On 19th June 2022, after a second round of voting, the Colombian people elected their first ever left-wing government, led by Gustavo Petro, with Francia Márquez as vice-president, the first ever Afro-Colombian and only the second woman to hold the position. In this post, we will focus on this trailblazing woman, who studied Law specifically to be prepared to defend the rights of her people, and on the context that led her and her country to this new chapter in their history.
Francia Elena Márquez Mina was born in 1981 in Yolombó, in the Cauca Department on the West coast of Colombia, one of the areas of the country where enslaved populations from Africa have lived since the 17th century. Traditionally in this region, Black slaves were forced to work in gold mining, sugarcane plantations and cattle ranches. To this day, the impact of exploitatative and extractivist practices on peoples, territories and resources in the region are still painfully relevant and have been part of Francia Márquez’s life experience since her earliest formative years, which would lead her to become a committed activist from the age of 17 years old. This life experience remains the basis of her politics, as she makes the move from activism to mainstream politics. Continue reading
Earlier this month the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam finally opened its doors to visitors for a major exhibition which examines the history of Dutch involvement in the international slave trade. This exhibition, first conceived four years ago, was delayed due to COVID-19 but was officially opened in May by King Willem-Alexander and now runs until 29 August, with a powerful online version for people not able to visit in person. The exhibition tells the stories of slaves and the Dutch people who enslaved them, homing in on ten individual people and using oral history alongside historic objects and documents. There is a Cambridge connection as a plantation bell displayed at the entrance was until 2019 on display at St Catharine’s College. We have a copy of the accompanying exhibition catalogue: Slavernij: het verhaal van João, Wally, Oopjen, Paulus, Van Bengalen, Surapati, Sapali, Tula, Dirk, Lohkay (C216.c.9769)
News of this exhibition reminded me that a year ago I wrote about online Dutch titles on race and decolonisation. Since then we have looked out for relevant new titles to buy; already in October I reported on new Dutch books on race and identity. Here I will highlight some more new titles, mainly on slavery, along with a few older titles in print that we already had, now more accessible than a year ago. Continue reading
Juan Latino (ca. 1517-ca. 1594) was born most likely in Baena (southern Spain), descendent of Guinea born parents. He was the first Afro-European to write in Latin and thus, have a literary career. In fact, he was called “Latino” for his mastery of that language. We should not forget that slavery was common at the time in Europe (see 532:8.b.200.1).
Slave with chains & woman in the Kingdom of Castille, Christoph Weiditz, 1530-40, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg (via Wikimedia, click to see enlarged)
The fascinating story of Juan Latino is for Professor Aurelia Martín Casares (Universidad de Granada) an example of the triumph of wisdom (see C213.c.3056); he was able to break prejudices and social conventions in a somewhat rigid early modern society. In this story the noble family to whom he belonged, played a crucial role in helping make possible his exceptional achievements. Martín Casares compares Latino with the American abolitionist writer and orator Frederick Douglass (who escaped slavery in the 1830s), but makes the point that Latino lived three centuries earlier than Douglass. Continue reading
This guest post by Dr Jaap Harskamp (formerly Curator of Dutch & Flemish collections at the British Library) shows how the efforts of two men with links to Cambridgeshire (Thomas Clarkson, born in Wisbech, and Olaudah Equiano who lived in Soham) had an impact on the slave debate in the Low Countries.
The Atlantic slave trade began in the mid-1400s and lasted into the 19th century. Initially, Portuguese traders purchased small numbers of slaves on the western coast of Africa and transported them for sale in the Iberian Peninsula. The trade expanded when European nations began colonizing the Americas. By the 1600s the Dutch were contesting the English and French for control of the trade, but England emerged as the dominant slave-dealing nation. As the Empire expanded, slaves were sent across the seas to work on plantations in the Caribbean or the Americas. Others, in much smaller numbers, were ferried into the ports of London, Liverpool and Bristol on ships carrying lucrative commodities. To engage an African servant became a status symbol: Samuel Pepys employed a ‘blackmore’ cook, Dr Johnson left his Jamaican-born manservant Francis Barber a £70 annuity, and Royal Academy sculptor Joseph Nollekens hired a female servant nicknamed ‘Miss Bronze’. Continue reading