Claims of Dignity: Black Women Political Imagination in Venezuela, 1730s-1809

Evelyne Laurent-Perrault
UC Santa Barbara

Enslaved and free Black women, living in Caracas during the eighteenth century introduced more than half of the total number of lawsuits against slaveowners. They did so on their behalf or for their loved ones. They made claims of rights, freedom, social membership, equality, and dignity, spreading their ideas across the Atlantic world, and beyond, contributing to the Enlightenment. Yet their political role during the colonial period, for the most part, remains silenced and excluded from the pages of history. To the present, Black womanhood in Latin America remains trapped under racialized, paternalistic, condescending, and gendered narratives. This research un-silences these women’s voices, their strategies and political contributions to the region, the Atlantic world and beyond. It urges scholars of Latin America to consider African Diaspora epistemology centering Africans and Afro-descendants’ epistemes as political, as opposed to the colonial narratives of benevolent slavery and Black dispossession. This project stands more urgent than ever in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter and the ongoing struggle for Black liberation.