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Between Fitness and DeathDisability and Slavery in the Caribbean$
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Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043192

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043192.001.0001

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Bondsman or Rebel

Bondsman or Rebel

Disability Rhetoric and the Challenge of Revolutionary Emancipation

(p.127) Chapter 5 Bondsman or Rebel
Between Fitness and Death

Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores the relationships between disability, amelioration, and abolition from the 1770s to the slave trade’s legal end in 1807. It reveals that both opponents and supporters of slavery utilized notions of disability and invoked concepts of monstrosity in their respective campaigns. Revolutionary emancipation, from Tacky’s War in Jamaica (1760) to the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), gave rise to the gendered image of the armed, able-bodied, dangerous, and revolutionary black man, an image that circulated throughout the Atlantic world and haunted both pro- and anti-slavery discourse. Antislavery campaigners countered with the figure of the broken and beaten bondsperson as a way of envisioning a subject who in her or his freedom presented no physical threat to white society.

Keywords:   disability, amelioration, abolition, monstrosity, Tacky’s War, Haitian Revolution, revolution, antislavery, proslavery, emancipation

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