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Last Words

Last Words

(p.231) Last Words
The Freedom of Speech
Miles Ogborn
University of Chicago Press

This chapter concludes the book. It considers the aftermath of emancipation in the 1830s, arguing that all the work to make slavery and racial difference through speech across the many spaces of everyday life – as examined in the previous chapters – meant that when freedom came black freedom was not the same as white freedom. It then presents the book’s broader claims. First, how attending to speech, with its ubiquity and ephemerality, and its absent presence in the archive, is to be forced to reckon with the always ongoing and partial construction of worlds by, for, and between people. This requires attention to questions of power, communication, and difference, and provides a better starting point for the cultural history and historical geography of slavery and empire than one based on texts and readers. Second, that grounding discussions of speech and power – often understood in terms of a singular ‘freedom of speech’ – in the very different histories and geographies of speech in practice, offers a better way of evaluating what is at stake when different people speak or are silent. The chapter ends by attending to the last words of two black rebels executed in Jamaica in 1760.

Keywords:   speech, emancipation, freedom of speech, power, communication, difference, slavery, empire, cultural history, historical geography

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