Unraveling the Surname Legacy of Enslaved Individuals in Reunion Island

Discover the captivating story of the quest for identity of slaves in Reunion through the search for family names. Immerse yourself in the heart of a fascinating approach led by Jacques Dubois to restore the memory and identity of these individuals who have been forgotten for too long.

The history of slavery in Reunion Island is deeply rooted in the island’s colonial past. L’slavery was introduced to Reunion Island in the 17th century by French colonists who grew tobacco, coffee, indigo and especially sugar there. This slave labor force came mainly from Africa, but also from other regions such as Madagascar, India and Southeast Asia.

Institutionalization of slavery

Over the decades, slavery in Reunion Island was institutionalized to meet the growing labor needs of the plantations. Slaves were considered material property, stripped of their freedom and identity. The Code Noir, a set of laws governing the lives of slaves in the French colonies, governed their legal status and living conditions.

Living conditions of slaves

Slaves in Reunion were subjected to extremely difficult living conditions. Working long hours in a harsh tropical climate, they were often poorly fed, poorly housed and mistreated. Physical and psychological violence was commonplace, leading to sporadic revolts and escape attempts.

Abolition of slavery

The abolition of slavery in Reunion Island occurred later than in other French colonies. It was in 1848, following the proclamation of the abolition of slavery throughout the French colonial empire by the provisional government of the Second Republic, that Reunionese slaves finally obtained their freedom.

Legacy of slavery in Reunion

Despite the official abolition of slavery, its aftereffects continue in Reunion. Descendants of slaves often carry surnames inherited from their slave ancestors, recalling their history and struggle for freedom. The memory of slavery is maintained through various cultural and historical initiatives aimed at raising public awareness of this dark period in the island’s history.

When exploring the origins of slavery in Reunion Island, it is essential to remember and acknowledge the painful past of slaves, while committing to preserving their history and legacy for future generations.

The history of slavery in Reunion has left a deep and complex imprint on the society and culture of the island. Among the many aspects of this heritage, the surnames of slaves hold a particularly significant place. These names carry stories that are often little-known but essential to understanding the trajectory of the individuals who carried them.

The Origins of Slave Last Names

The surnames of slaves on Reunion Island reflect the different cultural and linguistic influences that intertwined during the period of slavery. There we find names of African, Malagasy, Indian, Chinese, but also European origin, testifying to the diversity of the enslaved populations on the island.

Some names, like “ Freedom ” Or ” Hope“, were given by masters to freed slaves to symbolically mark their new condition. Other names have been passed down from generation to generation, carrying within them the memory of ancestors and family ties despite the rupture imposed by slavery.

The Meaning of Slave Surnames

Each surname of slaves in Reunion tells a story, a belonging, a resilience. Certain names evoke notions of hope, strength, solidarity, reflecting the desire to survive and transcend the suffering inflicted by slavery.

Studying the meaning of the surnames of slaves allows us to pay homage to their memory, recognize their humanity and reaffirm their place in the history of the island. These names carry within them the dignity and resistance of the individuals who bore them, despite the conditions of servitude and oppression.

The Contemporary Legacy of Slave Surnames

Today, the family names of slaves continue to resonate in Reunion society, testifying to the persistence of links with the past. They constitute a precious heritage, a living memory which reminds us of the importance of remembering and passing on the lessons of history to future generations.

Through the study and valorization of the family names of slaves, a whole dimension of Reunionese identity is revealed, offering a new perspective on the richness and diversity of the cultural heritage of the island.

Thus, the family names of slaves in Reunion are not only nominative elements, but symbols loaded with meaning and memory, inviting deep reflection on the past, present and future of the island and of its inhabitants.

Since the abolition of slavery in Réunion in 1848, the evolution of the surnames of former slaves has been a complex and significant process. This change reflected a major social transition, but also a historical heritage deeply rooted in the island.

From slavery to freedom: a new identity through family names

After centuries of enslavement and dehumanization, newly freed former slaves had to choose surnames to claim their identity and autonomy. This step marked an essential turning point in the history of the descendants of slaves in Reunion.

The influence of settlers and administrators on new surnames

The impact of colonial forces on post-abolition surname selection has often been decisive. Colonists and administrators sometimes imposed European-sounding surnames on former slaves, thus leaving their mark on this new era of freedom.

Cultural reappropriation and identity claim

Despite this dominant influence, many former slaves sought to reclaim their cultural heritage through the choice of their names. Some have opted for names recalling their African, Creole or Malagasy origins, thus affirming their belonging to a specific lineage and history.

Intergenerational transmission and continuity of family names

Over generations, the surnames of former slaves were passed down and evolved, reflecting the family, social, and political dynamics of the post-abolition era. It is fascinating to observe how these names have endured and transformed over time.

Valorization of heritage and fight against forgetting

Today, the promotion and preservation of these historic family names of former slaves is of paramount importance. They demonstrate resilience and a desire to remember in the face of a painful past, thus contributing to the recognition and transmission of a rich and complex identity heritage.

