Houghton Library collection of Cuban slavery documents
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Extent1.5 linear feet (5 boxes)
Since enslaved people were considered "property" of their enslavers, civil authorities did little to administer the lives of the former as legal entities, e.g., issuing them birth certificates, establishing official forms of their names, etc. The Catholic Church, however, in its role as self-appointed guardian of the souls of both free and enslaved, did in many cases record names, dates, and places as they related to ecclesiastical sacraments--here, chiefly baptism and marriage. The collection thus contains a large proportion of letters and reports reflecting formerly enslaved individuals' efforts to confirm their legal identities, intra and post emancipation, with the aid of church records. There are also a large number of fatality reports, along with a variety of censuses and statistics, including commercial summaries of slave sales. Finally, the collection documents the Cuban system of patronato, or patronage, whereby capitalists, called patronos, would sponsor formerly enslaved individuals (patronados) in paid employment, often at the same sugar mills or plantations where they had previously worked in bondage.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2014M-71. Purchased with funds from the Sidney J. Watts Fund, 2014 November 1.
2014M-82-84, -90-95. Purchased with funds from the Thomas W. Streeter Fund and the Bennett Hubbard Nash Fund.
2015M-148-151. Purchased, 2016 April 22.
2016M-95. Purchased with funds from the Treat fund and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 2017 March 22.
2018M-16. Purchased via Lynn Shirey, Widener Library, 2017 July 12.
2018M-60. Purchased via Lynn Shirey, Widener Library, 2017 December 4.
2018M-70. Purchased via Lynn Shirey, Widener Library, 2018 January 10.
2018M-95. Purchased via Widener Library, 2018 March 27.
2019M-19. Purchased via Widener Library, 2018 September 10.
2019M-36. Purchased with funds from B. Pool Book Fund Pool, 2018 October 1.
In the case of the former Spanish colonies, there existed an involved set of racial taxonomies utilized to describe an individual's perceived "whiteness" or "blackness", e.g., criollo, pardo, moreno, etc. While these terms are unscientific and inherently racist--to say nothing of being inconsistently applied, often to same person--they were frequently employed as an added means of identification for individuals throughout the documents that make up this collection, especially when last names are lacking. The archivist has, when appropriate, included these descriptors in this finding aid. As recommended in "Writing About 'Slavery'?", they have not been set off with quotation marks or italics, given the native Spanish-speaking environment in which they were generated.
- Houghton Library, collector. Houghton Library collection of Cuban slavery documents, 1800-1898 (MS Span 170): Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
- Description rules
- Language of description
- English, Spanish
- EAD ID
Part of the Houghton Library Repository
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Cambridge MA 02138 USA