A Bristol Rhode Island and Matanzas, Cuba, Slavery Connection with Dr. Rafael Ocasio
His book is described here: In the early 19th century, Cuba emerged as the world’s largest producer of sugar and the United States its most important buyer. Barely documented today, there was a close commercial relationship between Cuba and the Rhode Island coastal town of Bristol. The citizens of Bristol were heavily involved in the slavery trade and owned sugarcane plantations in Cuba and also served as staff workers at these facilities. Available in print for the first time is a diary that sheds light on this connection. Mr. George Howe, Esquire (1791–1837), documented his tasks at a Bristolian-owned plantation called New Hope, which was owned by well-known Bristol merchant, slave trader, and US senator James DeWolf (1764–1837). Howe expressed mixed personal feelings about local slavery work practices. He felt lucky to be employed and was determined to do his job well, in spite of the harsh conditions operating at New Hope, but he also struggled with his personal feelings regarding slavery. Though an oppressive system, it was at the core of New Hope’s financial success and, therefore, Howe’s well-being as an employee.
This book examines Howe’s diary entries in the thematic context of the local Costumbrista literary production. Costumbrismo both documented local customs and critically analyzed social ills. In his letters to relatives and friends, Howe depicted a more personal reaction to the underpinnings of slavery practices, a reaction reflecting early abolitionist sentiments.
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Co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.
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Dr. Rafael Ocasio
Rafael Ocasio (Ph.D., Latin American Literatures, University of Kentucky) is a Charles A. Dana Professor of Spanish at Agnes Scott College, Decatur-Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of two books on dissident writer Reinaldo Arenas: Cuba’s Political and Sexual Outlaw (University Press of Florida, 2003) and The Making of a Gay Activist (University Press of Florida, 2007). His other books include Latin American Culture and Literature (Greenwood Press, 2004), and Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo: From Plantations to the Slums (University Press of Florida, 2012). His book, The Bristol, Rhode Island and Matanzas, Cuba Slavery Connection: The Diary of George Howe” (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), examines archival documentation of administrators as participants of an active commercial trade between Cuba and Rhode Island throughout the early part of the nineteenth century. Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore: Franz Boas and John Alden Mason in Porto Rico (Rutgers University Press, August, 2020), explores the founding father of American anthropology’s historic trip to Puerto Rico in 1915, which led to the compilation of a large oral folklore collection. He teaches upper-level courses on Latin American literatures and film, as well as Spanish-language courses.