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 focuses on the factors accounting for the foundation 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, the socio-political effects of the expansion of the Cuban transatlantic slave trade in some coastal African regions, and a reassessment of quantitative and resulting qualitative 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. In Cuba, he also worked as the coordinator of the Group of Study of Slavery formed by a team of scholars with whom he developed a digital database on liberated Africans. 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 where he continued pursuing his Ph.D. In the past years, Felipe has collaborated with renowned scholars and projects on the slave trade such as the Transatlantic and Intra-American Slave Trade Databases and slavery such as Slave Biographies. Felipe is developing a digital database on baptismal records of African disembarked in Cuba in order to understand their African regions of provenance, as explained in a demo website and in his co-authored article “The Baptismal Records Database on Slave Societies.” He is also at the beginning of developing with other scholars a digital portal on the whole history of the Cuban slave trade.
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.
Jorge is an avid cinephile, a hobby he has enjoyed for many years. He likes music, fitness, reading, biking, traveling, coffee, and, especially, trying new food.
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 is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Du Bois Institute. “Peoples of the Atlantic Slave Trade” will provide access to information on any historical figure who can be linked to a slave voyage, enslaved and enslavers alike. We begin with the records of 91,000 African captives and 30,889 investors and ship captains and will add to these other occupational categories such as sellers and buyers of slaves. 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.
In addition, Felipe will be working on two coauthored 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 and the other paper with Benjamin Lawrence on case of the slave ship Amistad from a Cuban and African perspective to be published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Felipe will be also writing an article based on his dissertation pertaining to 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)