Nik Ribianszky

Dr

  • Room 01.004 - 16 University Square

    United Kingdom

19992017

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research Focus

My primary research interests in general are 17th to 19th century African American history, particularly focused on free people of African descent prior to the Civil War, race relations, and American women's history.

My first current book project, Generations of Freedom: Gender, Movement, and Violence in Natchez, 1779-1865, is coming out in March 2021 through the University Press of Georgia. Generations of Freedom explores the lives of free people of color using the complementary lenses of violence, gender, kinship, and migration. I begin my analysis at the height of Spanish colonial rule in 1779 and traces the inextricably intertwined nature of freedom, movement, and violence for free people of color through the end of legal slavery in 1865. This transgenerational study locates free people of color within the historical context of several communities and examines the gendered vulnerabilities free people of color faced that qualified their basic freedoms—including their ability to own property, find employment, and function as parents and spouses. Yet that is merely part of the story, as the most critical aspects of the free experience are their efforts to persevere and survive under the most adverse of conditions. Under both the Spanish—who provided free people of color more freedom than their French predecessors—and the more-restrictive Americans, free people of color resisted through parenting, property ownership, marriage, and court battles to define themselves and their freedom. In so doing they etched out lives, families, businesses, and rich traditions.  

Another outgrowth of the monograph has been the creation of the Natchez Database of Free People of Color the Natchez Index of Free Individuals and Families of Color. Through the process of archival research, I culled relevant information for this project from a vast swath of records that include: Adams County chancery, circuit, and probate court records, Mississippi state court records, personal letters, family papers, wills, deeds, newspapers, Spanish colonial papers, tax records, and census data, among others. The database records the name of every free black individual who surfaced in the record, and contains demographic characteristics like gender, age, color, property ownership, occupation, and literacy, among others in the database. It also notes if they suffered violence in the form of: assaults/battery, imprisonment, rape, re-enslavement, and the like. The Index is a transcription of every document and is organized alphabetically by surname when known or by first name. Currently, it stands at approximately 500 single-spaced, typewritten pages. Both will be published digitally on a companion website through UGA Press.

Creating the database and index revealed critical patterns regarding intergenerational familial relationships, movement, and violence. The expansion and digitalization of both will disseminate the research to other scholars of enslaved and free people of color and link this project with data from different geographical regions, an endeavor that gives scholars working on transnational, comparative studies of freedom quick access to relevant demographic information. But perhaps most importantly, it will be a public platform which will provide resources to those people of African descent who may be doing genealogical work to access records on their ancestors.

I also work with Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade, a project housed at Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University, in partnership with the MSU Department of History and scholars at multiple institutions. I work as an editor for Enslaved’s Journal of Slavery & Data Preservation in the review process for other database projects. I am also included in their application for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, “Expanding Enslaved Hub: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade.” If it is successful, my participation in the project would include contributing my “The Natchez Database of Free People of Color” to Enslaved.org and consulting with the project to forge relationships and partnerships to advance the goals of our synergistic work especially through engagements with multiple audiences, stakeholders, and collaborators including genealogists, scholars, libraries, archives, museums, universities, public history spaces with histories of enslavement (like plantations), and descendant communities.

My next project is a comparative one that spans the African/ American/Irish diaspora. There has been exciting work done by Nini Rodgers, Jonathan Wright, and a relatively small number of scholars on Ireland its involvement in the slave trade, and anti-slavery movement. I would like to enter this growing body by examining the interaction of enslaved, free people of color, and Irish-descended people in both Ireland and North America. I will consider the range of relationships between the two groups in the Americas including shared experiences as indentured servants laboring side-by-side, allies, friends, kin, as well as those characterized by uneven power dynamics that involved the Irish as overseers, slave patrollers, or slave owners.

 

 

 

Teaching

I teach a variety of undergraduate and MA classes in African American and US History. Classes that I have designed and taught individually are as follows: HIS 1004, Whose Revolution was It?  Revolutionary America: The Long and Wide View, 1740-1790 (L1); HIS 3131, From Slavery to Say Her Name: Black Women in America (L3); and MHY 7089From The “White City” to Black Lives Matter: Public Representations of Black History in the US (MA). I also team teach on both halves of the American South, 1619-1865 and 1865-1980 (L2) and on the following MA modules: MHY 7089, Gender and the Politics of US History; MHY 7089, Race in Another Place: A US/UK Comparative Perspective on Race, Labour, and Activism; MHY 7089, Case Studies in History: "Unruly Women"; and MHY 7090, Pathways through History. 

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