Mary Hicks | Black Cosmopolitans in the Age of Atlantic Slavery

This is an Archive of a Past Event

The second winter quarter meeting of the Slavery and Freedom research workshop will feature Mary Hicks, Assistant Professor of History at UChicago. Her research examines the maritime dimensions of the African Diaspora and the origins of Atlantic capitalism with a particular focus on eighteenth and early nineteenth century colonial Brazil. Her forthcoming book is titled Captive Cosmopolitans: Black Mariners and the World of South Atlantic Slavery. It will be out this year with the Omohundro Institute. Her published work includes: “Financing the Luso-Atlantic Slave Trade: Collective Investment Practices from Portugal to Brazil, 1500-1840,” in the Journal of Global Slavery and “Transatlantic Threads of Meaning: West African Textile Entrepreneurship in Salvador da Bahia, 1770–1870,” in Slavery & Abolition. She has also appeared on the Netflix docuseries Queen Njinga.

Focusing on African and creole seafarers in Salvador, Brazil during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this talk will explore the seemingly contradiction of the transatlantic slave trade’s reliance on the forced maritime labor of enslaved and freed men. As the Atlantic world’s first subaltern cosmopolitans, black mariners comprised nearly 40 percent of all mariners working in the Bahian slave trade. Despite their many deprivations, they enjoyed a unique level of social mobility, one that sometimes allowed them to purchase their freedom and, in some cases, become independent transatlantic traders in goods and slaves. Captivity’s Commerce thus illuminates the life trajectories of some of the Portuguese empire’s most innovative historical agents, who navigated the rise and fall of South Atlantic slavery by crafting greater personal autonomy for themselves, while serving as crucial vectors of African material culture, knowledge and community-building in the New World.