Black Colonists: The African History of the Early Spanish Caribbean

Photo William Farrington.

Monday April 24, 2017 @ 6:30pm

The first known transatlantic slaving voyages sailing directly from Africa brought captives to the Spanish Caribbean as early as the 1520s; by the time England began to colonize Virginia a century later, nearly one thousand Iberian slaving voyages had set sail for the Spanish Americas. Between 1580 and 1640, nearly 450,000 Africans arrived in Spanish American ports; almost as many as disembarked in the United States during the entire slave trade.


In Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 David Wheat, Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University, illustrates how Africans became de facto colonists in the Spanish Caribbean’s major port cities and their hinterlands. Based on exhaustive research, Wheat’s work explores the experiences of enslaved and free African men and women in the port cities and rural areas of Cuba, Colombia, Hispaniola, and Panama.

Wheat was in conversation with historian Herman Bennett, Professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, whose forthcoming study is entitled Soiled Gods: Africans and Sovereign Power in the Early Atlantic.

(left to right) David Wheat and Herman Bennett. Photo William Farrington.


This program was co-sponsored by the The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Watch the video here.

David Wheat is a historian of Colonial Latin America and the early modern Iberian Atlantic world and an Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University. Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 was published by UNC Press in 2016 for the Omohundro Institute.




bennettherman-vert-hirezHerman Bennett is Professor of History at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico (Indiana University Press, 2009) and Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570–1640 (Indiana University Press, 2003).




For more:

Linda Newson and Susie Minchin. From Capture to Sale. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill BV, 2007.

Alejandro De la Fuente. Havana and the Atlantic. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2008.

Roquinaldo Ferreira. Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

George E. Brooks. Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2003.

Saunders. A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441-1555. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Presents “First Blacks in the Americas” website