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Collecting 19th-Century Cuba

The recent acquisitions on display are all partial answers to a simple question: What about Cuba? The Clements Library has long held significant materials to support research on the eighteenth-century Caribbean, particularly Saint Domingue/Haiti. But for the later period following the end of the Haitian Revolution (1804) and the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean (1834), our collections are not as strong. This has in particular left a gap in our holdings related to Cuba—the Caribbean island that is nearest to the American mainland. What happened in Cuba, from civil wars to slave rebellions, had echoes in the United States. Cuba was a constant focus of U.S. expansionist ambition, with multiple attempts to either conquer or purchase the island. The American interest in Cuba increased as the sectional conflict intensified in the U.S. Cuba was seen as a potential redoubt of plantation slavery, and many American businesses invested there after the Civil War (slavery would not be abolished in Cuba until 1886). The materials on display here document the history of Cuba (and American interest in Cuba) up to the United States’ invasion in 1898.

Exhibit Hours: Wednesdays and Fridays, noon – 4pm.
Exhibit on display until November 30.