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The Conceptualization of Race in Colonial Puerto Rico, 1800–1850


Kathryn R. Dungy

With the growing interest in the history of peoples of African descent in the Americas, narratives addressing regions outside of the United States are becoming increasingly popular. The Conceptualization of Race in Colonial Puerto Rico, 1800–1850 illuminates the role people of African descent played in the building of a Spanish Caribbean society during the social upheaval of the early nineteenth century. This examination of cultural tensions created by changing regional and national definitions and the fluidity of identity within these structures will appeal to those interested in colonial race issues, Africans in the Americas, and gender and race stratification. Kathryn R. Dungy uses gender, color, and class differences as lenses to understand a colonial society that was regulated by social relationships within Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the Americas. By examining slave and free status, color, gender, work, and immigration, she endeavors to stimulate current debate on issues of gender, color, nation, and empire, utilizing a unique population and culture in the Black Atlantic.


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I have accumulated many debts in researching and writing this book about free people of color in nineteenth-century Puerto Rico. They are debts I can never discharge, but here I have the opportunity to ac- knowledge those who have been so generous in their support of me and of my work. To my Spelman family who believed from the beginning that I had potential in the historical field. That initial encouragement came from professors Dalila de Sousa Sheppard, Margery Ganz, Jim Gillam, and Michael Gomez. Further molding occurred at Duke University un- der the guidance of a myriad of knowledgeable and talented people. Thanks to professors Jan Ewald, Ray Gavins, Nancy Hewitt, John Hope Franklin, Karla Holloway, Sydney Nathans, Richard Powell, Anne Firor Scott, John TePaske, Peter Wood, and Dean Jackie Looney. And I would surely have lost my sanity without the encouragement from the wonderful, nurturing cohorts in the Duke Graduate Studies pro- gram: Herman Bennett, Leslie Brown, Vincent Brown, Alex Byrd, Rod Clare, Charles McKinney, Jennifer Morgan, Celia Naylor, Peter (Quaku) Pletcher, Stephanie Smallwood, Nikki Taylor, Annie Valk, and others. xiv the conceptualization of race in colonial puerto rico As a dissertation in progress and later as a book manuscript, this project benefited from fellowship assistance that allowed me to con- centrate on research and writing. I thank the generous support from the Graduate School at Duke University, the Ford Foundation, the New England Board of Higher Education Dissertation Scholars-in-Residence Program at the University of Vermont, the Women’s...

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