-in-hand letters journals and Diaries are just some of the key records historians use to understand the past if a researcher spend hours examining and transcribing these records all the help them see particular moments of the past better they spend lots of time and money traveling to archives to conduct a research to now though research is getting a bit easier and cheaper as worn wear archives are digitizing their records and putting them up online so that anyone with a computer can access them in fact you 100 Institute the producer of Ben Franklin's world it's a primary partner in one such project what the entire Archives of the Georgian monarchs online locked for over a century in the round Tower at Windsor Castle the papers of a King George's George the first second third and fourth ounce of King William the fourth and all the family members and advisors are now in the process of being digitized and historians have only seen a small fraction of what is
00:26:46me some 350,000 items in the collection the Georgian papers program is actually a great opportunity for all fans of History because soon you can explore these records for yourself and you can help historians an archivist transcribe ease handwritten documents if they continue to come up online if you enjoy exploring handwritten historical documents you should sign up to be among the first in the old Hydro institutes team of citizen transcribers to become a citizen transcriber visit Ben Franklin's world.com transcribe
00:27:21would you tell us about Rachel Pringle Pole Green and the fictional account you mention about her life who was Paul Green and how did you use a fictional account to get the details of her actual and factual life Rachel Pringle polgreen was a free woman of color in Bridgetown in the 18th century and she live from the mid-eighteenth century to about 1791 he was a person who was born into slavery and there's a lot of myths surrounding her because although we have some records of her life we don't have records of her early life she was someone who became free and perhaps with an association with Sailors who came to the islands at various times she became free and she also was able to purchase a home in Bridgetown and open a hotel with she named The Royal Navy Hotel so it shows you that she had an association with the Navy and the military and in this hotel
00:28:21she owned about 38 enslaved people mostly women so historians have inferred through her ownership of that many people in a hotel that she likely ran a brothel and some other sources said I found have confirmed this so she was able to make a living and not just make a living and seek by she actually made a profit from selling and slave women to other people for sexual services and certainly with the volume of visitors to Bridgetown over the course of the 18th century there were many people doing gaged in this informal economy the winds that historians have I mean obviously this is the kind of remarkable story in that there are various pieces of archive that historians have used over and over again about her and in a context where enslaved women and free women of color don't necessarily enter the archives in the ways that whites do or and the volume
00:29:21or with the quality of detail that their white counterparts would Rachel single pole barn if unique in that she left a will she left an estate inventory she left newspaper advertisements and there was also a novel that was written in the mid-nineteenth century that was a person that lived during her time and kind of reflected back into life in the 18th century in Bridgetown and in Barbados in general and he was a white man he owns one of the local newspapers and he knew her so he wrote a kind of account of her that talks about a very fascinating story where the prince of England comes to visit Prince William Henry comes to visit Barbados and he stops through her brothel and spent a few days there with his fellow soldiers and then they end up for the ransack in the house and it kind of drunken brawl much of the inside of her brothel was destroyed and the kind of
00:30:21since she had was to give him a bill for the damage and this story circulated so we don't have evidence that it happened you know exactly but we do have evidence of her advertising around that time for lost items and these last items could have been things that were taken or thrown out the window from that particular scene but that Nautilus stick account from her being rescued by Captain Pringle a captain in the Royal Navy and him purchasing her freedom and setting her up in the Royal Navy Hotel have been gleaned onto by historians and so they just reproduce this account over and over again so what I did was think about what what does it mean to Base history on a novel and how much of that story is true actually true and I went back and tried to kind of verify aspects of the story some of which I could and some of which I could not but what was really striking about the story is that historians had used her
00:31:21an example of resistance to the institution of slavery she was able to overcome a situation of being enslaved and possibly abused by her master who was also supposed to be her father and make a life for herself that was comprable to a sort of middle class white person at the same time so that the story of Triumph that one could tell it something to kind of glean onto in a society that really did not allow for people of color or enslave people to make much of their lives because of the system with Phil oppressive so what I did was trouble the idea of resistance by thinking about what exactly did her money rely on and then so thinking about what does it mean to prostitute other people so that only did you enslave them but you are forcing them to engage in a sexual economy that they might not want to be engaged in so that your freedom and your agency depend upon the under
00:32:21freedom and the lack of agency of enslaved people know that to me is not necessarily a kind of Rosie picture of what we consider resistance so then you have to go into and think about what is 8:30 and resistance mean in this time. Given this complicated relationship and narrative and how do we unpack or disassociate the word resistance from our notion of agents and finally is agency the only way we can think about the life of people enslave and their dads of enslavement so I think have been repeated throughout the historiography of slavery if interested in kind of troubling these terms using her as an example of it's very complicated to say someone you know how to kind of unproblematic success story based on just how much money she made and not look at how she made that money and who she oppressed in order to become who she became it's clear from your research and the way that you just described the lies of Jane and Rachel that
