Black Freedom and Education in Nineteenth-Century Cuba

Raquel Alicia Otheguy

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Examining the educational legacy of Afro-Cuban teachers and activists  
“Otheguy’s insightful analysis is engaging and persuasive; it represents an original and significant contribution to the scholarship on the history of education. This book offers important context for understanding how pivotal moments in education shaped Cuban history, especially amid the transition from slavery to freedom.”—Kabria Baumgartner, author of In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America  
“Expertly calls attention to a radical Black Cuban educational tradition whose vision was more expansive and liberatory than any formal structures on the island at the time. As Otheguy demonstrates, at the precise moment when racial slavery was being consolidated in Cuba and elsewhere, a committed group of educators—including Black and mulatta women, militiamen of color, Black civic organizers, and others—helped to create one of the hemisphere’s most progressive educational experiments.”—Aisha Finch, coeditor of Breaking the Chains, Forging the Nation: The Afro-Cuban Fight for Freedom and Equality, 1812–1912  
In this book, Raquel Otheguy argues that Afro-descended teachers and activists were central to the development of a national education system in Cuba. Tracing the emergence of a Black Cuban educational tradition whose hallmarks were at the forefront of transatlantic educational currents, Otheguy examines how this movement pushed the island’s public school system to be more accessible to children and adults of all races, genders, and classes.
Otheguy describes Afro-Cuban education before public schools were officially desegregated in 1894, from the maestras amigas—Black and mulatto women who taught in their homes—to teachers in the schools of mutual-aid societies for people of color. In the ways that African descendants interacted with the Spanish colonial school system and its authorities, and in the separate schools they created, they were resisting the hardening racial boundaries that characterized Cuban life and developing alternative visions of possible societies, nations, and futures. Otheguy demonstrates that Black Cubans pioneered the region’s most progressive innovations in education and influenced the trajectory of public school systems in their nation and the broader Americas.  
Raquel Alicia Otheguy is associate professor of history at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York.  
A volume in the series Caribbean Crossroads: Race, Identity, and Freedom Struggles, edited by Lillian Guerra, Devyn Spence Benson, April Mayes, and Solsiree del Moral  
Publication of this work made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

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