Date of Award

Summer 7-8-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffrey Robert Young

Second Advisor

Jared C. Poley

Third Advisor

H. Robert Baker

Fourth Advisor

Michele Reid-Vazquez


Nineteenth-century slaveholders of the Atlantic master class had many reasons to be concerned with the future. In a world ushered in with the aid of the Haitian Revolution, slave revolts in these sensitive times seemed to erupt with increased frequency, leaving greater destruction in their wakes. Abolition and a transatlantic antislavery movement appeared as determined crusades to bring an end not only to human suffering in black chattel slavery but to the system’s unsurpassed wealth. In this era of sweeping changes a vision of British West Indian society without slaves was first debated and then made a reality on 1 August 1834. In the months and years that followed British Emancipation, there was much to debate in the postslavery situation from what seemed like all quarters. Abolitionists scrutinized production levels and profits. Slaveowners clamored for compensation for losing property in persons and, on the whole, feared the complete breakdown of Caribbean society that was sure to follow.

In recent years scholars have noted the ways in which the institution of slavery and the practice of slaveholding were quite diverse across time and space. Less attention has been given to variations within slavery’s demise and to the master class’s attempts to control the postslavery landscapes of the Atlantic world. The following dissertation examines the legacies of Zephaniah Kingsley, a planter from northeast Florida who confronted the Age of Emancipation in the last decade of his life with an ambitious proslavery colonization scheme in 1830s Haiti. Establishing a large plantation there stocked with some of his former slaves, Kingsley conducted his elaborate efforts under benevolent pretenses in order to manipulate public opinion but worried about his own sordid actions in the long march of history. Since his death in 1843, generations continue to be haunted by Kingsley’s enigmatic life and the tragedies of his exploits. In studying the ambitious events that occupied his final years, we can better understand the ways in which slaveholders like Kingsley confronted the prospect of emancipation and launched new mechanisms of control.