Dr. Aline Helg

The Struggle of Afro-Cubans for Equality, 19th-20th centuries

October 23, 2015

Professor Helg is an authoritative scholar of worldwide recognition in the field of Latin American History and Politics who has written extensively on issues of slave liberation movements and equal rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Her works focus on questions of social hierarchies based on race and color distinctions, and the participation process of Blacks and Mulattoes in post-independent politics and governance in Cuba, Columbia, Mexico, Argentina, and Haiti.  She also discusses issues of education and economic development in those regions in a comparative perspective. Themes such as identity, politics, social revolutions, nation building and reconstruction, and racial equality and nationalism are at the core of her scholarship.

Professor Aline Helg holds impressive credentials:  She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Geneva; and her Masters, from the University College of London.  She is currently a full professor at the University of Geneva. She taught in the United States at the University of Texas-Austin where she was an assistant professor of History from 1989 to 1995; and an associate professor from 1995 to 2003, when she relocated to Geneva.  She also held academic appointments at the University of Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. In addition, she participated in scholarly exchange programs at the University of Havana and in Argentina; and she was a Fellow at the National Humanities Center at the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

She has received impressive awards for her publications:

  • The American Historical Association’s John E.Fagg Prize for her book, Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835.
  • The Caribbean Studies Association’s Gordon K. Lewis Memorial Award The Association of Caribbean Historians’ Elsa Goveia Book Prize; and the American Historical Association’s Wesley Logan Price for her book, Our Rightful Share. The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912.

Her research has been funded by the following prestigious agencies:

  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies Mellon Foundation Grant
  • Ford Foundation
  • American Philosophical Society
  • Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research
  • National Endowment for the Humanities


Professor Aline Helg from the University of Geneva will give a formal lecture at MU titled:  “The Struggle of Afro-Cubans for Equality, 19th-20th centuries.” Lecture Flyer

  • Date:  Friday, October 23, 2015, 3:30 to 5:30
  • When:  Student center, room 2501, Leadership Auditorium
  • Free and open to the public

Dr. Helg’s talk highlights the historical importance of Afro-Cubans in the building of independent Cuba and as agents of political and social change during the critical process of transition from a Spanish colony based on slavery in the second half of the 19th century to a nation-state in the 1920s and a socialist society in the 1960s. It stresses the many ways in which Cuban Blacks struggled to be recognized as equal to Whites in theory, in politics, and in real life–especially by forming the first Black political party in the Americas in the early 1910s. It also shows how much race still dominated many aspects of political and socioeconomic relationships in Cuba, resulting in Blacks’ continuing marginalization. Finally it demonstrates how the ruling White Cubans used various racist ideologies together with a myth of racial equality to subordinate and repress Afro-Cubans.

  • Professor Aline Helg will also be available to meet with all interested students on Friday, October 23, 2015 from 1:30 to 2:30 in the Arts and Science Building, room 312.  The purpose of this informal meeting with students is to answer any questions they have about the Cuban situation, as it pertains to race relationships.