Title of Course: Black History 301: The History of Cuba

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #7: The Black Infusion

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.

(1) When did white people begin importing large numbers of African slaves into Cuba?
(2) How did the African slaves who were brought to Cuba impact on the native population?
(3) What impact did the Haitian Revolution have on Cuba?
(4) In the 1820s, what percentage of Cuba's population was Black?
(5) Did Black rebellers and freedom fighters do anything to prepare Cuba for independence and revolution?

Class #7 Essay [Audio Version]

White power came to North and South America and wiped out the native populations, and was ready to rule without any serious competition from nonwhite people. But then white power transported Black People to the Americas for slave labor purposes. In so doing, white power placed within its midst a force that was as powerful as it is, a force that it could not overwhelm through its usual methods of military and political violence. The Black infusion into Cuba demonstrates one way in which that process unfolded.

Most of the early settlers in Cuba were Spanish whites. In 1513, the first four African slaves were legally brought to Cuba, and in the 1520s the total number of African slaves in Cuba was probably only a few hundred. By the 1530s, the African slaves had already been rebelling, and in 1538 some African slaves helped French pirates sack La Habana, Cuba's major port city and future capital.

In 1550, the importation of African slaves into Cuba became an official part of Spanish policy. Since Spain was a typically racist European country, laws were enacted that institutionalized the inequality of Black human beings in Cuba. Still, large numbers of slaves were not brought to the island until England declared war on Spain in 1762. England imported slaves into Cuba by the tens of thousands, and by the mid 1770s, the population of Cuba was more than 40% Black.

Not long afterwards, the activities of Black freedom fighters began to unravel the Spanish empire in the Caribbean and South America, and changed the destiny of Cuba. In the early 1790s, Toussaint L'Ouverture took command of the Haitian Revolution and drove the Spanish army out of Haiti. Haiti is only a stone's throw from Santiago de Cuba, a prolific breeding ground of Black freedom fighters, and as the Haitian Revolution moved towards a successful conclusion, Black freedom fighters in other Spanish colonies started their countries on the road to freedom and self-government. Additionally, the worldwide demand for sugar that Haiti had been satisfying was shifted to other colonies in the Caribbean. Cuba, which had evolved a multi-crop agricultural economy up to that point that had not been overly dependent on slave labor, was converted into a mostly sugar crop economy that financially traumatized most Cubans because it relied almost exclusively on Black slave labor. Hundreds of thousands of Blacks were rushed into the colony to satisfy its labor needs, so much so that by 1820, Cuba's population was more than 60% Black and the sentiments of Cubans were increasingly anti-Spanish.

From the very beginning, resistance was the mantra of the Black People who were brought to Cuba. They influenced the thought processes of what was left of the original Cubans, and provided the descendants of the Spanish settlers with a perspective that helped them become more and more Cuban and less and less Spanish. In 1795, Nicolas Morales, a free Black man, led white and Black Cubans in a revolt to free the island and establish complete equality between the races. In 1812, another Black man, Jose Antonio Aponte, led an uprising that had similar objectives. The foundation that they and others laid put Cuba on the road toward a War for Independence in 1868 and the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro in 1959.

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