Based on the analysis of ecclesiastical documents, this study explores how African women lived in the port town of Benguela from about 1760 to 1860. This period includes the height of the transatlantic slave trade, its decline and abolition, and the slow shift towards legitimate trade. Through specific cases revealed in baptism, marriage and burial records, the article presents short stories and explores African women’s interaction with foreign men, their economic roles, and their participation in a Christian community. The study also discusses how African women made use of parish venues to establish rights and to record their wishes in order to protect loved ones, in a process that secured social and economic mobility for the next generations.
John K. ThorntonThe Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement 1684–1706 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1998); John Thornton “The Development of an African Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Kongo 1491–1750” Journal of African History 25 no. 2 (2): 147–167; José Curto “‘As If from a Free Womb:’ Baptismal Manumissions in the Conceição Parish Luanda 1778–1807” Portuguese Studies Review 10 no. 1 (2002): 26–57; Lucilene Reginaldo Os Rosários dos Angolas: irmandades de africanos e crioulos na Bahia setecentista (São Paulo: Alameda 2011); W.G. Clarence-Smith “The Redemption of Child Slaves by Christian Missionaries in Central Africa 1878–1914” in Child Slaves in the Modern World ed. Gwyn Campbell Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller (Athens: Ohio University Press 2011) 173–190; Roquinaldo Ferreira “Slavery and the Social and Cultural Landscape of Luanda” in The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade ed. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra Matt Childs and James Sidbury (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2013) 185–205; Roquinaldo Ferreira Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World: Angola and Brazil during the Era of the Slave Trade (New York: Cambridge University Press 2012); Jelmer Vos “Child Slaves and Freemen at the Spiritan Mission in Soyo 1880–1885” Journal of Family History 35 no. 1 (2010): 71–90; Kalle Kananoja “Healers Idolaters and Good Christians: A Case Study of Creolization and Popular Religion in Mid-Eighteenth Century Angola” International Journal of African Historical Studies 43 no. 3 (2010): 443–465.
Roquinaldo Ferreira“Ilhas Crioulas: O Significado Plural da Mestiçagem Cultural na África Atlântica,”Revista de História155 no. 2 (2006): 17–41; Mariana P. Candido “Merchants and the Business of the Slave Trade at Benguela 1750–1850” African Economic History 35 (2007): 1–30; Roquinaldo Amaral Ferreira “Atlantic Microhistories: Mobility Personal Ties and Slaving in the Black Atlantic World (Angola and Brazil)” in Cultures of the Lusophone Black Atlantic ed. Nancy Prisci Naro Ro Sansi-Roca and D. Treece (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2007) 99–127; Mariana P. Candido “African Freedom Suits and Portuguese Vassal Status: Legal Mechanisms for Fighting Enslavement in Benguela Angola 1800–1830” Slavery & Abolition 32 no. 3 (2011): 447–459.
Pamela Scully“Rape, Race, and Colonial Culture: The Sexual Politics of Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Cape Colony, South Africa,”American Historical Review100 no. 2 (1995): 42; Robert John Ross Status and Respectability in the Cape Colony 1750–1870 (Cambridge University Press 1999) 94–99.
A.J.R. Russell-WoodA World on the Move: The Portuguese in Africa Asia and America 1415–1808 (Manchester: Carcanet1992) 187–188; Soares People of Faith; Candido “O limite tênue” 239–268; Reginaldo Os Rosários dos Angolas 79–90; Stuart B. Schwartz All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World (New Haven: Yale University Press 2008) 198–206.
Joseph C. Miller“The Significance of Drought, Disease and Famine in the Agriculturally Marginal Zones of West-Central Africa,”Journal of African History23 no. 01 (1982): 51. For more on the Nossa Senhora do Pópulo church see Fernando Batalhas A Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pópulo da Cidade de Benguela.
Jane Landers“Africans in the Spanish Colonies,”Historical Archaeology31 no. 1 (1997): 90; Stuart B. Schwartz “The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil: Bahia 1684–1745” Hispanic American Historical Review 54 no. 4 (1974): 603–635; Douglas C. Libby “Notarized and Baptismal Manumissions in the Parish of São José Do Rio Das Mortes Minas Gerais (c. 1750–1850)” The Americas 66 no. 2 (2009): 211–240; Mariza de Carvalho Soares “A conversão dos escravos africanos e a questão do gentilismo nas Constituições Primeiras da Bahia” in A igreja no Brasil: normas e práticas durante a vigência das Constituições primeiras do Arcebispado da Bahia ed. Bruno Feitler and Evergton Sales Souza (São Paulo: Unifesp 2011) 303–321.
Bastos“Traços geraes”135–137; Caroline H. Bledsoe Women and Marriage in Kpelle Society (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press 1980); Emily Lynn Osborn Our New Husbands Are Here: Households Gender and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule (Athens Ohio: Ohio University Press 2011) 49–50 and 92–93; Scully “Rape Race and Colonial Culture” 344; Hilary Jones “From Mariage à La Mode to Weddings at Town Hall: Marriage Colonialism and Mixed-Race Society in Nineteenth-Century Senegal” International Journal of African Historical Studies 38 no. 1 (2005): 27–48; Judith Byfield “Women Marriage Divorce and the Emerging Colonial State in Abeokuta (Nigeria) 1892–1904” in “Wicked” Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa ed. Dorothy L. Hodgson and Sheryl A. McCurdy (Portsmouth N.H: Heinemann 2001) 28–30; Carmen Margarida Oliveira Alveal “Senhores de pequenos mundos: disputas por terras e os limites do poder local na América portuguesa” Saeculum – Revista de História 26 (2012): 63–77.
Meredith McKittrickTo Dwell Secure: Generation Christianity and Colonialism in Ovamboland (Portsmouth, N.H: Heinemann2002) 220–221; Elizabeth A. Kuznesof “Ethnic and Gender Influences on ‘Spanish’ Creole Society in Colonial Spanish America” Colonial Latin American Review 4 no. 1 (1995): 153–176; Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva Donas e plebeias na sociedade colonial (Lisbon: Editorial Estampa 2002) 65–76.
For more on this see Kuznesof“Ethnic and Gender Influences;” António de Almeida Mendes, “Slavery, Society, and the Firts Steps Towards an Atlantic Revolution in Western Africa (Fifteenth–Sixteenth Centuries),” in Brokers of Change: Atlantic Commerce and Cultures in Precolonial Western Africaed. Toby Green (Oxford: The British Academy/ Oxford University Press2012) 254–255; Silvia Hunold Lara “The Signs of Color: Women’s Dress and Racial Relations in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro ca. 1750–1815.” Colonial Latin American Review 6 no. 2 (1997): 205–224.
For more on this see GraubartWith Our Labor and Sweat61–72; James C. Scott John Tehranian and Jeremy Mathias “The Production of Legal Identities Proper to States: The Case of the Permanent Family Surname” Comparative Studies in Society and History 44 no. 01 (2002): 14–15; Havik “Sóciais intermediárias e empresárias” 88; Eugénia Rodrigues “Colonial Society Women and African Culture in Mozambique” in From Here to Diversity: Globalization and Intercultural Dialogues ed. Clara Sarmento (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub 2010) 267.