Bordeaux, Forgotten Black Metropolis


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration at Yale University during academic year 2020-2021


While Bordeaux easily evokes images of wine, bourgeois wealth, and stunning architecture, a forgotten history of race and labor also shaped the city. The vigorous role of the city’s merchants in the Atlantic slave trade is now acknowledged, but Africans and Antilleans—enslaved and free—also have resided in the city since the eighteenth century. In addition to performing labor in homes or in shipping, they lived as artisans, students, and artists, sometimes forming families or building other relationships. Piecing together waves of movement and settlement in the city and region, this project reveals how Africans and Antilleans figured in histories of merchant capital, transnational networks, and notions of citizenship and belonging. Given present-day immigration debates, people of color appear in this story as they rarely have in Atlantic history—as a force in the making of a French city, the nation, and its empire.