Getting locked up to get free in colonial Cuba

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This essay examines the histories of two enslaved Africans living in Cuba and sent to prison in the mid-nineteenth century, to consider the ways in which prison represented a path to freedom within and beyond slave societies. Formerly enslaved people in Cuba and Puerto Rico, released from bondage upon entering the carceral system, were often resold into slavery upon completion of their prison sentences–but not always. The essay focuses first on the case of Gregorio Lucumí, imprisoned in Cuba, whose civil status post-sentence was debated by authorities seeking to discourage crime as a means to secure prison sentences that might yield freedom from slavery. It then turns to the lengthier case of Isidoro Gangá, sent to prison in Melilla, North Africa, and who, post-sentence, appealed for freedom via free soil principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-128
Number of pages21
JournalAtlantic Studies : Global Currents
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Cuba
  • free soil principle
  • Gregorio Lucumí
  • Isidoro Gangá
  • Melilla
  • prison
  • slavery
  • West Africans


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