Literary Hub

How Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery Undermined White Supremacy

Prior to the abolition of slavery, thousands of African-descended people in the Americas lived in freedom. Their efforts to navigate daily life and negotiate the boundaries of racial difference challenged the foundations of white authority and linked the Americas together.

In Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery (University of South Carolina Press, 2020), John Garrison Marks examines how these individuals built lives in freedom for themselves and their families in two of the Atlantic World’s most important urban centers: Cartagena, along the Caribbean coast of modern-day Colombia, and Charleston, in the low country of North America’s Atlantic coast. Marks reveals how skills, knowledge, reputation, and personal relationships helped free people of color improve their fortunes and achieve social distinction in ways that undermined whites’ claims to racial superiority. Their actions represented early contributions to the long fight for recognition, civil rights, and racial justice that continues today.

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John Garrison Marks works for the American Association for State and Local History and holds a Ph.D. in history from Rice University. He is the coeditor of Race and Nation in the Age of Emancipations: An Atlantic World Anthology and his work has appeared in Southwestern Historical Quarterly and Atlantic Studies.

Adam McNeil is a third year Ph.D. in History student at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

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