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Participant name: brignac

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Page size:
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FEL-289153-23Research Programs: FellowshipsKelly Ann BrignacDefining Slavery in the Era of Abolition: The Forced Indenture of Africans in the French Empire, 1817-18617/1/2023 - 1/31/2024$35,000.00KellyAnnBrignac   Colby CollegeWatervilleME04901-8840USA2022Labor HistoryFellowshipsResearch Programs350000350000

Research and writing leading to a book on the mechanisms French administrators used to force Africans to continue working in the plantation economy after the abolition of slavery in the French Atlantic (1817-1861).

This work explores the forced indenture (engagement) of Africans in the French empire after the 1817 abolition of slaving. Under this system, French merchants purchased captives from African traders, then offered the captives their freedom. In exchange, the captives had to repay the price of their so-called redemption from slavery by working on French plantations as indentured laborers for 14 years. This manuscript traces the evolution of this practice from its inception to its 1861 abolition in French Atlantic and Indian Ocean colonies. An examination of French and engagés’ perspectives reveals a developing discourse about the boundaries between slavery and free labor in the nineteenth century. French officials insisted that engagement liberated engagés from African slavery. In contrast, engagés argued that they had been traded as captives and were enslaved to the French. Overall, a study of engagement offers an opportunity to study definitions of slavery in the era of abolition.