African Voices from the Congo Coast: Languages And The Politics Of Identification in The Slave Ship Jovem Maria (1850)
Between 1845 and 1850, the Congo coast became the most important source of slaves for the coffee growing areas in the Brazilian Empire. This essay develops a new methodology to understand the making of the 'nations' of 290 Africans found on the slave ship Jovem Maria, which boarded slaves in the Congo river and was captured by the Brazilian Navy near Rio de Janeiro in 1850. A close reading of such 'nations' reveals a complex overlapping between languages and forms of identification that alters the historian's use of concepts such as 'ethnolinguistic group' and 'Bantu-based lingua franca' in the Atlantic world. Building on recent developments in Central African linguistics, the article develops a social history of African languages in the Atlantic that foregrounds how recaptives negotiated commonalities and boundaries in the diaspora by drawing on a political vocabulary indigenous to their nineteenth-century homes in Central Africa.indigenous to their nineteenth-century homes in Central Africa.