Morrison, Karen

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Assistant Professor, Department of Afro-American Studies, College of Humanities & Fine Arts
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African American Studies
Karen Y. Morrison, "Kym" earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Duke University and worked for a few years in weapon systems design before turning to the study of history. She completed her doctorate at the University of Florida and currently teaches in the areas of African, African Diasporan, and Latin American social histories. Before arriving at UMass she taught at Kenyon College and Moravian College. Her research focuses on the relationship between family formation and racial identity in nineteenth and twentieth-century Cuba. Toward this end, she has traveled extensively throughout the island on several occasions, beginning in 1995. She has published in Cuban Studies/ Estudios Cubanos, the Journal of Social History, and Slavery & Abolition. She currently is completing a book-length study.

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  • Publication
    Slave Mothers and White Fathers: Defining Family and Status in Late Colonial Cuba
    (2010-01-01) Morrison, Karen Y.
    This paper outlines the mechanisms used to position the offspring of slave women and white men at various points within late nineteenth-century Cuba’s racial hierarchy. The reproductive choices available to these parents allowed for small, but significant, transformations to the existing patterns of race and challenged the social separation that typically under girded African slavery in the Americas. As white men mated with black and mulatta women, they were critical agents in the initial determination of their children’s status–as slave, free, mulatto, or even white. This definitional flexibility fostered an unintended corruption of the very meaning of whiteness. Similarly, through mating with white men, enslaved women exercised a degree of procreative choice, despite their subjugated condition. In acknowledging the range of rape, concubinage, and marriage exercised between slave women and white men, this paper highlights the important links between reproductive practices and the social construction of race.