Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Lisa Castillo — Family Ties in the Black Atlantic: Genealogies and Social Networks between Brazil and the Bight of Benin (1835-1900)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum, 111 Thayer Street 

A number of towns and cities along the coast of the Bight of Benin have communities that historically self-identify as “Brazilian” or Agudá. Their origins extend back to the eighteenth century, but beginning in the 1830s they experienced significant growth, as thousands of freedmen arrived from Brazil to resettle in the region. The largest single migration occurred between 1835 and 1837, following a major slave uprising in the Brazilian province of Bahia, but arrivals continued to disembark until the close of the century. Many of these migrants maintained commercial and affective relationships with family and friends still in Brazil, generating a dynamic back-and-forth movement that continued well into the colonial period. This presentation cross-references family oral traditions from Benin and Nigeria with written archival sources in reconstructing the trajectory of Africans who experienced enslavement in Brazil and later returned to the continent of their birth, in some cases leaving biological or spiritual descendants on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lisa Castillo is currently a scholar in residence at the Lapidus Center of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.

Brazil Initiative