Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kate Ramsey

Second Committee Member

Stephen Stein

Third Committee Member

Ashli White

Fourth Committee Member

Lillian Manzor


Free people of color held an ambiguous place in Caribbean slave societies. On the one hand they were nominally free, but the reality of their daily lives was often something less than free. This work examines how free people of color, or libres de color, in nineteenth-century Cuba attempted to carve out lives for themselves in the face of social, economic, and political constraints imposed on them by white Cubans and Spaniards living in the island. It focuses on how through different Afro-Cuban associations some libres de color used public music and dance performances to self-fashion identities on their own terms. The images they constructed were in direct contrast to those in circulation in the emerging Cuban public sphere and reveal that free blacks did not acquiesce to the constraints being levied against them and the negative stereotyping of their community, but rather attempted to self-define their identities.


Free people of color; Cuba; Nineteenth Century; Identity; Caribbean; Performance