Your poor boy no father no mother: 'Orphans,' alienation, and the perils of atlantic child slave biography

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Abstract

This article explores the social and political context embedded in Atlantic child slave biography, such as claims about family, parentage, and orphanhood in narratives of child enslavement. I examine the claims of orphanhood and the fictive kinship relations marshaled by James B. Covey, the interpreter during the trials of La Amistad, during his Atlantic passages as examples of the struggle against alienation to "remake" his political and social being. More than adult slaves, children deployed kinship language and idioms as part of a larger struggle to forge and preserve relationships with benefactors. Although kinship claims are an experience common across slave populations, a focus on the difficulties of writing a biography of child claims draws attention to the extreme vulnerability of child slaves and their pressing need for patron/client relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-703
Number of pages32
JournalBiography - An Interdisciplinary Quarterly
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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