In conclusion, the evolution of the surnames of slaves post-abolition in Reunion Island reflects a heritage marked by the struggle for freedom, the demand for identity and intergenerational transmission. These names carry with them the history and dignity of former slaves, embodying a true symbol of resilience and pride.

The surnames borne by African slaves deported to Reunion during the period of slavery carry with them the heritage and influences of the various ancestral cultures of Africa. These names, although often modified or Frenchified by the settlers, preserve traces of the identity and history of the individuals who bore them. Let’s explore together these cultural influences on the surnames of slaves on this island.

Richness of African languages

The surnames of African slaves bear witness to the linguistic richness of the continent. Indeed, African languages ​​are full of deep and symbolic meanings which are found in proper names. Whether they are names linked to nature, significant events, or personal qualities, each surname tells a story and carries a particular meaning. These nuances are often lost when slave owners translate or adapt names.

Ethnic and regional diversity

The ethnic and regional diversity of the African slaves deported to Réunion is also reflected in their surnames. Indeed, each ethnic group and each region of Africa has its own onomastic traditions and linguistic particularities. Thus, we find a variety of sounds, structures and meanings in the names of slaves, testifying to their diverse origins and their rich and complex cultural heritage.

Reappropriation and resilience

Despite attempts by colonists to Frenchify or modify the names of African slaves for reasons of convenience or domination, some individuals were able to resist and preserve their original names. This reappropriation of their cultural identity and their African roots is an act of resilience and pride. Thus, some family names have survived through generations, reminding descendants of their history and African heritage.
In conclusion, the surnames of African slaves in Reunion carry within them the deep and varied influences of African cultures. They reflect linguistic richness, ethnic diversity, and the resilience of individuals in the face of oppression. These names are much more than words, they are living testimonies of the history and identity of slaves and their descendants.

The history of slaves in Reunion Island is marked by resistance and the reappropriation of their identity through family names. These practices reflect the desire of slaves to detach themselves from oppression and to promote their cultural and family heritage.

Resistance through surnames

Slaves in Réunion used family names as a means of resistance against the dehumanization of slavery. By assigning names with positive, symbolic or protest connotations, they sought to assert their dignity and their belonging to a community. These names were often inspired by their African heritage, symbols of freedom or figures of resistance.

Reappropriation of identity

The reappropriation of surnames by slaves was also an act of rebellion against the imposition of names by colonists. By choosing their own names, slaves asserted their autonomy and individuality. Some have even opted for compound names or unique combinations to mark their uniqueness and personal history.

The inheritance of family names

Today, many Reunion Islanders still bear family names inherited from their slave ancestors, thus perpetuating the memory of the resistance and perseverance of their ancestors. These names have become symbols of pride and resilience, remembering the fight for freedom and dignity.

Contemporary impact

The question of the surnames of Reunionese slaves raises debates on the legacy of slavery and the recognition of this history. It is essential to value and preserve these names as testimonies of a dark era but also of the strength and will of those who fought for their freedom.
In conclusion, the resistance and reappropriation of family names by slaves in Reunion are poignant testimonies of their fight for emancipation and recognition. These practices reflect the unwavering desire of these individuals to preserve their identity and their history despite adversity.

The history of slavery leaves deep traces in society and the identity of the descendants of slaves. Beyond physical chains, it is the family heritage and the transmission of names that mark the identity of these individuals. The surnames of slaves are bearers of a painful history but also bearers of memory and resilience.

Impact of surnames

The surnames of slaves were often inherited from their former owners, reflecting the bond of subordination and subjugation of the time. For descendants, carrying this name perpetuates the memory of slavery and recalls ancestral struggles for freedom. However, these names can also be witnesses of courage and dignity, because despite the weight of history, descendants today claim their identity and heritage.

Reappropriation of family names

Today, many descendants of slaves are undertaking a process of reclaiming their name by seeking to find their roots and reconnecting with a long-denied cultural identity. Some choose to change their name to claim an African, Creole or mixed identity, in order to free themselves from the weight of slavery and assert their uniqueness.

Intergenerational transmission

The impact of family history is transmitted from generation to generation, influencing the construction of the identity of descendants of slaves. Family stories, oral traditions and collective memories are all elements that forge an identity marked by the history of slavery. It is through this transmission that memory is perpetuated and the resilience of descendants in the face of past trauma is strengthened.

Valorization of family heritage

Despite the stigma of slavery, many descendants of slaves proudly carry their last name as a testament to their history and heritage. By recognizing and valuing their roots, they contribute to the reconstruction of a strong and assertive identity, anchored in a difficult past but full of meaning and pride.

In conclusion, the family history of descendants of slaves is an essential element in the construction of their identity. Family names, bearers of memory and resilience, bear witness to the past but also to the ability of these individuals to reclaim their history and make it a source of strength and pride.

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