Abstract: This essay examines how the circulation of British-produced cotton “Guinea” or “check” cloth between England, West Africa, and the Caribbean shaped the contours of the black Atlantic diaspora in the mid- to late eighteenth century. This cloth was exchanged for African captives in West African slaving ports, as well as exported to Caribbean markets to clothe Caribbean slaves. However, enslaved Caribbean women often reworked this fabric as a means to memorialize personal and collective histories, signify kinship, advertise status and skill, and provide material links within slave communities and to distant or unknown homelands. Looking to slave narratives that record the exchange of people for cloth, journals written by men and women such as Lady Maria Nugent, Thomas Thistlewood, and Mrs. Carmichael that record enslaved women’s work with cloth, and visual representations produced by Agostino Brunias, this essay explores how enslaved women’s textiles serve to circulate and convey messages, as well as to incorporate their makers and users into a social world.
The Eighteenth Century – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Mar 12, 2015