Hiding in Plain Sight: Second Annual Greer Lecture

October 6, 2020

On October 6, as part of the Annual Greer Lecture on Latin American History, over 70 attendees learned about Professor Erika Denise Edwards' research findings in her latest book "Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women the Law and the Making of a White Argentine Republic." Her presentation focused on Black and African descended women who actively partook in the construction of racial identities during the eighteenth and nineteenth century in Cordoba. 

Professor Edwards explained that in 1778, during the colonial period of Argentina, records show that 30% of the population was of African descent. By 2010, according to the most recent national census, people identifying as African descent was less than 1%. She states, "the question for me became, how do you get from 30% to less than 1%?" To find out, she researched Cordoba and "Her."

The reason she decided to focus her research on Cordoba was due to its relatively low and steady population during the time span of 1778 - 1840. Because of that, she was able to cross-reference the lives of the people she researched for the book. Another unexpected factor was the wealth of information in their archives, which she referred to as "untapped treasure." 

By focusing on "Her," Edwards was able to very quickly dismiss the old myth of "her" being a victim, or of men being killed off in wars as to why Argentina is white. She states the African descended women "sought ways and strategies to better herself and to better the life of her children by seeking levels of whiteness." She continues, "it is hard to swallow, but it is the reality of what some African descended women chose to do." 

She provided some interesting examples of women who transitioned from enslaved status to seƱora. In concluding her presentation, she lauded the strength of "Her" stating, "despite prejudices they moved forward."

Erika Denise Edwards is an associate professor of Latin American History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Edwards' research centers on the black experience in Argentina. She has recently published the book Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic which is a gendered analysis of black erasure in Argentina. Edwards' research advocates for a re-learning of Argentina's black past and the origins of anti-blackness.