On Monday, March 28, about 25 people gathered together to celebrate history professor Yesenia Barragan’s new book: Freedom’s Captives: Slavery and Gradual Emancipation on the Colombian Black Pacific (Cambridge University Press, 2021).
The event was sponsored by the Slavery and Freedom Working Group, but most of the attendees were CLAS folks. It was the first time so many of us had gathered together in person since before the pandemic. Camilla Townsend offered a comment on the book. She noted the invaluable work that the volume does in departing from the redemptive narrative of freedom that is usually associated with any discussion of gradual abolition; instead the book shows the many ways in which Afro-Latinos continued to be brutalized and controlled in those long and dragging years.
Equally importantly, the book manages to avoid becoming an account of the slaveholders more than of the enslaved-- no mean feat, given the nature of the available record. This is indeed the book we have long needed about the Black experience on South America’s northwest coast. We all look forward to the book’s imminent release in paperback!
After the talk, the group dined on delicious fare from Merey, a Venezuelan restaurant in Highland Park. The arepas they served would have done any Colombian proud! And the cake was decorated with a gorgeous reproduction of the book’s cover. It was painful to cut it!