Enslaved Women in Angola: Paths to Freedom during the Nineteenth Century

Friday, January 3, 2014: 9:10 AM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Mariana P. Candido, University of Kansas
This paper examines the paths to freedom available to enslaved women in Angola during the nineteenth century. Looking at parish records, wills, and slave registers, this study explores the contested nature of domestic labor and intimacy enslaved women faced in Angola. While the slave trade from West Central Africa was abolished in 1836, the institution of slavery continued to exist in Angola until 1869. Moreover, its abolition was followed by a period of apprenticeship, during which freed people continued to live in conditions very similar to bondage. Under slavery and apprenticeship regimes, freedom could be achieved through flight, litigation, and negotiation, among other strategies. In this paper, I stress the role of sexuality, motherhood, and concubinage as strategies available to enslaved women in Angola. I show that domestic labor offered different opportunities to enslaved women to achieve freedom and establish themselves as free workers. By exploring cases of women who obtained freedom, I shed light on their interests, desires, initiatives, and agency. To develop these issues, I engage with the recent scholarship on sexual encounters under slavery, as well as with the literature on the role of women in the construction and reshaping of colonial and independent societies in the African continent. Through the study of Angola, I combine these two debates, by emphasizing the role of African women before the twentieth century.
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