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ch a p ter 3 Slave Revolt across Borders Each country has its own laws, as you must know, sir, and fortunately for the cause of humanity, Hayti is not the only one where slavery is abolished. —alex ander pétion [Madison Washington,] that bright star of freedom [who] took his station in the constellation of freedom. —james and lois horton In discussing the origin of Pan-Africanism, what one should look for is the period when the sentiments or concepts underlying it first attracted attention. —p. o. esedebe In the second volume of The Slave States of America published in 1842, James Silk Buckingham penned the following: “The example of Hayti, with a free government of blacks, is before them; —the emancipation of all slaves in Mexico, is known to them;—the example of England in the West India Islands, is fresh and recent; and the exertions making for their abolition in their own Northern States, are, of course, familiar to them all. It is impossible but that all this must every year increase the general desire to be free.”1 Buckingham, an English traveler and writer sympathetic to the peaceful abolition of slavery in the United States, highlighted prominent examples of emancipation in the Western Hemisphere during the first four decades of the nineteenth century. In 1804, the new republic of Haiti had outlawed slavery. In 1829, Mexico had terminated slavery eight years after gaining national independence from Spain. The abolition of British colonial slavery—largely directed at its West Indies colonies—had been legislated in 1833, implemented in 1834, and concluded by 1838. Between 1777 (Vermont) and 1827 (New York), slavery was legally abolished in all northern states in the U.S. republic. Buckingham drew attention to these Caribbean, Central American, and North American examples of slave emancipation because he wanted to “avert the calamity” of slave insurrection in the United States.2 Building upon Buckingham’s cross-national approach, together with slave revolt across borders 61 an emerging historical literature on the transnational connections among slaves—what one scholar dubs “common winds”3 —this chapter examines examples of slave revolt, legal abolition, and post-emancipation developments in the nineteenth-century Americas. Its specific concern is with the transmission and nature of slave revolt and abolition in one area inspiring slave self-emancipation in other places and its ramifications. Moreover, it pursues connections among slaves seeking freedom in colonial states as well as the first black republic’s responses to these expectations. Most important, this chapter explains the intersection between slaves’ original desires for freedom and the impact of external factors. Slave revolt is broadly defined as both collective rebellion as well as smaller acts of self-emancipation, while borders are delineated as national boundaries on land and at sea as well as between states within federal territories. Although organized around Buckingham’s major abolition moments and their international impact on slaves, free blacks, and abolitionists, it also expands his framework to make a bolder argument for the historical significance of slave revolt across borders.4 The chapter has three key aims. It seeks to transcend the spatial and temporal dimensions of the “common-wind” approach beyond Haiti as well as The Greater Caribbean region showing the proximity of slave and free borders. 62 freedom’s seekers the Age of Revolution. Most scholarly attention focuses on the generational period around the late eighteenth through early nineteenth century, but it is clear that, not only did the Haitian Revolution continue its impact throughout the nineteenth century, but it was accompanied by other influential slave revolts and abolitions in Mexico, the English Caribbean, the northern United States, and so forth. The second objective is to reveal connections between the Caribbean, Central America, North America, and South America usually overlooked because of national and regional historiographies independent of each other. This is obviously the consequence of the development of celebratory historiographies in the aftermath of national independence together with the gradual professionalization of history by the late nineteenth century and onwards. The earlier era, however, points to less concrete nation-centered experiences as well as more protean forms of communal identity (Buckingham was an international rather than English abolitionist). The third objective is to contribute to the conceptualization of emancipation in African Diaspora studies . Slaves moved across borders. Slaves sought free lives. Slaves suffered and protested, sharing a common skin color. These three components of the Diaspora theory—movement, homelands, and racial solidarity—require greater...


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