Democracy Dreams: José Martí and Cuba in the Nineteenth Century


Join us for a conversation with Ada Ferrer, Julius Silver Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at NYU, on the occasion of the publication of her Cuba: An American History. Ferrer will discuss how José Marti and other Cuban revolutionary thinkers envisioned democracy as they struggled against colonialism and for independence, and grappled with race, empire and the legacies of slavery on the island and in the Americas. 

The conversation will be moderated by Jalane Schmidt, Director of the Memory Project and Associate Professor of Religious Studies., author of Cachita’s Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba



Ada Ferrer is Julius Silver Professor of History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. She holds an AB in English from Vassar College, an MA in History from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in History from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). She is a specialist in the history of Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America, as well as on the comparative and transnational histories of slavery, freedom, and revolution.

Ferrer is the author of Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898 (University of North Carolina Press, 1999), which won the Berkshire Book Prize for the best first book written by a woman historian in any field. Her second book, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2014), won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize from Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance; the Haiti Illumination Prize from the Haitian Studies Association, and three prizes from the American Historical Association: the Friedrick Katz Prize for the best book on Latin America, the James Rawley Prize in Atlantic World History, and the Wesley Logan Prize in the history of the African Diaspora.

Ferrer is co-curator (with Édouard Duval Carrié) of Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom, a contemporary art exhibition based in part on Chapter 7 of Freedom’s Mirror, as well as co-curator (with Linda Rodríguez) of the digital humanities website Digital Aponte.

Ferrer is finishing a book tentatively titled Cuba: An American History to be published by Scribner. Based on over thirty years of research in Cuban, Spanish, and US archives, it is a sweeping, character-driven narrative of more than 500 years of Cuban history, reconceived and written for a moment when history itself seems up for grabs.




Jalane Schmidt is Director of the UVA Democracy Initiative’s Memory Project, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies. She teaches courses on race, religion, and social change movements, and is the author of Cachita’s Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race & Revolution in Cuba, a study of Cuban national identity, religion, and public events. A scholar-activist in Charlottesville, Virginia, Schmidt plans and leads public history events focused upon Civil War memory, Jim Crow, and local African American history. She cofounded the 2019-2020 Monumental Justice Virginia campaign which successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to overturn a century-old state law which had prohibited localities from removing Confederate statues.