Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Release: Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers

Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation, by Rebecca J. Scott and Jean M. Hébrard (University of Michigan, both), has just been released by Harvard University Press.

Here's the description:
Around 1785, a woman was taken from her home in Senegambia and sent to Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean. Those who enslaved her there named her Rosalie. Her later efforts to escape slavery were the beginning of a family’s quest, across five generations and three continents, for lives of dignity and equality. Freedom Papers sets the saga of Rosalie and her descendants against the background of three great antiracist struggles of the nineteenth century: the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution of 1848, and the Civil War and Reconstruction in the United States. 
Freed during the Haitian Revolution, Rosalie and her daughter Elisabeth fled to Cuba in 1803. A few years later, Elisabeth departed for New Orleans, where she married a carpenter, Jacques Tinchant. In the 1830s, with tension rising against free persons of color, they left for France. Subsequent generations of Tinchants fought in the Union Army, argued for equal rights at Louisiana’s state constitutional convention, and created a transatlantic tobacco network that turned their Creole past into a commercial asset. Yet the fragility of freedom and security became clear when, a century later, Rosalie’s great-great-granddaughter Marie-José was arrested by Nazi forces occupying Belgium. 
Freedom Papers follows the Tinchants as each generation tries to use the power and legitimacy of documents to help secure freedom and respect. The strategies they used to overcome the constraints of slavery, war, and colonialism suggest the contours of the lives of people of color across the Atlantic world during this turbulent epoch.
And a selection of blurbs:
“The pleasures of Freedom Papers unfold at various levels. It’s a family saga, an excursion through the commercial circuitry of the Atlantic world, and a compelling introduction to the great Age of Emancipation. It’s also a historical whodunnit: who was ‘Rosalie of the Poulard nation’? Rebecca Scott and Jean Hébrard trace the ties created by Rosalie and her descendants, Atlantic survivors whose ingenuity—combined with strategic access to pen, ink, and notaries—gave them just enough archival salience to make this telling possible. Scott and Hébrard are practiced experts at making the archive speak.”—Kathryn J. Burns, author of Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru 
“With this riveting family story that takes us from eighteenth-century Africa to twentieth century Europe, Scott and Hébrard re-write the history of slavery, race, and citizenship. Freedom Papers is stunningly original and movingly told—an instant classic.”—Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History 
“A wonderful, richly detailed history that leads the reader through two centuries in the life of a single family as the individuals within it spend their times on earth, struggling for security and standing. Unusual scholarship, beautifully recounted.”—Sidney W. Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
The Table of Contents is available here.

An author interview with Rebecca Scott is available here.