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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay is a survey of the attitudes, ideals, and experiences described by enslaved blacks regarding their family and community lives. It seeks to answer the following: How did enslaved people speak of family and community in their ancestral homes and in other parts of the Black Atlantic? What persons were included? Who was excluded? How valuable were these “connections” to the enslaved? How were they formed? How were they destroyed? How did they function? How did they change over time, place, and circumstance? Were they a source of resistance? And did they endure? The essay draws on a variety of narrative sources, including the published accounts of eighteenth-century Africans James Albert Gronniosaw and Ottobah Cugoano, a Phyllis Wheatley poem, the reminiscences of black loyalists and Nat Turner, the iconic nineteenth-century writings of Frederick Douglass, Mary Prince, and Harriet Jacobs, and the invaluable 1930s Works Progress Administration (WPA) collection.

Keywords: slave community, slave family, WPA collection, Black Atlantic, Ottobah Cugoano, Nat Turner, James Gronniosaw, resistance

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