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Fifty Shades of Trade

Privateering, Piracy, and Illegal Slave Trading in St. Thomas, Early Nineteenth Century

Ryan Espersen


From 1816 to the 1830s, the islands of St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and St. Barts were actively engaged with illicit trade in ships, prize goods, and the transatlantic slave trade. Ships’ crews, governors, and merchants took advantage of the islands’ physical, political, and legal environments to effectively launder goods, ships, and people that were actively involved in these activities. St. Thomas stands out due to the longevity of its status as a regional and international hub for illicit trade at the end of Atlantic and Caribbean privateering and piracy. Within this social and political environment, this paper will unveil the tensions between international, regional, and local interests that drove merchants and colonial officials on St. Thomas to engage with illegal transatlantic slave traders, privateers, and pirates, during the early nineteenth century. Secondly, this paper will reveal the processes through which these relations occurred.

Filial Phantasmagoria

The Apocryphal Sons of Antonio Maceo (Father of the Cuban Nation)

Jennifer L. Lambe


Antonio Maceo Grajales (1845–1896) is one of the most celebrated heroes of Cuban independence. Though he died before he could see the dawn of a sovereign, if U.S.-occupied, Cuba, Maceo would become an important node of nationalist commemoration. Throughout this process, Maceo’s blackness represented both a source of his prestige—the struggle against African slavery had been intimately tied to independence—and a barometer of lingering racial inequalities. Posthumous depictions thus tended to downplay racial tensions in a unifying vision of nation. Yet Maceo’s martyrdom in the Spanish-Cuban-American War also reverberated in more uncanny registers. Before and after his death, apocryphal sons emerged periodically from the shadows, opening battles over Maceo’s legacy. In their movement across borders, these real and apocryphal children gave voice to silences around race and sovereignty as they converged on the body of their lionized “father,” while also opening up narrative spaces wherein the status quo could be reimagined.