Jorge Felipe Gonzalez
2019-2020: Hutchins Fellow
Jorge Felipe Gonzalez completed his Ph.D. in History at Michigan State University in May 2019. His dissertation, “Foundation and Growth of the Cuban-based Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1790-1820,” explores the factors accounting for the emergence of the Cuban-based transatlantic slave trade at the turn of the nineteenth century. Based on archival records from Cuba, the U.S., Spain, and the U.K., Felipe’s doctoral thesis analyses how Cuban-based merchants, planters and colonial authorities planned, discussed, financed, and implemented the infrastructure to trade slaves from Africa to Cuba. His dissertation also explores the functioning mechanism of the transatlantic slave commerce between Cuba and Western Africa. He also analyzes the socio-political effects in some coastal African regions in what is today Southern Sierra Leone of the expansion of the Cuban transatlantic slave trade. His dissertation reassesses quantitative aspects of the slave trade to Cuba.
Felipe received his undergraduate degree in History at the University of Havana, where he taught for some years. He worked as the coordinator of the Group of Study of Slavery formed by a team of scholars and directed by Maria del Carmen Barcia and Marial Iglesias. This team developed the digital database Traces of Slavery. In 2013, Felipe came to the United States with a grant from the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World at Harvard University and an invitation for a conference on digital databases on slavery at the History Department at Michigan State University to pursue his Ph.D. In the past years, Felipe has collaborated with renowned scholars and projects on the slave trade and slavery such as the Transatlantic and Intra-American Slave Trade Databases, and Slave Biographies. Felipe is developing a digital database on baptismal records of African disembarked in Cuba to understand their African regions of provenance, as explained in a demo website and the co-authored article “The Baptismal Records Database on Slave Societies.”
Felipe has attended and delivered papers on dozens of national and international conferences and workshops. He is the author of articles such as “Reassessing the Slave Trade to Cuba, 1790-1820” and the coauthored chapter with David Eltis “The Rise and Fall of the Cuban Slave Trade: New Data, New Paradigms.” Felipe has been awarded scholarships and grants such as FLAS for learning Pulaar, the Lydia Cabrera and the Cuban Heritage Collection scholarships, and Humanities Without Walls, among others. He is also a member of the Group of Comparative Slavery directed by Marial Iglesias and Alejandro de la Fuente, as well codirector with Marial Iglesias of the project “Cuba and the United States in the Atlantic Slave Trade (1789–1820),” at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.
As a fellow of the Du Bois Research Institute, Jorge Felipe will be working with David Eltis on the project “People of the Atlantic Slave Trade” (PAST), a new section of the existing Transatlantic Slave Trade Database (Voyages). The project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Du Bois Institute, will provide access to information on individuals who were slavers such as owners of slaving expeditions, captains, and financiers. The project will create a digital foundation for re-addressing questions about slavery and freedom in the Atlantic world that have dominated the literature for the last 70 years. The expanded database will be subject to periodical renewal long after the end of the project. The project brings together the work of twenty-one scholars whose interests and publications match the geographic range of the business of the slave-trading itself.
Felipe will also be working on three co-authored articles. One with Walter Hawthorne on the slave trade between the Upper Guinea coast to the Americas to be published in the Journal of African Economic History. He is working on a second paper with Benjamin Lawrence on case of the slave ship Amistad from a Cuban and African perspective for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Finally, he is writing an article with Marial Iglesias on the slave trade between Cuba and Rio Pongo in today’s Guinea-Conakry. He is also at the beginning of also developing with Marial Iglesias, Visting Research Scholar at Harvard University, a digital portal on the history of the Cuban slave trade. It will include educational, research, and archival material. Felipe and Iglesias are also co-authoring an. He will also be writing an article based on his dissertation on the slave-trading connections between Cuba and Western Africa.
 David Eltis and Alex Borucki (eds.). “From the Galleon to the Highlands. The University of New Mexico Press” (forthcoming, 2020)