Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why No Dicussion of American Quilombos?

There's a rarely-told and barely-investigated history of escaped slave communities in the the southeast U.S. The significant groups are Black Seminoles (now relocated to Oklahoma and Texas), the Great Dismal Swamp maroons, and the Gullah community in South Carolina and lowland Georgia (much of which remains in the area, and which to some degree seems to have originated part of the two other populations). The Black Seminoles were closely associated with, but it seems still culturally distinct from, the other mostly native renegades who arrived in the swamps as they fled British and then American forces. These are immediately reminiscent of quilombos in Brazil, which were the same thing but along the Amazon and its tributaries.

These communities formed from escaped slaves; that is to say, from people who "suffered" from drapetomania (can you believe antebellum physicians diagnosed this condition after being asked to solve the great mystery of why slaves would try to escape?) Several things about this are striking; for example the understated influence of the Caribbean colonies on southeastern U.S. culture (listen to this Gullah speaker's accent when she's speaking English. She's a native-born South Carolinian!)

The question is why the quilombos seem to be a much more present part of Brazilian history than these communities are a part of American history. Both countries have a history of slavery; there must be something else associated with this difference.

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