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After the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, white proprietors relied upon the enclosure of freshwater resources to disrupt the proliferation and reproduction of Black autonomous communities. Ryan Fontanilla’s talk will retell the story of how and why Afro-Jamaican tenants of the drought-prone region of Bluefields attempted to expropriate their landlord of his water in October 1865, using the event as a window into the broader political motivations and settlement strategies through which the first generations of free Afro-Jamaicans contested water-based forms of environmental racism from below. An oft-unrecognized event on the western front of the Morant Bay War, the battle for Bluefields affords an opportunity for scholars to reimagine the age of abolition as a fight over not only political and economic rights, but also ecology and building sustainable relations with the natural environment.

Ryan Fontanilla is an Assistant Professor of Caribbean History at Ohio State University. He is an historian of water politics, environmental crisis, and subaltern warfare in the Anglo-Atlantic world, with a particular focus on colonial Jamaica. His work has appeared in the Boston Review and The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 

Vincent Brown is Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  In October 2023 he is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Queen Mary University of London.

Please note that registration for this seminar will close 24 hours in advance so that the meeting link can be distributed to registered attendees.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.