Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship | Revaluating Minorities: The Poetry of Black Africans in Early Modern Spain

Revaluating Minorities is a research project that focuses on the cultural role played by the black African diaspora in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain, not only as an object represented in visual and literary texts, but also as an active subject that created its own cultural heritage.

This is a groundbreaking project that updates the Spanish literary panorama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries thanks to extensive archive work in international libraries and archives, and also recovers the intangible legacy of a community that has been forgotten by the social and cultural history of Spain: the music, dances and oral poetry of the African diaspora in Spain. Furthermore, Re-evaluating Minorities analyses Golden Age Spanish literature from below, that is, by taking into account the contributions made by the black African diaspora to the mainstream cultural productions, especially the genre of villancicos de negro.

The participation of black Africans in the cultural life of Spain is a response, on the one hand, to the needs of the Spanish nobility and, on the other, to the spaces of negotiation where they were able to produce their own music, dance and poetry. The first aspect is relatively well attested in historical documents and consists of the training and hiring of black African musicians in the Spanish courts on a slave-owner basis; the second, less visible but substantiated in a wide range of sources, accounts for the cultural contributions of the African diaspora in Spain, as shown, for example, in the requests made by black African confraternities to participate in religious festivities; in the creativity of people of African descent placed at the service of raising money to pay for their manumission; and in the demands and concerns of the black African diaspora that are embedded in the lyrics of the black African villancicos.

Line of research team

Funded by

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2017-2020) + Career Development Fellowship at Balliol College (University of Oxford) (2017-2021)