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Deep Roots

Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora

Edda L. Fields-Black

Publication Year: 2008

Mangrove rice farming on West Africa's Rice Coast was the mirror image of tidewater rice plantations worked by enslaved Africans in 18th-century South Carolina and Georgia. This book reconstructs the development of rice-growing technology among the Baga and Nalu of coastal Guinea, beginning more than a millennium before the transatlantic slave trade. It reveals a picture of dynamic pre-colonial coastal societies, quite unlike the static, homogenous pre-modern Africa of previous scholarship. From its examination of inheritance, innovation, and borrowing, Deep Roots fashions a theory of cultural change that encompasses the diversity of communities, cultures, and forms of expression in Africa and the African diaspora.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Blacks in the Diaspora


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pp. vii

List of Maps

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pp. viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

According to the Haya in Tanzania, “Many hands make light work.” More people, institutions, and funding agencies on three continents than I could possibly name have supported me over the past ten years as I researched and wrote my dissertation and subsequently my first book. ...

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pp. 1-24

In 1793, despite his years of experience as a slave trader,1 Captain Samuel Gamble found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time—stranded on the mosquito-infested West African Rice Coast for the entire insalubrious rainy season. The Sandown departed from London in April of that year ...

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1. The Rio Nunez Region: A Small Corner of West Africa’s Rice Coast Region

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pp. 25-54

The West African Rice Coast spans the region from the Senegal River in present-day Senegal to Liberia.1 After establishing a trading post off the coast of Mauritania and discovering the uninhabited islands of Cape Verde, Portuguese traders had become well acquainted with the region south of the Senegal River by 1460. ...

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2. The First-Comers and the Roots of Coastal Rice-Growing Technology

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pp. 55-78

Though Oryza glaberrima was domesticated in the inland Niger Delta and is indigenous to West Africa’s Rice Coast region, does it have deep roots in West Africa’s coastal floodplains? Can its cultivation be traced to the earliest coastal settlement? Millennia before the advent of the trans- Atlantic slave trade, ...

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3. The Newcomers and the Seeds of Tidal Rice-Growing Technology

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pp. 79-106

The first-comers—Nalu-, Mbulungish-, and Mboteni- speakers—established sparse settlements along the coast of the Nunez River in present-day Guinea-Conakry and Guinea-Bissau, where their knowledge of the coastal environment had deep roots dating back to antiquity. From their settlement of the coastal Rio Nunez region, ...

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4. Coastal Collaboration and Specialization: Flowering of Tidal Rice-Growing Technology

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pp. 107-134

Unlike coastal farmers in the West African Rice Coast region or their counterparts enslaved on South Carolina and Georgia’s rice plantations, plantation owners and slaveholders left a plethora of documentation about the evolution of South Carolina and Georgia’s rice-growing technology and the rise of the colonies’ commercial rice industries. ...

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5. The Strangers and the Branches of Coastal Rice-Growing Technology

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pp. 135-160

Less than a century after Samuel Gamble was marooned in the Rio Nunez region for an entire rainy season, toured Baga villages, and recorded the first written description of their rice-growing technology, Lieutenant Andr

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6. Feeding the Slave Trade: The Trade in Rice and Captives from West Africa’s Rice Coast

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pp. 161-186

By 1793–94 when Samuel Gamble recorded and illustrated the techniques of Baga rice-farming, tidal rice-growing technology was no longer unique to the West African Rice Coast region. Tidewater rice plantations were thriving in coastal South Carolina and Georgia by the late eighteenth century. ...

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pp. 187-194

The year 2008, marking the bicentennial of the abolition of trans-Atlantic slave trade in the North American colonies, is an appropriate moment to make a confession that Africanist historians who specialize in the pre-colonial period, such as myself, are usually loath to admit. ...

Appendix 1. Fieldwork Interviews

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pp. 195-196

Appendix 2. Rice Terminology in Atlantic Languages Spoken in the Coastal Rio Nunez Region

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pp. 197-208


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pp. 209-236


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pp. 237-256


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pp. 257-277

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002969
E-ISBN-10: 0253002966
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352194

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora