Abstract

ABSTRACT:

Black tradeswomen – both enslaved and free African women and those of African descent – played key economic roles in lower Louisiana during the late eighteenth century. This article uses the life of Jeannette, an enslaved-turned-free negra, as a case study of a women who advertised Atlantic ingredients and cloth through West African customs and framework, and in doing so, popularized Afro-Atlantic material culture in North America. Enslaved in 1749 at the Bight of Benin, West Africa, Jeannette was sent by enslavers to Saint Pierre, Martinique, and then New Orleans, Louisiana, during which time she hired out as a tradeswoman. For much of her life, Jeannette fought against enslavement and negotiated for a place in the marketplace, a space that allowed her more access to autonomy and economic resources than plantation work. Examining personal estate inventories and bills of receipt of residents of French, Spanish, and African descent, it becomes clear that she and others found profit-making opportunities both in the marketplace and in the sale of Afro-Atlantic material cultures.

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