Colonial Blackness

Colonial Blackness

A History of Afro-Mexico
Herman L. Bennett
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/29/2010
Format: Paperback none
ISBN: 978-0-253-22331-9
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Asking readers to imagine a history of Mexico narrated through the experiences of Africans and their descendants, this book offers a radical reconfiguration of Latin American history. Using ecclesiastical and inquisitorial records, Herman L. Bennett frames the history of Mexico around the private lives and liberty that Catholicism engendered among enslaved Africans and free blacks, who became majority populations soon after the Spanish conquest. The resulting history of 17th-century Mexico brings forth tantalizing personal and family dramas, body politics, and stories of lost virtue and sullen honor. By focusing on these phenomena among peoples of African descent, rather than the conventional history of Mexico with the narrative of slavery to freedom figured in, Colonial Blackness presents the colonial drama in all its untidy detail.

Author Bio

Herman L. Bennett is Professor of History at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570–1640 (IUP, 2003).


“Asking readers to imagine a history of Mexico narrated through the experiences of Africans and their descendants, this book offers a radical reconfiguration of Latin American history in all its untidy detail.”

“Colonial Blackness makes a crucial contribution to the burgeoning literature on persons of African descent in Spanish America. Focusing on the “middle period” of colonial rule, Herman Bennett challenges us to rethink the cultural history of Afro-Mexicans in ways that go beyond deterministic frameworks of enslavement and oppression. This is an innovative work that will prove fascinating reading for anyone studying colonial Latin America or the African Diaspora.”
 — Barbara Weinstein, New York University

“A powerful piece of revisionist history.”
 — Ben Vinson, Johns Hopkins University

“Bennett challenges his readers to rethink the black experience in colonial Mexico. . . . He persuasively argues that exploitative labor systems, violence, and social hierarchy cannot, by themselves, define Afro-Mexican history; past studies . . . have flattened out and simplified our view of people of color, ignoring their private lives and their efforts at community formation. To put it another way, the slavery paradigm has overwhelmed alternate narratives of 'freedom' and 'blackness.' Bennett seeks to bring these hidden narratives to light.”
 — Robert Douglas Cope, Brown University

“What light is shed upon old topics when new sources are examined! In this major work on Afro-Mexican and, really, general Spanish American history, Bennett prowls through the neglected Mexican archival records [and] uncovers a vibrant black community developing its own customs and practices. . . . In place of a weak, shattered individualistic society . . . Bennett’s Afro-Mexicans were a community that soon counted a majority of freedman living in an urban setting. What a contract with the Afro-Cuban slave society evolving to the east. . . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

“[T]his text, compelling and persuasive both in theoretical argumentation and use of primary sources, is a major achievement in understanding and reframing Afro-Mexican history. It is highly recommended for the sophisticated specialist already familiar with more conventional studies of Afro-Latin American history, and one who is also necessarily conversant with the terminology of postmodern and postcolonial studies. Vol. 17.1, Winter 2008”
 — Colonial Latin American Historical Review

“A fascinating study . . . Bennett . . . challenges mission historians to go beyond those generalizations that often marginalize people and to examine not only the written sources about such groups but also to examine their behavior, creatively using archival sources that are available.”
 — Larry Nemer, Missiology

“Oct. 2013”
 — Bulletin of Latin American Research

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
Introduction: Writing Afro-Mexican History
1. Discipline and Culture
2. Genealogies to a Past
3. Creoles
4. Provincial Black Life
5. Local Blackness
6. Narrating Freedom
7. Sin
Epilogue: Colonial Blackness?

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