Women Claiming Freedom: Slavery, Race, and Resistance across the Americas, Part 1: Part 1

AHA Session 119
Conference on Latin American History 21
Friday, January 4, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Adams Room (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Mariana L. Dantas, Ohio University
Ana Diaz Burgos, Oberlin College
Terri L. Snyder, California State University, Fullerton
Sasha Turner, Quinnipiac University
Sharon E. Wood, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Jessica Marie Johnson, Johns Hopkins University

Session Abstract

This two-session roundtable addresses the history of women of African descent attaining, asserting, and defining freedom in the Americas, from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century. Scholars often define freedom as a legal status that could be claimed in the courts; roundtable participants take a more capacious approach. We view claiming freedom as a process and contingent condition that took many forms across the Americas. The roundtable examines the ways in which African American women defined freedom and the varied routes by which they sought it. The roundtable reflects the hemispheric reach of the African Diaspora, with scholars focusing on the lives of women in diverse geographic locations, including present-day Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States.

The speakers are all contributors to a planned collection about women who were agents of freedom in the African Diaspora. The speakers will briefly outline their chapters in the context of three assumption: 1) freedom is more than the legal absence of slavery; 2) a biographical approach is essential for studying women’s claims to freedom; and 3) gender shapes both claims to liberty and the experiences of freedom. Beyond sharing ideas to support a more cohesive collection, the roundtable is an invitation for the wider scholarly community to discuss new methodologies and approaches to the archives of slavery and freedom.