Chira Wins Agricultural History Society Prize for ‘AHR’ Article

Dr. Adriana Chira, Assistant Professor of Atlantic World History, has won the Agricultural History Society’s Wayne D. Rasmussen Award for the best article on agricultural history not published in the journal Agricultural History. Chira’s article, “Freedom with Local Bonds: Custom and Manumission in the Age of Emancipation,” was published in the American Historical Review in September of 2021. Read the abstract of Chira’s piece below and learn more about the awards offered by the Agricultural History Society here.

“Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, across Latin America, expansive rural communities of African descent forged freedom from below in the shadows of highly exploitative extractive economies. Their efforts push us to reconsider established genealogies of the age of emancipation. Freedom through conditional manumission and enslaved people’s reliance on social networks to obtain it opened the door to custom inside first-instance district courts in such areas. Judges turned to vernacular understandings of rights and obligations as they clarified the ambiguous statuses of the conditionally freed for which written law offered few provisions. Through manumission and legal actions to defend freedom, peasants of African descent on the margins of the global economic system grounded their rights in state structures as local custom. Black freedom within such territories represents a mode of community governance that remains invisible if studied by focusing on mobility or nation building. Seen from a place such as Santiago de Cuba, the nineteenth century was not just a time when Africans and Afro-descendants pursued social inclusion through ideologies of national citizenship and diasporic connections. It was also a time of freedom through membership in local communities, which women and families were especially instrumental in forging.