Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery

Rebecca Scott
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New Releases. Degrees of Freedom : Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery. Free delivery worldwide. Description As Louisiana and Cuba emerged from slavery in the late nineteenth century, each faced the question of what rights former slaves could claim. Degrees of Freedom compares and contrasts these two societies in which slavery was destroyed by war, and citizenship was redefined through social and political upheaval. Both Louisiana and Cuba were rich in sugar plantations that depended on an enslaved labor force.

After abolition, on both sides of the Gulf of Mexico, ordinary people-cane cutters and cigar workers, laundresses and labor organizers-forged alliances to protect and expand the freedoms they had won. But by the beginning of the twentieth century, Louisiana and Cuba diverged sharply in the meanings attributed to race and color in public life, and in the boundaries placed on citizenship. Louisiana had taken the path of disenfranchisement and state-mandated racial segregation; Cuba had enacted universal manhood suffrage and had seen the emergence of a transracial conception of the nation.

What might explain these differences? Moving through the cane fields, small farms, and cities of Louisiana and Cuba, Rebecca Scott skillfully observes the people, places, legislation, and leadership that shaped how these societies adjusted to the abolition of slavery. The two distinctive worlds also come together, as Cuban exiles take refuge in New Orleans in the s, and black soldiers from Louisiana garrison small towns in eastern Cuba during the U. Crafting her narrative from the words and deeds of the actors themselves, Scott brings to life the historical drama of race and citizenship in postemancipation societies.

Product details Format Paperback pages Dimensions x x People who bought this also bought. Their conceptual language and their experiences are worth recovering—to broaden our picture of southern history and perhaps also to enrich our thinking about constitutional frameworks of antidiscrimination. The continuing challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which such internal and external phenomena were linked. The city of New Orleans was at the center of what Shannon Dawdy has characterized as three overlapping areas of circulation of people and goods—one stretching up the Mississippi River, one reaching across the Atlantic Ocean to France and Europe, one spreading across the Gulf of Mexico to Havana, Veracruz, Port-au-Prince, and various smaller ports of the Caribbean.

X Close. The construct of public rights anticipated many aspects of what we now recognize as the dignitary component of claims to equal access to public accommodations and public transportation. Early forms of public-rights thinking were visible among some of the thousands of migrants who arrived in New Orleans from Saint Domingue in , after being expelled from their first refuge in Cuba.

The demands of free men and women of color had evolved quickly from political rights to a general exemption from markers and distinctions that conveyed social stigma or forced separation. Anticaste thinking, of course, was not necessarily antislavery. The initial emphasis was on equality of treatment among the free and on the ridiculousness of status distinctions based on color. Slaves themselves accelerated emancipation in Saint Domingue, though crucial alliances with free people of color made victory possible. In — the abolition of slavery was decreed in the colony and ratified in Paris.

In theory, distinctions of color were prohibited in official records.

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Record keepers, however, were not always so scrupulous. Her name carries no color qualifier or indication of her status before abolition, only the note that she was also the widow Aubert. There she was recorded as Marie Blanche, widow Aubert, femme de couleur libre free woman of color , placed in a legally defined group on which the state imposed specific restrictions, including a requirement that they provide proof of freedom and obtain residency permits.

The widow Aubert had, however, known a time and place when it was otherwise. There was nonetheless often only one degree of separation between the enslaved and the free. She later gave two slaves to Elizabeth as a wedding gift and freed three others, so we know something of their identities. We thus learn that the widow Aubert, although free, could not write, but her slave Marie-Antoinette could. Marie-Antoinette, in fact, signed her own name to her manumission document.

The webs of sociability, reciprocity, and exploitation in such a household were likely to be very complex. The enslaved often lived in close proximity to the enslaver. During the s the Louisiana legislature ratcheted up the constraints on free people of color, pushing some of them to emigrate.

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In the nearby city of Pau, the elections of were accompanied by drums, trumpets, and the proclamation of universal manhood suffrage. But the concept of a full and universal citizenship, independent of color, was formally legitimated at the moment of abolition. One of the others later returned to Louisiana, where he joined his brothers in the cigar business. The youngest, Edouard Tinchant, traveled to Louisiana during the Civil War, arriving just in time for the Union occupation of the city that began in By now, the rights consciousness of many free people of color was combined with antislavery, and as the war drew to a close, the possibility of universal manhood suffrage moved quickly onto the agenda.

At the time of the congressional Reconstruction Acts and the elections of , in which male former slaves could vote, the anticaste thinking that had developed over the previous half century came to the fore. From his post as a teacher in a school for freed children at St. But the Louisiana variant was reinforced by a popular insistence that markers and perceptions of color not trigger discriminatory or invidious treatment of private persons in public spaces—hence the guarantee in the Louisiana Constitution of of equal access to public transportation and to any enterprise requiring a state or municipal license to operate.

The anticaste thinking that activists of color had pioneered during the French and Haitian revolutions thus fused with language developed by an Italian jurist lecturing in France and with the rights consciousness of black veterans of the Union Army. In the case of Edouard Tinchant, it gained vividness from his experience, while in the Union uniform, of being forced off a New Orleans streetcar on the grounds of color.

The concept of equal public rights was built on a transnational political dialogue that encompassed Haiti as well as France, translated into terms that were readily accessible to people who had never left the state of Louisiana. It appealed both to French-speaking men and women of color and to English-speaking radicals, capturing something they knew but perhaps had not previously named: that individual dignity was nourished by formal respect in public space and public culture.

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I cannot understand the idea of a private individual exercising public rights. But by the beginning of the twentieth century, Louisiana and Cuba diverged sharply in the meanings attributed to race and color in public life, and in the boundaries placed on citizenship. Louisiana had taken the path of disenfranchisement and state-mandated racial segregation; Cuba had enacted universal manhood suffrage and had seen the emergence of a transracial conception of the nation.

What might explain these differences? Moving through the cane fields, small farms, and cities of Louisiana and Cuba, Rebecca Scott skillfully observes the people, places, legislation, and leadership that shaped how these societies adjusted to the abolition of slavery. The two distinctive worlds also come together, as Cuban exiles take refuge in New Orleans in the s, and black soldiers from Louisiana garrison small towns in eastern Cuba during the U.

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Crafting her narrative from the words and deeds of the actors themselves, Scott brings to life the historical drama of race and citizenship in postemancipation societies. Table of Contents Introduction 1. Two Worlds of Cane, 2. Building Citizenship: Louisiana, 3.

Crisis and Voice: Southern Louisiana, 4.

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Finding the Spaces of Freedom: Central Cuba, 5. Democracy and Antidemocracy: The Claims of Citizens, 7. The Right to Have Rights, 8. The Search for Property and Standing: Cuba, 9.