American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World
American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World

American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World

by Christina Proenza-Coles

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Overview

American Founders reveals men and women of African descent as key protagonists in the story of American democracy. It chronicles how black people developed and defended New World settlements, undermined slavery, and championed freedom throughout the hemisphere from the sixteenth thorough the twentieth centuries. While conventional history tends to reduce the roles of African Americans to antebellum slavery and the civil rights movement, in reality African residents preceded the English by a century and arrived in the Americas in numbers that far exceeded European migrants up until 1820. Afro-Americans were omnipresent in the founding and advancement of the Americas, and recurrently outnumbered Europeans at many times and places, from colonial Peru to antebellum Virginia. African-descended people contributed to every facet of American history as explorers, conquistadores, settlers, soldiers, sailors, servants, slaves, rebels, leaders, lawyers, litigants, laborers, artisans, artists, activists, translators, teachers, doctors, nurses, inventors, investors, merchants, mathematicians, scientists, scholars, engineers, entrepreneurs, generals, cowboys, pirates, professors, politicians, priests, poets, and presidents. The multitude of events and mixed-race individuals included in the book underscores that black and white Americans share the same history, and in many cases, the same ancestry. American Founders is meant to celebrate this shared heritage and strengthen these bonds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588383310
Publisher: NewSouth, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/15/2019
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 433,625
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Christina Proenza-Coles holds a dual doctorate in sociology and history from the New School for Social Research. She has been a lifelong student of American culture and history in Miami, New York, Havana, and Charlottesville as well as an assistant professor of the Atlantic World/African Diaspora at Virginia State University from 2004 to 2011. Her ancestors include Daughters of the American Revolution, Portuguese conversos, Cuban pirates, a Confederate sergeant, and a governor of Alabama.

Read an Excerpt

Christina Proenza-Coles has written a remarkable book. It combines one of the oldest traditions in histories of people of African descent with the newest advances in scholarship. The combination is powerful.
American Founders, in the older tradition, establishes people in places where they have been excluded from our understanding. We are introduced to African conquistadores and gentlemen painted in striking portraits in Ecuador in 1599, to black landowners and settlers in Manhattan and Virginia, to African American scientists, writers, and political leaders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The portrayals exert a powerful cumulative effect, giving faces and names and histories to people too often reduced to generalizations and abstractions, to passive roles in other people’s histories. In this way, Proenza-Coles sustains a proud and useful legacy.
Even as it draws on that older tradition, American Founders mines the last several decades of scholarship, in which the geographic and chronological range of history has expanded exponentially. By building on histories of the ancient world and the modern Atlantic world, Proenza-Coles shows that Africa and Africans helped shape global history at every turn. The continent and its peoples appear in the great dramas of world history, from war and conquest to music and literature.
The two perspectives in American Founders intersect with particular power in the history of United States. Proenza-Coles’s hemispheric vision reveals surprises for North American history, as when she points out that maroons established the first settlement on the continent in Georgia eighty years before Jamestown and that in Virginia the first legal case contesting the legal boundaries of permanent servitude was waged between an owner and an enslaved man, both of African ancestry.
Proenza-Coles focuses ever more intently on the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the cumulative force of her story lays a historical understanding for the black freedom struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. That moral revolution of the United States becomes comprehensible in a new way after reading American Founders, for we understand just how deep the roots extend into the history of the nation, the continent, the hemisphere, and the world.
Thanks to this book, we can see the largest patterns of history embodied in the lives of individuals with accomplishments born of their particular time in history. We see that American genealogies weave together, that the conventional divisions of history into racial and regional categories artificially separate our story. That perspective, at once broad and humane, is a rare gift.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction xv

1 The Rise of Atlantic Slavery in a World Historical Context 3

2 Sixteenth-Century Afro-American Conquistadores 25

3 Seventeenth-Century Afro-American Colonials 53

4 Eighteenth-Century Afro-American Revolutionaries 87

5 Nineteenth-Century Afro-American Patriots and Liberators 147

6 Nineteenth-Century Afro-American Nationals 187

7 Twentieth-Century Afro-American Freedom Fighters 245

Conclusion: New World History 293

Appendix: Eighteenth-Century Uprisings for Freedom 298

Bibliography 301

Sources of Illustrations 330

Index 334

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