JCB Fellow's Talk

September 3, 2014 - 12:00pm

Michele Reid-Vazquez, University of Pittsburgh, InterAmericas Fellow, funded by The Reed Foundation / Center for New World Comparative Studies Fellow. "Revolution, Race, and the Rhetoric of Liberty in the Atlantic World."

On the first Wednesday of each month, we’ll be showcasing the work of our long-term fellows in a noon-hour talk at the Annmary Brown Memorial, just out the gates of the Main Green and down the street from the JCB at 21 Brown Street – a 1-minute walk, in fact.

The talk will take place from noon to 1pm. Following the talk, the Library fellows and a small number of invited guests will gather for lunch in the same venue (since space is limited, we ask that you please let us know at if you would be interested in attending the lunch; we may not always be able to accommodate your request, but we will place you on a waiting list and attempt to include you for this or a future lunch as space and budgets allow).

My talk examines how European powers and colonial rebels engaged the rhetoric of race and freedom in the Atlantic revolutions. In particular, British, Spanish, and French authorities, as well as insurgent leaders, offered liberty to slaves and citizenship to free people of color in exchange for their military service and loyalty. These promises, however, faded or became complicated by the outcomes of warfare. Nevertheless, displaced black loyalists, refugees, and royalists, particularly in the Caribbean, actively sought to make the rhetoric of liberty a reality for themselves and their families. By comparing these discourses, I explore their interconnectedness and their limitations, and highlight the multiple ways people of African descent interpreted revolutionary language for their own social and political aims.