Inspired by the work of Candelario Obeso, a poet of African descent born on the eve of New Granada's slave emancipation, Jason McGraw has written an innovative and compelling book that places both the Colombian Caribbean coast and marginalized peoples at the center of the contested meanings of citizenship during the second half of the nineteenth century in Colombia. McGraw convincingly demonstrates that the slave emancipation in 1852 was not just a particular event for those who had left bondage, but rather a universal one because meanings of freedom, recognition, education, religion, and labor shaped how various social actors—including Afro-Colombians, workers, women, artisans, and elite letrados—struggled to shape inclusionary as well as exclusionary definitions of citizenship.

By combining careful archival research with thoughtful, if sometimes uneven, readings of literary sources, McGraw invites us to rethink the nineteenth century in Colombia, a...

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