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Products for grant FEL-273714-21

Bordeaux, Forgotten Black Metropolis: A French Port City since the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade
Lorelle Semley, College of the Holy Cross

Grant details:

Black Bordeaux and the Search for Refuge after Revolution (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Black Bordeaux and the Search for Refuge after Revolution
Author: Lorelle Semley
Abstract: The itineraries of almost 200 people of color who sought passports to leave Bordeaux, France between the 1790s and 1850s run counter to most histories of the Atlantic Slave Trade and Black migration. Most of them were free and traveling on their own account. Some had been born on the African continent, but many planned to return to where they had been born enslaved or freed in the Caribbean or to another destination in the archipelago. This small wave of migration differed from the thousands of Africans and their descendants who had often arrived enslaved in Bordeaux earlier in the eighteenth century often to return to bondage in the Caribbean. By contrast, the group of people of color featured in this article were practicing their freedom when they prepared to set sail even as they moved closer to the beating heart of slavery when they traveled west. At the same time, the records they left in the archive provide clues about prevailing racial ideologies in France and shine a light on community formation and affective ties among people of color who otherwise have been rendered invisible. Using an otherwise cold, bureaucratic questionnaire as a point of departure, this article excavates and theorizes Black space-making and Black life in the aftermath of Atlantic Revolutions.
Date: 2/16/2022
Conference Name: Yale Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration

The Birth of Black Bordeaux (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Birth of Black Bordeaux
Author: Lorelle Semley
Abstract: Black Bordeaux originated in the waterways and terrains of West Africa, West Central Africa, and the Caribbean as much as it did in the streets of Bordeaux. On one hand, the changing dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade with West and West Central Africa shaped the enslaved labor brought to Bordeaux during the eighteenth century. How is it possible to account for the elusive memories and ideas of the enslaved, particularly those born in West and West Central Africa, who arrived on the shores of the Garonne River, on the other? Different overlapping groups of people who contributed to the creation of this nascent Black community were shaped, if not, weighed down, by their experiences, especially the horrific ordeal of their enslavement. Notable numbers of West African children arrived in the first decades of the eighteenth century as the sociopolitical landscape of what is now Benin and underwent significant change. By the middle of the century, as French traders shifted their attention further south, a larger number of enslaved West Central Africans – caught up in a different set of circumstances – began to pour in from the area north of the Congo River from a region that includes the Congo Republic (Brazzaville) and an enclave of Angola. In fact, by the middle of the century forward, many people of color who arrived – some of them freed – had only known life in the entrenched plantation societies of the Caribbean. This chapter explores the methodological limits available to analyze how African-born enslaved and freed people engaged in space-making outside of the African continent and the physical site of the Caribbean plantation complex. The use of linguistics, archaeology, and oral narratives – used by scholars of Africa and/or the Caribbean are ever more elusive in this context as the stories of the enslaved who came before Black Bordeaux are at the interstices of the written and unwritten.
Date: 4/21/2022
Conference Name: Emory University Institute for African Studies

The Politics of the Passport in Black Bordeaux (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Politics of the Passport in Black Bordeaux
Author: Lorelle Semley
Abstract: Between the 1790s and 1816, over 100 people of color sought passports to leave Bordeaux, France challenging the trajectories of slave trade and migration histories and raising questions about the potential meanings of the passport for people of color in the aftermath of the French and Haitian Revolutions. I explore three themes that intersect with the larger conference project on policing and technologies of control. First, I examine how the language of passport was in dialogue with that of the Code Noir. Second, I then suggest how the passport application process could have had different implications for people of color given, for example, the physical descriptions that formed part of the procedure. Finally, although passports sought to define and track people, the same documents also revealed black social networks and geographies of freedom. How might the history of policing in France reveal Black social life rather than only chronicle Black social death?
Date: 6/17/2022
Conference Name: Policing Black Presence in Europe in the Long Eighteenth Century, Université de Paris I