Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery: Race, Status, and Identity in the Urban Americas (University of South Carolina Press, October 2020)
In this book, I explore how free people of color built lives in freedom for themselves and their families prior to the abolition of slavery. It focuses on two of the Atlantic World’s most important urban centers: Cartagena, along the Caribbean coast of modern-day Colombia, and Charleston, in the lowcountry of North America’s Atlantic coast.
As free people of color worked to improve their individual circumstances, staking claims to rights, privileges, and distinctions not typically afforded to those of African descent, they engaged with white elites and state authorities in ways that challenged prevailing racial attitudes. While whites across the Americas shared common doubts about the ability of African-descended people to survive in freedom or contribute meaningfully to society, free black people in Cartagena, Charleston, and beyond conducted themselves in ways that exposed cracks in the foundations of American racial hierarchies. Their actions represented early contributions to the long fight for recognition, civil rights, and racial justice that continues today.
Race and Nation in the Age of Emancipations: An Atlantic World Anthology, Co-Edited with Whitney Nell Stewart, (University of Georgia Press, 2018).
Over the long nineteenth century, African-descended peoples used the uncertainties and possibilities of emancipation to stake claims to freedom, equality, and citizenship. In the process, people of color transformed the contours of communities, nations, and the Atlantic World.
With the essays in this volume, historians contend that emancipation was not something that simply happened to enslaved peoples but rather something in which they actively participated. By viewing local experiences through an Atlantic framework, the contributors reveal how emancipation was both a shared experience across national lines and one shaped by the particularities of a specific nation. Their examination uncovers, in detail, the various techniques employed by people of African descent across the Atlantic World, allowing a broader picture of their paths to freedom.