Historians of Atlantic slavery live in a brave new world. Some years ago, books crossing national borders via comparison, connection, or synthesis were considered pioneering works at best and mere oddities at worst. That is no longer the case. While the traditional concerns and approaches of the different national historiographies of Brazil, the United States, and Cuba continue to be alive and kicking, these historiographies now exchange topics and approaches more often. Matheus Gato's O massacre dos libertos (The freedpeople's massacre) is part of a new Brazilian historiography seeking to understand how racial projects were key to not only social inequality but also political debates at the time of abolition in 1888—a concern that echoes those of historians such as Tâmis Parron, Flávio Gomes, Maria Helena Machado, and Petrônio Domingues.

Gato investigates a shooting that took place in São Luís, the capital of Maranhão, on November 17, 1889—18 months after...

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