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Trevor R. Getz
Slave to Wife: Women who Domesticated Empire in the Gold Coast, 1874-1890

Trevor R. Getz, Professor
San Francisco State University
Department of History
Director, Initiative for Public Humanities

Slave-trading cases are key sources for the history of the Gold Coast Colony and Protectorate. Court transcripts, reports, and correspondence reveal that the institution of slavery was one ‘trouble spot’ around which local society rearranged itself under the new laws and landscape of power brought by colonial rule, and that the opportunities and limits of emancipation engendered an unusual fluidity in the relationships and status of the enslaved. The entanglement of slavery with marriage stands out as an element of particular importance in these contests. Many women (and some men) used the opportunity of emancipation laws to make claims to be wives and husbands, to modify their status within their marriages, to escape their spouses, or to choose new partners. By converging what we have learned about slavery with what we know about marriage, this paper explores insights into the nature of colonialism and emancipation as well as the opportunities and limits of post-emancipation life and livelihood.

Sponsored by the Center for Ideas and Society Developing African Studies Project and Department of History.

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