00:33:21you can put a lot of thought into the archival records that we have is Willis to the records that we don't have it are archives and you ever found any answers for why there seems to be a lot of silences or absences archives about enslaved women in free women of color what actually brought me to this approach and this book and filling out these stories was that I was struck by how violent is the archives were so how enslaved people were coming into the archive any sort of violent and distorted ways and particularly Caribbean slavery was when I call a factory of violet and I have to do with the type of Labor people were after perform but also life expectancy it was a harsh climate to labor end and the records actually say that it was cheaper for Planters to purchase more people than to keep the ones healthy that they were enslaving so if people are being treated as property instead of really
00:34:21significantly Violent Waves that Planters are not recording them as humans and because they're not all the records that the Planters and owners and Merchants are leaving are going to record and play people have property in very brief ways in ways that Planters imagine and stereotypes people that African descent so you really have to think about unpacking the distortions that are left in the archive and if one's life was not valued by another white Society at once time then the archive is going to absolutely reflect. Devaluing and create lots and lots of gaping holes in enslave people's lives because their lives were not interesting to their owners are Merchants because they were only interested in how they could be used to make profit so I think about the silence says that I ride about what does it mean to have the silence is persist and how
00:35:21we push back on the nature of this archive on this question in point you know in your book that dispossessed lives is an ethical project that seeks to examine the archive in historical production and that you also see to demonstrate that he street is a production as much as an accounting of the past how exactly is dispossessed lies and ethical project and how is history of production is much as an accounting of the past a project I mean that I'm going to be attentive to how enslaved people in particular women more vulnerable in their lives and then be very conscious of not reproducing that bone ability in my historical account of them so this means things like paying attention to just merely repeating what the archives says because I believe that in merely repeating the ways people were listed reproduces their objectification so
00:36:21very attentive to how we tell these stories and in doing so what are the message that we use that actually reproduce some of the violence that comes through the archives and as an example if I'm writing a piece from a fragment that talks about it and slave woman being beaten to death and I merely going to reproduce the account from the witness who happens to be a white male and that's one way one to tell the story is to say you know this sailor observed this woman being beaten and he intervened and he told the person to stop but rather tell the story through the enslaved woman's perspective and what she might have seen as she was looking out this is what I'm calling ethical because it actually takes into account the ways that we can not get voice because I don't think we could ever give voice to people in the past but at least change the perspective of how we look at a particular archival piece so that we
00:37:21consider first and foremost the perspective of an enslaved person who is written as an object in the archive but we can turn them into a feeling thinking subject just by the way we write about them and we interpret the archive and what I mean by history as a production you know I think about this as a historian all of our work that we do all of the history 3 right it's a production and I production I mean we take archival pieces we put them together and we tell a narrative but that's a process that we are curated and purposely thinking about what how do I tell the story right so we're using certain sources and we're not using other sources to make an argument and to have a kind of neat package narrative at the end but that is to acknowledge that we are doing something to influence the way that the story is told and I think that that's something that historians perhaps Donuts really talked about in our work
00:38:21but that is very important to think about how certain Meredith get reproduced over and over again without thinking critically about will wait a second what is actually being said and can we look back at the archive and try to get at other perspectives that my challenge The Narrative that we all take for granted so those two together were efforts that I made in the book both too kind of show how has trees produce but also to make a very concerted effort not to react ejected by the enslaved women I was writing about our conversation has been really Illuminating because I'm covered in explored the lives of so many enslaved in free women of color in 18th century Bridgetown Barbados also look at how Marissa has used to snorkel records to uncover details about their lives Risa you detailed how historians interpret historical sources and produce history do you think there's a use for knowledge about how historians interpret and produce history in the books articles and Museum
00:39:21placards that they write we can apply as we read those books articles and exhibit placards its thinking about authorship in its thinking about it and you mentioned placards at a museum it's thinking about whose perspective is being represented constantly kind of questioning what we're being told and I think that that's a way to really get to know what are the politics of certain Meredith what work do they do especially in public history so thinking about and it certainly In This Moment In Time what is a particular statue of someone represent and how is it that they are competing narratives of what a particular statue represent in a public space that is all about thinking critically about representation and thinking about the ways in which we have particular narrative particularly famous people from thinking about Thomas Jefferson or George Washington and how
