Episode 49 Escaping the Sovereignty Trap

Throughout the Atlantic world, including the territories that would later become the United States, enslaved peoples rejected the enslavers’ sovereign claim of ownership over them, and fled the lash to form their own communities. Known as maroon settlements, these communities existed outside the net of formal sovereignty, and reflect instead the self-sovereignty exercised by those who rejected their enslavement. In histories that view the past through the lens of formal sovereignty, maroon settlements rarely receive mention, and are almost never considered to be models of alternative sovereignty, even though their existence caused no end of reaction, including wars, such as the Seminole Wars in Florida carried out by the U.S. military.

Our History

If a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the only item on the menu, and you know a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not going to do you any good, what are your options? Do you just keep pretending that this is the best of all possible meals? Or do you dress it up with lots of tasty add-ons, like maybe some pepperoni and curry? Or, and here’s what we are thinking, maybe you create a new menu entirely, one that addresses our nutritional needs and culinary tastes.

So it is with history. We’ve been chewing on the same history menu for too long, a history sandwiched around the claims of sovereignty and flavored with the condiments of power. No matter how much we try to improve it, make it spicier or more exotic, more diverse or more inclusive, it still has us justifying the same old systems of power and privilege.  We call it the sovereignty trap –  and we cannot chew our way out of the problems it has made for us by sticking to the same narrative menu. In other words, we shouldn’t expect a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to be something it was never designed to be. We need a new menu. We need a new basis for history. We need new stories to tell.

A ‘maroon’ from colonial Jamaica

Click to hear Episode 49 Escaping the Sovereignty Trap

Sources Referenced and Items of Interest

Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (1999)

Ashley Lopez, Arrest Warrants Have Been Issued To Bring Back Texas Democrats Blocking Voting Bill (August 12, 2021 NPR)

“For three centuries blacks helped shape the geopolitics the American Southeast and repeatedly created viable communities in Florida when conditions permitted.”

Jane Landers

%d bloggers like this: