WHY CHRISTMAS IS OBSERVED AS A DAY OF LIBERATION BY BLACK PEOPLE
CUNY Graduate Center Professor Ramona Hernandez and alumna Allison Guess (Ph.D. ’21, Earth and Environmental Sciences) join this episode of The Thought Project for a timely discussion of the Hispaniola Slave Rebellion of 1521.
Hernandez is the director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and a professor of Sociology at City College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests include the mobility of workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, the socio-economic conditions of Dominicans in the U.S., and the restructuring of the world economy and its effects on working-class people. She is the author of The Mobility of Workers Under Advanced Capitalism: Dominican Migration to the United States and co-author of Dominican Americans.
Guess is a professor of Africana Studies at Williams College and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and a Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. She is also a research fellow at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute.
The Hispaniola Slave Rebellion of 1521, also known as the Santo Domingo Slave Revolt, is the earliest documented slave revolt in the Americas. The massive uprising led the island’s governor, Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus, to issue Las Ordenanças de los Negros of 1522, the earliest known set of anti-Black slave laws. Guess and Hernandez discuss the role of the laws in establishing racial regimes in the Americas and note the connections between the 1522 ordinances and the Jim Crow laws in the U.S. South and recent police practices, such as stop and frisk and broken windows.
The scholars also discuss the tradition of Black-led militancy during the Christmas holiday throughout the Americas. They attribute the 1521 uprising with inspiring Jamaica’s Christmas Day Rebellion, also known as the Baptist War, that started in 1831.
Hernandez remains committed to research about the 1521 rebellion. Last fall, she commemorated the 500th anniversary of the revolt by convening a national conference. She is currently involved in an archaeological project to document the location of the rebellion in the Dominican Republic.
For more about the revolt and its long shadow, read the scholars’ recent post on The Thought Project blog, The First Christmastime Revolt Against Slavery in Santo Domingo: A Hallmark Strategy to Liberation.