A Bristol Rhode Island and Matanzas, Cuba, Slavery Connection with Dr. Rafael Ocasio

A Bristol Rhode Island and Matanzas, Cuba, Slavery Connection with Dr. Rafael Ocasio

by Community and Inclusion

Lectures & Presentations

Thu, 15 Oct 2020

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM EDT (GMT-4)

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As part of the ongoing work of documenting stories connected to The 1619 Project, Scholar Rafael Ocasio shares his important research on the slave connections between a sugar plantation and Cuba and a Rhode Island town.

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.

This is a webinar-style program open to the public. A Q&A section will be included at the end of the presentation.

***For the public and MHC alums, staff, and faculty, please click the green "register" button on the top of this page to register. Do not try to log in to Embark.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

Recording Statement
This event is being conducted over Zoom. As the host, Mount Holyoke College reserves the right to record this session and the event sponsors will give prior notification to event participants of any intention to do so. The recording feature for others is disabled so that no one else will be able to record this session through Zoom. At all times, no recording by any other means is permitted without prior written permission from the event sponsor or as an approved accommodation.

For inquiries about the accessibility of this event or to request any accommodations, please contact Ysabel Garcia at ysabelgarcia@mtholyoke.edu. Please make accommodation requests at least three days before the event date to give implementation time, however, in all situations, a good faith effort will be made to provide accommodations up until the time of the event.

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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.

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