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“Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora” by Michael Gomez

Student Assignment


Chapter Six
Asserting the Right to Be

(Pages 109-159)

Forces of oppression assumed temporal, every-shifting guises and the vanquishing of one target, such as slavery, often led to discouragement and bewilderment as racism, seemingly defeated, simply morphed into a subsequent form, such as North American segregation. In view of the changing face of oppression, freedom came to mean different things to different people of African descent. We must keep in mind the variable, relative nature of freedom if we are to understand the African’s fight for freedom, beginning with the struggle against slavery. (Page 110)

  1. Gomez states, “Rebellion began at the initial point of capture within Africa itself . . . Once in the New World, Africans were again quick to seize upon any opportunity to reverse their circumstances.” (Page 110) One important way they did this was to establish maroons.
    1. What was a maroon?
    2. Why and how did Africans create maroons?
    3. How were Africans able to keep maroon communities free of colonial control or interference? How successful were they in doing this?
    4. Describe “life” in a maroon community. What were the challenges and triumphs?
    5. Discuss interactions/relationships between those living in a maroon community and Africans still enslaved, free Africans and Native Americans.
  2. Running away and establishing maroon communities represented an important form of resistance to slavery and the fight for freedom. As Gomez states, “. . . resistance assumed many forms, covert and overt, sporadic and continuous, direct and indirect.” (Page 121) Identify and be prepared to discuss multiple forms of resistance throughout the Americas.
  3. In the section of this chapter titled “Facing the Enemy,” Gomez discusses several revolts by slaves and the circumstances of these revolts. Be prepared to discuss at least one of these revolts – when, where, why, historical significance.
  4. In this same section, Gomez uses the term “ethnolinguistic groups.”  What does he mean by the term ethnolinguistic groups? He states, “This represented a heightened awareness of similarities among the enslaved, and it suggests they were moving away from specific African groups to a broader sense of African-derived commonality.” (Page 133) Do you agree with Gomez? Why or why not?
  5. What is your one unanswered question from this reading?