Research Update

Since my last post, I’ve begun my dissertation research in earnest, which is why I’ve been off the grid for a good while in terms of this blog. For those of you who don’t known, my dissertation explores the ways that free people of color in the urban Atlantic World engaged a common discourse on race, freedom, and respectability—and developed what can be viewed as a “pan-American” protest strategy—carving out a place for themselves within their communities and nations against a broadly similar ideology of white supremacy, one that viewed the mobilization and civic participation of people of African descent as a destabilizing influence. To get at such an expansive theme, I am comparing the lives and experiences of free people of color in two port cities of the Greater Caribbean: Charleston, South Carolina, and Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

Having already spent a few weeks researching in Charleston, I spent the majority of April and May conducting researching in Columbia, South Carolina, primarily at the SC Department of Archives and History, but also at the South Caroliniana Library on the University of South Carolina campus. I was quite disappointed to discover that the records of the Court of Magistrates and Freeholders for Charleston (where free blacks would have been tried) no longer exist, but I was able to find a great deal in legislative and court petitions, various legal documents, tax records, and other municipal records. In addition, the papers and records of various free black voluntary associations in Charleston have been particularly helpful.

At the end of June, I relocated to Bogotá, Colombia, where I’ll be living for the entire Fall 2013 semester. I’ve begun researching at the Archivo General de la Nación, where most of the documents for the late colonial and early republic period are housed. I’ve been working through early census returns so far, but plan to move on to criminal and civil court records, military and militia records, and a variety of other sources soon. I’ve also enrolled as an external graduate student at the  Universidad de los Andes, which will be my academic “home-base” while living in Colombia.

So that’s kind of what’s going on with me right now. I’ve made a lot of progress researching, but am still in the process (obviously) of really working through it all and putting it together. I hope over the next few months to provide more regular, and more substantive, updates on what I’m finding. One will certainly be coming this week, so stay tuned.

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