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Open Access The provincial archive as a place of memory: confronting oral and written sources on the role of former slaves in the Cuban war of independence (1895-98)

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The provincial archive as a place of memory: confronting oral and written sources on the role of former slaves in the Cuban war of independence (1895-98)

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Focuses on the study of the role of former slaves in the Cuban War of Independence, in light of the avoidance of the theme of race within this war in Cuban historiography. Author discusses reasons for the silence on race issues, and for the historic construction of the "myth" of racial equality in this era. Then, she points at the difficulties in the studying of the presence of former slaves among the Cuban soldiers in the War of Independence, due to the absence of racial labels for the registered soldiers. She describes how the research on the theme became more local, and focused on the Cienfuegos region, in part because of Cienfuegos' extensive local archive. Then, she outlines the different approaches to research on the matter by the archives' director Orlando García Martínez, by Michael Zeuske, and by the author herself. The latter explains how she extended her archival research with oral testimonies of descendants in Cienfuegos of black soldiers, and how through examining life histories, collective biographies, and genealogies, she ascertained that the number of former slaves in the rebellious Cuban army was relatively small, but the number of free-born blacks and mulattoes was high.

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