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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Span 170

Houghton Library collection of Cuban slavery documents

Overview

Documents concerning enslaved persons, slavery, black Cubans, and related economic factors, collected by Houghton Library.

Documentos sobre personas esclavizadas, la esclavitud, cubanos negros, y factores económicos relacionados, coleccionados por Houghton Library.

Dates

  • 1561-1898

Creator

Language of Materials

Spanish / español

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

La colección está abierta para investigación.
This collection is shelved offsite. Retrieval requires advance notice. Check with Houghton Public Services staff.

Extent

1.5 linear feet (5 boxes)
This collection consists of documents related to the institution of slavery and emancipation in Cuba over the course of the island's long process of gaining independence from Spain. With the exception of 3 items from the 16th century, the documents date from the mid to late 19th century and represent a variety of both official and personal records.

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.

Esta colección consiste de documentos relacionados con la institución de la esclavitud y el proceso de emancipación en Cuba durante el movimiento de independencia de España. A excepción de 3 artículos del siglo decimosexto, los documentos datan de circa 1850-1890 y representan una variedad de anotaciones tanto oficiales como personales.

Porque personas esclavizadas fueron considerado la "propriedad" de sus dueños, las autoridades civiles hicieron poco para administrar sus vidas como entidades legales, por ejemplo, expedirles actas de nacimiento, establecer formas legales de sus nombres, etc. La Iglesia Católica, sin embargo, en su papel como el guardián autoproclamado de las almas de los libres y los esclavizados, en muchos casos sí recordaron nombres, fechas, y lugares conectados con los sacramentos eclesiásticos--aquí por la mayor parte el bautismo y el matrimonio. Así, la colección contiene una gran proporción de cartas y reportajes que reflejan los esfuerzos de individuos anteriormente esclavizados para confirmar sus identidades legales, con el auxilio de los registros de la Iglesia. Hay también un gran número de reportajes de fatalidad, junto con una variedad de censos y estadísticas, incluyendo resúmenes comerciales de venta de esclavos. Por fin, la colección documenta el sistema cubano de patronato, a través del cual capitalistas patrocinaban a personas anteriormente esclavizadas en empleo pagado, frecuentemente en las mismas plantaciones y azucareras donde previamente habían trabajado en servidumbre.

Arrangement

Collection is arranged alphabetically by English title.

La colección está organizada alfabéticamente por título ingles.

Custodial History

The documents in this collection were purchased from a number of different sources over time. Information regarding provenance prior to purchase is unknown.

Los documentos en esta colección fueron adquirido de varias fuentes con el tiempo. Información sobre la procedencia antes de la adquisición es desconocida.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2008M-99. Purchased with funds from the Francis B. Hayes Bequest, per Lynn Shirey, 2009 May 7.

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.

Related Materials

For related material, see MS Span 171, the Andrzej Henryk Wojcik collection of documents relating to slavery in Cuba, and Théophilus Conneau Collection on A Slaver's Logbook, 1853-1854, 1928, 1976 (MS Am 3352). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Processing Information

Processed by: Michael Austin and Melanie Wisner.
Processing Information This finding aid was created in accordance with the guidelines set forth in "Anti-racist Description Resources", by Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia, 2019; "Writing About Slavery'?" was also consulted.* The archivist, in consultation with other colleagues at Houghton Library, consciously avoided the neutral language of the economics that fostered slavery and instead chose to use terminology that highlights the brutality, cruelty, and dehumanization of that institution. For example, instead of "owner", we use "enslaver"; for "slave", we say "enslaved" (except when talking about the system, as opposed to individuals); for "runaway" or "renegade", we say "self-liberated".

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, 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.

Este instrumento de descripción fue creado según las directices descritas en "Anti-racist Description Resources", por el grupo Archives for Black Lives en Philadelphia, 2019; el documento interno de Google "Writing About Slavery" fue consultado también.* El archivista, con el asesoramiento de colegas en Houghton Library, evitó conscientemente el lenguaje de la economía que fomentó la esclavitud, y en su lugar eligió utilizar la terminología que recalca la brutalidad, la crueldad, y la deshumanización de esa institución. Por ejemplo, en lugar de "dueño" usamos "esclavizador"; para "esclavo" decimos "esclavizado" (excepto cuando hablamos del sistema y no de individuos); para "fugitivo" o "renegado" decimos "autoliberado".

En las antiguas colonias españolas, existió una taxonomía racial compleja utilizada para describir la "blancura" o "negrura" percibida de un individuo, por ejemplo, criollo, pardo, moreno, etc. Aunque estos términos no tengan rigor cientifico y sean intrínsecamente racistas, fueron empleados como un medio de identificación para individuos a través de todos los documentos que constituyen esta colección, especialmente cuando les faltan los apellidos. El archivista ha, cuando apropiado, incluido esos descriptores ("pardo", "moreno", etc.) en este instrumento de descripción. Como aconsejado en "Writing About 'Slavery'?", no han sido demarcado por comillas ni cursiva, dado el entorno español originario en que fueron generado.

*P. Gabrielle Foreman, et al. “Writing about Slavery/Teaching About Slavery: This Might Help” community-sourced document, accessed June 15, 2020.
Link to catalog

Creator

Title
Houghton Library, collector. Houghton Library collection of Cuban slavery documents, 1561-1898 (MS Span 170): Guide.
Status
completed
Author
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Date
2020 December 17
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English, Spanish
EAD ID
hou02665

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

Contact:
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