Isadora Moura Mota on Slavery and Anglo-American Abolitionism in the Age of Emancipation
Thomas Thurston talks with Isadora Moura Mota on her work titled “Afro-Brazilian Atlantic: Slavery and Anglo-American Abolitionism in the Age of Emancipation”.
Isadora Moura Mota is a historian of slavery in Brazil and the Atlantic world. Her scholarship focuses on modern Brazilian history, comparative slavery, abolitionism, literacy, and the African diaspora to Latin America.
Mota’s first book, An Afro-Brazilian Atlantic: Slavery and Anglo-American Abolitionism in the Age of Emancipation, explores the role of Afro-Brazilians in shaping the history of abolition in the Atlantic world. The study traces the development of a geopolitical imagination among people of African descent within a transnational context. Focusing on the everyday politics of knowledge production among Brazilian slaves, freedpeoples, and maroons, Mota examines the escalation of Afro-Brazilian activism in connection to British efforts to suppress the slave trade, the presence of U.S. and Confederate vessels in Brazilian waters, and the circulation of news about U.S. emancipation within the Brazilian empire. Ultimately, she argues that Afro-Brazilians also shaped broader political discourses on the meanings of race, citizenship, and human rights, therefore positing Brazil as an important force in the Age of Emancipation. The book is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Future research directions include a social history of slave literacy during the War of the Triple Alliance (which pitted Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay against Paraguay from 1865 to 1870) as well as a study of shared labor struggles between European colonists and slaves in the plantations of Southeastern Brazil.
Mota received her Bachelor’s degree from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, a Master’s degree from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), and a PhD from Brown University in 2017. Before joining the Princeton faculty in 2019, she was an assistant professor of History at the University of Miami.
- Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America
(Markus Wiener Publishers, 2007).
- Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Luna, Slavery in Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
- João José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).