Preferred Name

Daniel James Dawson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


William Van Norman

David Owusu-Ansah

Alison Sandman


This thesis examines the role of religion in African communities in seventeenth-century Caribbean Colombia, and the tensions between the system of racial and religious hierarchy imposed by the Catholic Church and Spanish authorities and the everyday religious life of free and enslaved Africans and their descendants. It will examine interactions between African religion and Christianity and African resistance to Spanish Catholic authority. It will examine Spanish-Catholic thought on African spirituality, and investigate the relationship between African subjects and Catholic authorities in the Spanish Atlantic. It explores the goals of Catholic authorities in relation to African subjects, and the various methods they employed in order to Christianize Africans living under Spanish rule. Drawing on trial transcripts from the Cartagena Office of the Inquisition, it will examine everyday African religious life and the relationship between Africans and Christianity in Colombia and the Spanish Caribbean. It will use the Inquisition trials of African religious practitioners to demonstrate how African ritual knowledge spread throughout the Spanish Atlantic world, and the role that the Inquisition played in inadvertently promoting this spread. It will also examine the ways in which African defendants drew on both their own religious traditions and Christian ideas to subvert authority and work within Spanish society. Furthermore, it will examine Spanish anxieties about African religious practices, and the connection between such practices and a general fear of African insurrection connected to the Spanish wars against palenques, cities of free Africans who had escaped slavery. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to examine the relationship between everyday African religious life and Spanish-Catholic authority and hierarchy in early colonial Caribbean Colombia. As a result, it seeks to provide a thorough understanding of power dynamics between Spanish and African communities in the Americas, and the role that African communities in Caribbean Colombia played in the social and cultural development of the Atlantic World.



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