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Working the Diaspora

The Impact of African Labor on the Anglo-American World, 1650-1850

Frederick Knight, 0, 0

Publication Year: 2010

"This volume is a significant contribution to a number of different fields, and it is on the cutting edge of Atlantic history, exploring an almost seamless integration of African, African American, and indeed American life."

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

As I wrote this book, a myriad of friends, family members, colleagues, and mentors walked beside me. First, the Knight family gave me the encouragement and space that I needed to complete this project. Throughout my years on the road and in the academic world, my kin have kept me grounded. I send them all of my love...

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pp. 1-12

For every European who crossed the Atlantic from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century, four times as many Africans made the journey. This mass, forced migration of people from Africa shaped the historical development of the New World in profound ways. Along with small farming, mining, artisan labor...

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1: Material Life in West and West Central Africa, 1650−1800

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pp. 13-31

Needed for more than brute labor on New World plantations, African workers carried agricultural and craft knowledge across the Atlantic that transformed American “material life,” a concept defined by economic historian Fernand Braudel. In the first volume of his monumental study...

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2: Seeds of Change

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pp. 33-64

Two generations after the British established their first permanent colonial settlement in the Americas at Jamestown, Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley “caused half a bushel of Rice (which he had procured) to be sowen, and it prospered gallantly, and he had fifteen bushels of it, excellent good rice.” Behind Berkeley’s claims about causing the...

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3: Cultivating Knowledge

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pp. 65-85

The remains from slave quarters and burial grounds point to the role that Africans played in material production in the British American colonies. West and West Central Africans, working in the Anglo- American tobacco fields, left behind tobacco pipes that have been unearthed in the Chesapeake region and Barbados. In the tobacco colony of...

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4: In an Ocean of Blue

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pp. 87-109

Between 1740 and 1770, colonial South Carolina emerged as one of Great Britain’s principal suppliers of indigo, used foremost as a blue textile dye. In 1750, South Carolina exported approximately eighty-seven thousand pounds of indigo, which soon gained a reputation as a middle-grade commodity, next in quality to the highest grade produced...

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5: Slave Artisans

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pp. 111-129

On the western coast of Africa, European merchants tapped into skilled African labor to build commercial bases and conduct trade. Ocean-bound vessels anchored offshore, and African canoemen ferried merchants and trade goods between the coast and the ships. Pieter de Marees remarked at the turn of the seventeenth century that most of the...

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6: Natural Worship

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pp. 131-153

Working in the indigo and cotton fields, on the tobacco plantations and rice estates, in the fishing waters and cattle pastures, the majority of slaves spent most of their waking hours exposed to and grappling with the forces of nature. They daily witnessed the mysteries of seeds transforming into plants, newborn animals growing up, and...


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pp. 155-191


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pp. 193-216


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pp. 217-228

About the Author

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pp. 229

E-ISBN-13: 9780814748343
E-ISBN-10: 0814748341
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814748183
Print-ISBN-10: 081474818X

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010