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Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas

Posted By: Den1985s
Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas

Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas (The Americas in the Early Modern Atlantic World)
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan | ISBN: 1403975760 | edition 2008 | PDF | 296 pages | 1,4 mb

This book is an innovative comparative study of persons of African origin and descent in two urban environments of the early modern Atlantic world. The author follows these men and women as they struggle with slavery, negotiations of manumission, and efforts to adapt to a life in freedom, ultimately illustrating how their choices and actions placed them at the foreground of the development ofAtlantic urban slavery and emancipation. In 1755, the “faithful vassals of his majesty, the Crioulo, Preto and Pardo men and women” of the towns of Minas Gerais, in Brazil, presented a petition to the Portuguese king requesting the nomination of a public official who would serve as their legal representative in local courts. They argued that it was “public knowledge that from the beginning of settlement in Minas Gerais Crioulos, Pretos and Pardos had traded in every type of product and had engaged in business with all kinds of white people.” Nevertheless, because “of their inability to read or write and their ignorance of the law,” they constantly suffered abuses at the hands of white residents in the region whenever a commercial, personal, or property dispute arose between them. They further explained that they were often subjected to disadvantageous terms in their commercial and other dealings with white people; they were unjustly arrested for debt; and their wives and daughters frequently suffered from sexual abuses perpetrated by their white creditors. Not being able to secure fair representation and fair trials, they sustained significant loss to their estates, households, and honor. To remedy this situation, the petitioners sought the appointment of a public defender or legal agent. More specifically, they requested that he be chosen from among the many crioulo or pardo male residents of Minas Gerais, someone well-versed in Portuguese law, but who was also familiar with the problems they, as a group, faced in the region

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