Parallels and Comparisons: Black and Native Involvement in Systems of Captivity and Enslavement

AHA Session 46
Friday, January 3, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Murray Hill (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Alaina E. Roberts, University of Pittsburgh
Celia E. Naylor, Barnard College, Columbia University

Session Abstract

In the last decade, various scholars, from Christina Snyder and Tiya Miles to Brett Rushforth and Andres Resendez, have produced manuscripts that elucidate Indigenous peoples’ involvement—as both perpetrators and as victims—in practices of captivity that preceded European contact, in African chattel slavery, and in coerced labor that saw Native people working side-by-side with people of African descent. The papers in this panel build on this work, using examinations of Black and Native bondage in New Spain and African chattel slavery under Native ownership in the South and West to bring new perspectives to issues of race, gender, and labor. Our first paper spans the seventeenth century, examining the intersections of varied systems of bondage (and therefore of people of different races and genders) in the Southwestern borderlands under colonial Spanish rule. Our second paper identifies the diverse forms of Black labor present within the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in the Antebellum period, demonstrating that the economic impact of African Americans’ labor was felt throughout the west. Our third paper argues that Black slaves’ labor in nineteenth-century Mississippi allowed Chickasaw women and men to strategically transition into Euro-American gender norms. Together, these papers demonstrate that in the Southwest, Mississippi, and Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma), Native American and African American subjugation shaped gender roles, familial dynamics, interracial coexistence, and labor practices in the communities of the enslaved and the enslavers. Our panel challenges historians of African America and Native America to examine the similarities (and revealing differences) between the experiences of people of color in bondage.
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