Black Women, Citizenship, and the Making of Modern Cuba
Takkara K. Brunson
Illuminating the activism of Black women during Cuba’s prerevolutionary period
Association of Black Women Historians Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize
“Brunson’s study of over 75 years of complex change . . . does its intellectual work from a distinct and critical vantage. . . . Her work innovatively centers racial analysis by locating the Afro-descended women contributing to political discourse across a range of mediums and carefully piecing together their contributions.”—Hispanic American Historical Review
“What distinguishes this study of race and gender in early Republican Cuba is its nuanced focus on how Black male veterans, elite white women’s civic clubs, and women of African descent shaped different citizenship practices in the public sphere.”—Choice
“In putting together this compelling story, Brunson undertook research in archives in Cuba and the United States. . . . Brunson builds on the work of Latin American and Cuban history as well as Black feminist scholarship to center Black women as critical protagonists in the struggle for Black rights and freedom.”—New Books Network
“Brunson’s examination of the struggle of minorities against racism and sexism in a republican system claiming racelessness and equality for all is illuminating—and still relevant today, in Cuba and many other societies.”—Aline Helg, author of Slave No More: Self-Liberation before Abolitionism in the Americas
“In this comprehensive and much-needed study, Brunson utilizes a wide array of previously unanalyzed sources to demonstrate that black women were essential participants in the political processes that defined Cuba well before the 1959 Revolution. These women carefully negotiated both racism and patriarchy to make their voices heard in the national quest for forms of government that were responsive to all Cubans.”—Karen Y. Morrison, author of Cuba’s Racial Crucible: The Sexual Economy of Social Identities, 1750–2000
In Black Women, Citizenship, and the Making of Modern Cuba, Takkara Brunson traces how women of African descent battled exclusion on multiple fronts and played an important role in forging a modern democracy. Brunson takes a much-needed intersectional approach to the political history of the era, examining how Black women’s engagement with questions of Cuban citizenship intersected with racial prejudice, gender norms, and sexual politics, incorporating Afro-diasporic and Latin American feminist perspectives.
Brunson demonstrates that between the 1886 abolition of slavery in Cuba and the 1959 Revolution, Black women—without formal political power—navigated political movements in their efforts to create a more just society. She examines how women helped build a Black public sphere as they claimed moral respectability and sought racial integration. She reveals how Black women entered into national women’s organizations, labor unions, and political parties to bring about legal reforms. Brunson shows how women of African descent achieved individual victories as part of a collective struggle for social justice; in doing so, she highlights how racism and sexism persisted even as legal definitions of Cuban citizenship evolved.
Takkara K. Brunson is associate professor of history at Texas A&M University.
Publication of the paperback edition made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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