This articles provides a close reading of colonial records from the mining region of Minas Gerais, in Brazil, to reveal ways in which women of African origin and descent helped to construct that region’s socio-economic order. It investigates the role slave and free black women played in supporting local economic exchanges, small manufacturing, gold mining, and food production. In this manner, this study rescues these women’s history from its marginal standing in the current narrative of Minas Gerais’s economic trajectory. It demonstrates, moreover, that African and African-descending women were part of the process of economic change that, by the turn of the nineteenth century, transformed the mining region into an important area of food production still supported by the practice of slavery.