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As part of the ongoing work of documenting stories connected to The 1619 Project, Scholar Rafael Ocasio shares his important research on the slave connections between a sugar plantation and Cuba and a Rhode Island town.

In the early 19th century, Cuba emerged as the world’s largest producer of sugar and the United States its most important buyer. Barely documented today, there was a close commercial relationship between Cuba and the Rhode Island coastal town of Bristol. The citizens of Bristol were heavily involved in the slavery trade and owned sugarcane plantations in Cuba and also served as staff workers at these facilities. Available in print for the first time is a diary that sheds light on this connection. Mr. George Howe, Esquire (1791–1837), documented his tasks at a Bristolian-owned plantation called New Hope, which was owned by well-known Bristol merchant, slave trader, and US senator James DeWolf (1764–1837). Howe expressed mixed personal feelings about local slavery work practices. He felt lucky to be employed and was determined to do his job well, in spite of the harsh conditions operating at New Hope, but he also struggled with his personal feelings regarding slavery. Though an oppressive system, it was at the core of New Hope’s financial success and, therefore, Howe’s well-being as an employee.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

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