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Negotiating freedom in St. Johns County, Florida, 1812-1862

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Item Summary

Title:Negotiating freedom in St. Johns County, Florida, 1812-1862
Authors:Marotti, Frank
Contributors:Newby, IA (advisor)
History (department)
Date Issued:Aug 2003
Publisher:University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract:This dissertation examines the agency of African Americans in crafting race relations in St. Augustine, Florida, and its vicinity in the antebellum era. Citing Spanish cultural influences as a major causal factor, historians have traditionally characterized those relations as relatively tolerant by the standards of both Florida and the old South as a whole. The focus is the half-century before the Union capture of St. Augustine in 1862. The dissertation devotes particular attention to the impact of African American memories of the Patriot War of 1812-1813, and to black resistance to the imposition of an American-style slave society upon a formerly Spanish society with slaves. The study utilizes numerous, previously-unknown records of Patriot War claims in the National Archives to assess the effect of these memories on African American life in antebellum St. Johns County, including African American participation in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) and the Civil War. Examining another group of underutilized documents, records of the City of St. Augustine, the study explores the influence of African American oral traditions on resistance to the slave society. The dissertation also taps other little-used sources, Catholic parish registries, to determine how African Americans continued to exploit the institutions of compadrazgo (godparenthood) and sacramental marriage that they had previously taken advantage of under Spanish rule. Employing these and other documents, the study investigates the survival of coartacion (self-purchase), another Spanish-era institution that antebellum blacks harnessed in negotiating their freedom. The growing constrictions of the American slave society impelled many talented, ambitious African Americans to migrate from St. Johns County, east to Liberia, north to Philadelphia and New York, south to Key West and the Caribbean, and west to California and Washington Territory. This migration, like the acquisition of land in Florida and elsewhere--not to mention the bequeathing of this land to heirs and the education of those heirs, demonstrated African American optimism and the determination to succeed despite the efforts of white Floridians to marginalize blacks.
Description:xiii, 264 leaves
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - History
Ph.D. - History

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