00:40:21we might take for granted that the historian takes for granted that these men wrote prolifically we have lots of Records about them so we take their word as a kind of truth because they wrote it they thought it so it must be a representation of themselves rather than thinking about all of that representation that they do has been constructing themselves in a particular way and be more critical about even the most prolific people as we are perhaps with so defend sources so I think we can take this and think about any history that we write or we read too kind of mine for what is the project here and what is it stake here rather than just reading a kind of cleaning meat narrative and it's what I try to teach my students when I give them archival pieces to read when they complain about all this person isn't telling me what they thought and felt and I said well I wonder why not and then
00:41:21I think about what went into making this source and why is this person disempowered in this particular moment in time and why couldn't they have a source about them that was reflective of their experience but that is a fuller story right it tells you about the conditions of their life it tells you about the lack of voice they had in their own moment and the difficulties of retailing those stories think it's really great to have a critical perspective of history and its production exploration of enslaved women to Bridgetown Barbados has really taking us into the realm of Astral America which is the idea that in order to best understand history of early America we need to study the history not just North America but if you're up Africa the Caribbean and South America between the 15th and early 19th centuries to meresa in what ways do you think that knowing about the practice of slavery specifically about the experiences of enslaved women in 18th century Barbados better understand the practice of slavery and the experiences been slave women
00:42:21early North America and India United States that's a great question and I think one of the things that overtime I think it's changing a lot and it's an example of this changes conceptualizing vast early America to think Beyond National boundaries the reality of the history of the Caribbean is that for a long time and even today there was a lot of movement back and forth between the island and the mainland certainly families migrated and they split they kept in contact the North American colonies often provided Timber and foodstuffs for the islands who were really really into sugar production and so they cleared all their land and they didn't have wood and they needed food because the land was not used for particularly mass quantities of food but rather concentrated on sugar so there's like an ongoing relationship that is really important to acknowledge because the Caribbean is going to influence the North American call
00:43:21North American colonies were going to influence the Caribbean in particular ways and that's just the history of the place so I'm thinking about enslavement in a place like Barbados and pretty Leaf female enslavement makes us look at a place like Charleston in a different way or maybe in a similar way in that or they're majority female and slave population what was it like to be an enslaved person in town how did the colonial authorities think about punishment and control and confinement of an enslaved population in town since that was a different geography than the plantation is also I think youthfulness in thinking about differences so in a place like Boston were there fewer and slave people is there going to be a possibility to form answer rebellion in the same way as there would be in a place like Jamaica where there's many more enslaved people and some enslaved people recognize each other via language or ethnic origin
00:44:21so if you're isolated in Boston you're going to have different possibilities than you would if you were in the Caribbean but I guess emphasizing that this whole region has a relationship internally and across that I think it's really logical and important for us to understand that when we study in North America and isolation it's actually not the full picture it's thinking about Barbados during the American Revolution and then being loyal to England as opposed to some of the other you know obviously North American colonies that rebelled what does it mean to be loyal to England and her American Ships coming into your porch right you're going to have different kinds of anxieties but that this region is completely connected all of the time it's just more of a reality than cutting off geographies from each other to write historical pieces that are very specific it's time for the time warp this is a fun segment of the show where we ask you a hypothetical history question what made it happen if so
00:45:21can occur differently or someone had acted differently
00:45:29the time warp
00:45:31historians can't predict the future but they can't speculate about what might have been
00:45:40in your opinion what might have happened if literacy rates had been higher among the enslaved people in the Caribbean how would this change the nature of the historical sources that we have about the enslaved in their lives and what the archives we create to conserve and preserve the historical records be different if enslaved people had created these records literacy rates what would we know Ocala we change the way we write up this history I think if they have higher literacy rates than we would understand that whatever system of slavery was in place was different than it was in the sugar industry where life was very short so the quality of life might have been different we can think about that but I think you might be getting at it I would have been Safe People represented themselves more I think that that we would be able to write Fuller stories of people's lives and how they thought about their experience
00:46:40relationship to the records that white owners and Merchants and government officials created it would be perhaps you know we could read them with each other and against each other to get a fuller picture as it stands we can think about the difference between having a history of slavery in the Antebellum Us South as opposed to some of these places in the Caribbean when you do have slave narratives written by formerly enslaved people or enslaved people but also coming into the 1930s and thinking about the WPA narrative what does it mean when formerly enslaved people represent their experience you still have to do critical work in those sources you will have perhaps more information to draw from and either you can write Fuller histories in that way but I still think it's important to be critical of how somebody's representing their experience and a narrative that they write about themselves what is going on at the time that they're writing I think you can
