Berks Panels of Interest, Part IV

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part IV

s1355 – Black Women and their Property: comparing 18th and 19th-Century Brazil and Africa

Friday, June 2, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

BRESL 28 (Hofstra University)

Chair:

Mariana L. R. Dantas, Ohio University

Ironies of Brazilian slave society: African freedwomen, freeborn, and freed Afro-descendent women and their slaveholding, c. 1750 – c. 1850
Douglas C. Libby, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Female Landowner Strategies in Pre-colonial Saint Louis, Senegal, 1758-1819
Lindsey Ann Gish, Michigan State University

Black Women’s Labor and Property Ownership in Rural Brazil, 1860-1930
Mary Ann Mahony, Central Connecticut State University

Women and Property in Nineteenth Century Luanda
Vanessa dos Santos Oliveira, York University

Session Abstract

The scholarship on African and African-descending women within the Atlantic world has often emphasized the role they played in local commerce as market women and peddlers of foodstuff and other regional commodities. Indeed, historians have more than once attempted to link the commercial activities of slave and free African-descending women in Brazil to the known predominance of women in market activities in pre-colonial and colonial West and Central Africa. Yet these women were important economic agents in ways that exceeded their involvement in commerce. As the papers in this panel argue, African and African-descending women in Brazil and Africa often owned land and slaves and engaged in the dominant activities of their local and regional economies. Moreover, these women’s ownership and claims to property placed them at the center of legal and social negotiations of rights and privileges that challenged societal expectations of how property holding and economic power should be circumscribed by race and gender. The comparative discussion of Black female property holding proposed by this panel will thus explore parallel ways in which these women helped to shape patterns of ownership of property in Brazil and West and Central Africa. It will also promote a discussion of potential Atlantic connections between these women’s experiences as property owners and economic agents who influenced much more than local commerce.