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The Great African Slave Revolt of 1825

Cuba and the Fight for Freedom in Matanzas

272 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 2 maps

ebook available

Latin American & Caribbean Studies | Cuban Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807143322 / June 2012

In June 1825 the Cuban countryside witnessed a large African-led slave rebellion—a revolt that began a cycle of slave uprisings lasting until the mid-1840s. The Great African Slave Revolt of 1825 examines this movement and its participants for the first time, highlighting the significance of African warriors in New World plantation society.

Unlike previous slave revolts—led by alliances between free people of color and slaves, blacks and mulattoes, Africans and Creoles, and rural and urban populations—only African-born men organized the uprising of 1825. From this year onwards, Barcia argues, slave uprisings in Cuba underwent a phase of Africanization that concluded only in the mid-1840s with the conspiracy of La Escalera, a large movement organized by free colored men with ample participation of the slave population.
The Great African Slave Revolt of 1825 offers a detailed examination of the sociopolitical and economic background of the Matanzas rebellion, both locally and colonially. Based on extensive primary sources, particularly court records, the study provides a microhistorical analysis of the days that preceded this event, the uprising itself, and the days and months that followed. Barcia gives the Great African Revolt of 1825 its rightful place in the history of slavery in Cuba, the Caribbean, and the Americas.

Manuel Barcia is a senior lecturer in Latin American studies at the University of Leeds. He is also an Honorary Fellow at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull, and the author of Seeds of Insurrection: Domination and Resistance on Western Cuban Plantations, 1808-1848.

Praise for The Great African Slave Revolt of 1825

“The Great African Slave Revolt of 1825 marks an exciting advance in our understanding of the cycle of rebellions affecting Cuba and the broader Atlantic world during the Age of Revolutions. All studies of the era, of African diaspora and of Cuban history will need to reckon with its significant new findings.”—Journal of Latin American Studies

"In his introduction to The Great African Slave Revolt, Manuel Barcia writes that he wishes to address the absence of scholarship on the revolt with a comprehensive and evocative study and an analysis of the place of the revolt in the larger context of both Cuban history and the Age of Revolution. While Barcia sets a lofty goal, he deftly meets it, and in doing so offers a keen contribution to the literature of slave revolt and Cuba....An outstanding work." —The Americas

"[Barcia’s] work makes an important contribution to a vast and mature body of literature on slave resistance in the Western Hemisphere....In several respects this important, well-researched study raises critical questions for scholars of slave resistance, political mobilization, and the African diaspora, and it should inspire students of nineteenth-century rebellion in Cuba and the Americas more generally to take up further, related research”.—Melina PappademosAmerican Historical Review

“A well-written and documented contribution to the history of slavery in the Americas.”—Riva Berleant-SchillerChoice

“The documentary record generated from the attention to the revolt provides rich source material, allowing Barcia to draw explicit linkages between the rebellion and subsequent colonial policies. . . . If he encourages readers to rethink what is African about slave resistance, he also raises important questions about what is Cuban about a system created, and challenged, by foreigners.”—Cuban Studies

“Barcia insists on the African dimensions of the 1825 revolt in terms of leadership, a Pan-African ethnic solidarity, and the employment of West African war strategies. Indeed, he argues provocatively that this event represented an “extension” of West African warfare into Cuba (...) Barcia is to be commended for bringing Africans back into Cuban slave revolt historiography as well as for contributing with a new study to the scholarship of the African Diaspora in the Spanish Antilles.”—Jeffrey Kerr-RitchieInternational Journal of Cuban Studies

“A nuanced analysis of a little explored slave uprising. . . . Barcia injects new energy into current debates about the position of Africa in the nineteenth-century Atlantic, while providing a nuanced description of an event in the trajectory of the Cuban plantation system that, up till now, has remained little studied. An excellent resource.”—New West Indian Guide

“Barcia has provided a fascinating and richly documented account of a rebellion that, in his view, was an extension of West African warfare in a Cuban setting.”—Bulletin of Latin American Research

“This book demarcates a distinct place for the 1825 rebellion on the map of Atlantic revolts produced by African-born slaves in the Era of Revolutions, showing in great detail that African ways, ethnic differences, and occupational stratification among bondmen and women were not an insuperable obstacle to concerted, collective resistance against slavery.”—João José Reis, author of Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia

“At long last we finally have a book-length study of the 1825 slave revolt in Matanzas, Cuba. No other scholar has explored the African background of Cuban slaves in the same detail and sensitivity as Manuel Barcia as he brings to life the struggle of enslaved Africans for freedom in one of the most important slave societies of the Atlantic world. Skillfully analyzing both the Atlantic forces of enslavement, migration, and plantation production that shaped nineteenth- century Cuba with a keen attention to local detail and specific circumstances, Barcia forces us to reconsider how slave revolts tell a very modern story of how struggles for freedom become intertwined with questions of identity.”—Matt Childs, author of The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery

“This is a masterfully researched and beautifully written account of an important but mostly forgotten slave revolt. It is at once a compelling local and broad Atlantic history. To be sure, a confluence of events unique to the San Carlos de Matanzas gave rise to mass violence in 1825. But the revolt cannot be understood, Barcia shows, without a deep understanding of the cultural assumptions that the rebels brought with them from Africa. The book is a welcome addition to Caribbean and Atlantic historiography and will serve as a model for studies of slave revolts elsewhere.”—Walter Hawthorne, author of From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade, 1600-1830

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