Occasional arguments call for further evidence and elaboration.
Two such examples arise in chapter 7 in the brief discussion of the importance of women in reconstituting social relations and the many references to the disruptive potential of "new Africans" arriving in tentatively established slave communities.
Reviewed by Sharla Fett (Department of History, Occidental College) Published on H-Atlantic (October, 2007) In 1919, Carter G. "In just the same way as a writer of the history of New England in describing the fisheries of that section would have little to say about the species figuring conspicuously in that industry," charged Woodson, "so has the author treated the negro in his work." The historiography on slavery and the slave trade in 2007 is worlds away from Phillips's early twentieth-century study.
Phillips's and found it severely lacking in its recognition of African American historical subjectivity.
Instead of the familiar interpretation that this evidence shows the survival of African cosmology, Smallwood uses the anecdote to deepen her argument of the impact of the "saltwater" passage that required enslaved Africans to innovate ritual "to meet the particular needs of slave life in the Atlantic system" (p. At other times, Smallwood relies heavily on secondary literature about Akan kinship, culture, and politics to piece together the way captive Africans may have strained to understand the long Atlantic voyage. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online.
The richness of Smallwood's discussions of Gold Coast cultures and societies contrasts starkly with the absence of direct evidence from captive Africans and emphasizes the void of meaning that transatlantic enslavement created. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at [email protected]
At the same time, Smallwood calls attention to the enormous energy required by Africans who managed to reverse even partially the relentless current of commodification by reestablishing new social relations under American slavery.
Compared to voluntary immigrants' social networks that served to connect past and present, Smallwood argues, enslaved African communities in the Americas faced the "serial repetition of one-way departures" in which the "voices of saltwater slaves, could not reverberate back to Africa" (p. Bringing "the people aboard slave ships to life as subjects in American social history" (p.
Although this point is oddly downplayed in the book's introduction, Smallwood has elsewhere described herself as writing the "cultural history of economic systems." As such, the book joins other notable studies, such as Walter Johnson's (1999) that transcend conventional boundaries between economic, social, and cultural history.
Compared to existing seventeenth-century systems of African servitude, Smallwood argues, the Atlantic slave trade institutionalized the distinctly alienating process of transforming persons into commodities.