Between 1492 and 1867, an estimated 12.5 million enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas, roughly one half landing in the relatively small but economically and strategically important world region of the Caribbean. This massive slave trade shaped the Caribbean’s cultures, economies, and societies. Ever since the early 1500s, African and African-descended people constituted the majority of the region’s population, ranging from the overwhelming to near majority across time and space. Their interaction with European colonists, enslaved native Americans, and their descendants gave rise to a multiplicity of new Afro-American societies and nations.
In this course, we will explore the evolution of Afro-Caribbean society as a window onto the origins and experiences of slavery and freedom, race and racism, imperialism and revolution, and migration and transnationalism. We will focus on the the Greater Antilles from the Haitian Revolution to the present, and especially on twentieth-century Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
Grading will be based equally on short papers on the assigned readings and on class participation.
The course is interdisciplinary, using film, literature, and personal testimony in addition to historical works. It is structured around class discussion.