1750-1850 English

The birth of the Enlightenment in the 18th century transformed the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. While encouraging readers to “have the courage to use their own understanding,” in the words of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, it also laid out the categories of race that are so firmly entrenched in the world today. Black lives in Central Europe experienced these changing intellectual currents, as the life of Angelo Soliman attests. Educated and raised in Habsburg courts, he was a freemason who attended such intellectual debates about the Enlightenment. But after his death, his body was stuffed and placed on display, dehumanizing a figure committed to humanistic endeavors. The period 1750-1850, then, represents transition and contradiction, as White and Black Central Europeans reworked again the categories of race and identity that have come to define our lives.

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