This paper is the review of the book No More, No More: Slavery and Cultural Resistance in Havana and New Orleans written by Daniel E. Walker in 2004. This work looks at the way humans of African descent in the two social orders – New Orleans and Havana in the 19th century – evolved their own types of cultural opposition to the slave regime. No More, No More clarifies the cultural, economic, social, and demographic processes in the two places, and the attempts of cultural confrontation embodied in the civic performances.
Basically, the author compares Havana’s yearly El DÃa de Reyes carnival with the usual slave celebrations of Congo Square in New Orleans to show how slaves of the city utilized the artistic expression as a way of confrontation. Celebrated on January 6, El DÃa de Reyes, honored the conventional festival of the 12th day after Christmas. Free people of color joined the slaves in a theatrical march through the streets of the city. On Sundays, Congo Square in New Orleans served as a meeting spot for the slaves of Orleans. They spent the leisure time engaged in conventional songs signing, drumming, and dancing.
In the chapters of his book Walker creates the five major themes for estimating the scope, and more significantly, the sense of the cultural confrontation on display during the festivals. First of all, he takes the booklover to the tour through the multitudinous types of slaves’ artistic expression, tracing cultural context and meaning to the African ancestry. Second, the author investigates how slaves used these places of celebration as the “counterstatement” to the cruel usage of public space by the slave power. Third, Walker examines how the festivals defied slavery’s constant attack upon the fabric of the black family living. Fourth, he demonstrates how the enslaved of Havana and New Orleans utilized the speech of African cultural expression in order to neutralize the harmful impacts of slavery upon black maleness and sexual agency. Finally, Walker sets out to show the dissimilar ways, in which cultural expression assisted in forging unity among the slaves and free black people despite the strong social, cultural, and legal obstacles to such a result.
The author thoroughly describes the sense of festivals in African culture, and the special visual language linked to such celebrations. Walker asserts the songs, dances and masks found among the enslaved of the two cities reflected a syncretism of African customs. Early 19th-century slave population of these two cities was not dominated by the cultural rituals of the most dominant African society. To a certain extent, a promising pan-African identity evolved that acknowledged the unity of all slaves in terms of common spiritual values and how these values concerned the new reality in North America. Consistent with the author, these common values shaped the basis around which the enslaved might forge unity and express confrontation. Particularly through the depiction of El DÃa de Reyes, the author asserts that participants utilized the festival to represent a positive substitute to the prevailing pessimistic stereotypes of the black community.
No More, No More is an instance of a good comparative history. It is bold and inventive in its sweep. Daniel Walker takes the readers on the excursion, rich in interpretation of the ways the enslaved challenged the restrictions set by the oppressive system. This work is sure to have a lasting impact on the study of the slave confrontation in the USA.
Specifically, the author challenges the idea that whites “permitted” such festivals to dissipate the tensions; he asserts that this is inconsistent with the dehumanizing essence of slavery, in which white people defined public places as oppressive and violent. Actually, he discovers that the celebrations threatened the usual racial hierarchies. He demonstrates that the festivals were the inventive ways to cope with the reality and confirm own living, to accept and celebrate links to Africa, and to struggle for stability in the communities and families.
Walker argues that the festivals were the “counterstatements” to types of social control characteristic of urban slavery and, as such, were based on the real life. The author depicts the four basic dimensions of control (space, community, family and social images) and the way they were contested in the performances, which permitted black people to define their identity and to affirm own humanity in a positive way.
Generally speaking, this book is innovative, creative, and backed by the thorough investigation. The author reaffirms, with extremely interesting resources and keen analyses, the dissimilarities among rural and urban slaves in both cities. He is keen to remind the booklovers the undeniable benefits of the urban slaves and also their particular troubles and challenges. Additionally, the author investigates the role of the enslaved in the process of redefinition of the public spaces in the two cities, reaching very interesting conclusions.
His effort to inspect the role of sex in the everyday lives of the enslaved is certainly one of the most thrilling parts of this book. Walker introduces the readers to the universe of sexual abuse endured by the enslaved people in both cities, offering striking examples to illustrate the arguments. The usage of sex as a weapon of control is beautifully assessed; however, the author also tries to examine its role as the weapon of confrontation. Probably, the best part of the book is the comparative revision of the New Orleans’ minstrelsy and Havana’s teatro bufo. In this part the author actually excels. The intelligent analysis united with the extensive knowledge of the subject makes this part an outstanding instance of comparative cultural history.
The book, nevertheless, has certain problems with the plot. Sadly, the author makes numerous suppositions based upon the equality of the cultural identity and customs among the two cities’ slaves. Consequently, the strong conclusions concerning the perseverance of African culture in Havana appear to be not so relevant to New Orleans, predominantly as the 19th century reaches the midpoint. That fact that there is a relatively small amount of primary information on Congo Square also provides Walker’s comparative structure with the irregular appearance. Therefore, whilst this is a strong work on the slave society in Havana, it is not as strong study of New Orleans.
Despite minor shortcomings,the book should appeal to the broad audience. People interested in the slave culture, ethnic identity, and the expression of cultural confrontation will find this work worthwhile. Particularly, the author’s multidisciplinary approach offers fresh and interesting glimpses of slaves’ existence in the 19th century.
Daniel Walker’s work is the perfect instance of the innovative approaches that recent historians have utilized in order to discover the genuine voice of enslaved people. In fact, the utmost strength of the work lies in the multidisciplinary approach. By own appraisal, the author had set out to ask fresh questions of conventional resources, whilst, at the same time, engaging a novel corpus of primary information. Through the clever synthesis of already issued works from extremely diverse total of disciplines, the author yields a new argument concerning the significance of the cultural expression to slaves.