00:47:40apply a kind of critical eye to any sources from the past but I do think that we would have more to draw from and we would be able to create a fuller picture of enslaved life what are you researching the writing about now now I'm writing or researching first and then writing a book that is going to look at the Atlantic slave trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century that I had with the first book about ethical historical practice and writing from a deficit of sources or fragmented sources to think about equally overlooked historical subject so I'm concentrating on captive Africans who were brought across in the Middle Passage by who arrived in ports like Bridgetown Charleston New York City or Kingston and actually weren't able to be sold because they were sick and dying and they were called by the British in particular refuse slaves or slave
00:48:40that were considered disposable or garbage and they've been overlooked in the history of the slave trade because they died and one would think at the historian where there's nothing to say right because their lives and at the Port but instead I'm scouring the records of the slave trade for little pieces of these people too kind of write a history about what does it mean to be disposable in the system that relies on a laboring body and it talks and speaks to a bunch of different literature's on slavery including capitalism and slavery that might not consider in this capitalist production the production of waste or humans as waste and I'm thinking about what if it means to be a person who is in the process of dying who was not actually a slave anymore who is not actually a commodity anymore and think about filling out that condition thinking about what does it mean to be in that condition so really looking at people that
00:49:40existing only in a debit column in the records of the slave trade and trying very hard to fill out their stories as much as possible when I don't have a name like I did for the first book but we have a composite of experiences that we can draw pension to and perhaps let us think about the whole project in the whole economy of slavery in a different way we have covered a lot of ground and a lot of Big Ideas today how can we contact you if we have questions or what to explore some of these ideas further my email is there and you can also contact me via Twitter and my handle is at dr. Marissa j f f as in Frank and I'm happy to answer your questions or talk further about any of this thank you for helping us explore slavery in 18th century Barbados and showing is how you use dark eyes and historical sources to
00:50:40we cover the stories of enslaved women thank you so much for having me I really enjoyed it from Plantation slavery in urban slaves experience more fluid lives only bird without the direct oversight of their owners and they had a less regimented work day then most of the enslaved people who labored on plantations would have had still Urban slaves did not have easy lives Billy Burke hard and domestic tasks along the docs and in public works projects and they all my experience a higher turnover rate in the people who claimed ownership of them as Marissa revealed we can look at how Urban slavery was practiced in Bridgetown Barbados and see a lot of similarities and connections between how people at mainly North America practice Durbin slavery noted there were a lot of similarities between Bridgetown in Charleston South Carolina you know give me the similarities and climates and slave majorities and bustling seaports get life in urban Boston prove to be a bit different
00:51:40well the working say people performed in Boston prove very similar to that performed by and save men and women Bridgetown Boston Winters certainly interdits and say people's ability to work plus as a minority population Fortune communities would have been more difficult in Boston then it wasn't Bridgetown however our exploration of urban slavery in the Caribbean extended beyond the practice of slavery also help us explore the historical materials historians use to uncover and recover the past weather were researching history or just reading about it we need to keep in mind that history is a production the parents happened history is made principal historians carry their work they decide which information to include which information to leave out which records to explore which archives to use how to interpret the records that they find and when they should speculate about the past in the absence of abundant information asks us to be aware of this
00:52:40read a history book or source for the past we need to ask who and why I wrote the source of the reading also we shouldn't be afraid to ask what information is his story in person from the past left out of their account as Marissa just showed us the silences of the past can we just asking you questions and look at old sources in history books and a lot of new ways questions about sandwiches in the records, recent uncover and discover a lot of information about enslaved women in 18th century Bridgetown Barbados I mean imagine what will discover if you start asking the question what isn't this historian insource telling us I think it's really exciting thought
00:53:23you can find more information about Marissa her book dispossess Lies plus notes for everything we talked about today on the show notes page Ben Franklin's world.com 173
00:53:36you want Hydro Institute would love your help in transcribing the handwritten historical documents of the Georgian papers to join their team of Citizen transcribers visit Ben Franklin's world.com transcribe only weight has become very helpful with this podcast and she helped behind the scenes of this episode to thank you for all you do Holly
00:53:58finally will knowing more information about how historians produce history change how you view and read history I'd love to know to send me an email Liz at Ben Franklin's world.com tweet at least covered or post a comment in our listener community on Facebook Ben Franklin's world is a production of The omohundro Institute
00:54:22and remember never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today

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ABOUT THIS PODCAST

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
English
United States
208 episodes
since Sep, 2014
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