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The Reinvention of Atlantic SlaveryTechnology, Labor, Race, and Capitalism in the Greater Caribbean$
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Daniel B. Rood

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190655266

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190655266.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 15 January 2021

Wrought-Iron Politics

Wrought-Iron Politics

Racial Knowledge in the Making of a Greater Caribbean Railroad Industry

(p.94) 4 Wrought-Iron Politics
The Reinvention of Atlantic Slavery

Daniel B. Rood

Oxford University Press

This chapter tells the story of Tredegar Ironworks, a slave-exploiting Richmond firm that facilitated the modernization of Cuba’s sugar economy by providing railroad hardware, machinery, and expertise to companies on the island. Tredegar substantially transformed its own factories to meet the needs of Cuban railroad companies, thus providing another instance of “technological entanglement” within the Greater Caribbean. Southern engineers who traveled to the island to install the hardware played up the experience they had gained in coercing slaves on Virginia railroads. Slaves performed key jobs on both ends of the commodity chain: enslaved railroad operatives in Cuba provided daily information on the condition of the hardware; in Richmond, skilled ironworkers helped engineer new products and processes especially suited for the “tropical” railroad market, which was really only Cuba and Brazil at the time. In each locale, whites’ discomfort with enslaved knowledge was outweighed by firms’ need for black workers’ skills.

Keywords:   iron industry, railroad technology, enslaved knowledge, white working class, engineers, Tredegar, Joseph R. Anderson, Isaac Ridgeway Trimble, Havana Railroad Company

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