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

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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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Chapter Four: Til Death Do Us Part: Engagement, Elopement, Marriage, and Widowhood

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Chapter Four

Til Death Do Us Part: Engagement, Elopement, Marriage, and Widowhood

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century free women of color in the Atlantic World played a significant role in the development of the cultures and societies we know today, but few scholars have thus far acknowledged the contributions of these women. Groundbreaking work such as More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas, edited by David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine, or The Bondwoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Craft and edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., certainly begin to answer the question concerning how slavery touched the lives of black women in the Atlantic World. “Til Death Do Us Part” takes the inquiry one step further and asks what freedom meant to black women. This chapter broadens the scope from the usual sphere of the antebellum United States, and seeks to include the Spanish Caribbean in the discussion of how black women, and especially free black women, were affected during this era.

Examining the personal and interpersonal relationships of nineteenth-century Puerto Rican women of color humanizes the archival records. Scholarship on slavery in the Atlantic World has expanded in recent years, yet the study of free people of color within the world ← 67 | 68 → of slavery is still an oft-overlooked subject. The growing interest in the history of black women in slavery benefits from a study of women who were not enslaved. This chapter explores how place of origin affected personal perceptions of...

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