““This book charts new directions in thinking about the construction of new world identities. . . . Bennett does a masterful job.” —Judith A. Byfield, Dartmouth
In this study of the largest population of free and slave Africans in the New World, Herman L. Bennett has uncovered much new information about the lives of slave and free blacks and the ways that their lives were regulated by the government and the Church.
“This is colonial social history at its best — in part because it takes gender seriously. . . .” –Antoinette Burton, Professor of History, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign”
“Colonial Mexico was home to the largest population of free and slave Africans in the New World. This book explores how they learned to make their way in a culture of Spanish and Roman Catholic absolutism by using the legal institutions of church and state to create a semblance of cultural autonomy.
“This is colonial social history at its best. . . In Africans in Colonial Mexico, historians of women and gender under colonialism will find a highly usable resource, both for what it does with conjugality as an interpretive tool and for the subjects it so powerfully brings to light in a period when the voices of the colonized are few and far between.” –Antoinette Burton, Professor of History, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign”
“Bennett (Rutgers Univ.) relies on church records, especially marriage licenses and Inquisition prosecutions, to reveal aspects of the social and legal lives of Africans and their descendants, slave and free, in colonial Mexico. He begins by establishing the scale of the African presence, saying that Africans outnumbered Spaniards and that early New Spain's black population was larger than Brazil's. He notes, as others have, that Africans participated in the conquest and often served in an intermediary role, supervising indigenous labor and Hispanicizing the Indians. Bennett focuses not on work or living conditions, but on Africans' ability to manipulate power through their understanding of the law. Blacks, being Christians and thus considered persons with souls, enjoyed certain rights. For example, the church granted them the right of conjugality, which superceded their masters' property rights. Africans, Bennett argues, took advantage of these limited rights to make lives for themselves. By manipulating the interstices between canon and property law, Africans carved out niches for themselves and made their lives better. This thorough study informs on a number of historical fields, including the history of slavery, diaspora studies, identity, Spanish imperial history, church history, creolization, and the Hispanicization of Indians. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and faculty.February 2004”
— S. A. Harmon, Pittsburg State University
“Africans in Colonial Mexico by Herman Bennett marks a major advance in the still underdeveloped field of Afro-Mexican history by using Inquisition records to investigate Afro-Creole consciousness in the mature colonial period.40.3 2005”
— Latin American Research Review
“. . . a remarkable feat in reconstituting the lives of New Spain’s early African population . . . and in offering a new vantage point from which to study this important component of the African Diaspora.”
“..Bennett’s book represents a significant contribution to the scholarship on the African experience in colonial Mexico and to our understanding of the interface between the public domain of church and state and the private one of personal lives. ”