La Española, the island now divided into the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti, existed first as a Spanish colony during the entire sixteenth century, when its population became the first one in the Americas with a majority of people of African descent. The Black ancestors of today’s Dominicans were the first to experience the dreadful transatlantic slave trade, and the first to offer organized resistance as soon as they landed in La Española. They were also the first to endure and survive all the varieties of enslaved labor and enslaved life, and the first to thrive and produce new generations of Afro-descendants born in the “New World.”
“Sixteenth-Century La Española: Glimpses of the First Blacks in the Early Colonial Americas,” an exhibition opening this week at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, presents images of manuscripts, transcriptions, translations, and photographs that tell the story of the earliest Black inhabitants of the Americas. The exhibit includes photographs of sites of the Dominican Republic’s colonial past by Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, Assistant Director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute at The City College of New York, the co-curator of the exhibit and a colonial historian. Dr. Lissette Acosta Corniel, CUNY DSI Post-Doctoral Fellow, is also a co-curator of the exhibit.
The show is an offshoot of “First Blacks in the Americas,” a long term CUNY DSI online project focusing on photographs that were part of the living environment of Black people in that territory during colonial times. Part of the collection is available in Shared Shelf Commons, an open-access library of digital media from Shared Shelf subscribers.
“Sixteenth-Century La Española: Glimpses of the First Blacks in the Early Colonial Americas” opens May 22 6:30–8:00 PM, and is on view through September 10, 2015 at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, NAC Building Room 2/202, The City College of New York, 160 Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031.