Through one of the many letters to his dear “Pepe,” on January 14, 1842, Saco announces that after considering all the obstacles, he will not further pursue his plans to publish Historia de la esclavitud. But in subsequent correspondence with this beloved friend, including a letter addressed to José Luis Alfonso from Paris in 1844, he explains that because his enemies will not forget his past transgressions, it will not protect him to keep silent, and he will push forth with the work that ultimately becomes his most globally celebrated piece of abolitionist writing. “Doing the homeland good,” he writes in one of these letters, referring to Cuba, “is my main objective. And although there has already been writing on the subject of African enslavement,” he continues, “I think my work will be new.” (53) 

In Memoria sobre la vagancia en la isla de Cuba (1830), Saco pointed to the lack of paid employment as one of the major causes of idleness in the white population in Cuba, and a major roadblock towards the island’s development. And later in his, Mi primera pregunta: la abolición del comercio de esclavos africanos arruinará ó atrasará la agricultura cubana?(1837), which he reprinted in 1844 as, La supresion del traffico de esclavos en la isla de Cuba examinada con relacion a su agricultura y a su seguridad,” (1844) he sought to convince major plantation owners to transition away from a dependency on enslaved labor, claiming that it was not necessary for the survival of the industry.

By 1845, however, Spain and England had reached an agreement to discontinue the trafficking and enslavement of African people. In addition, sugar from radish became popular in Europe, diminishing sugar cane dependency. This new context, as well as his time studying sociology and history in Paris, shifted Saco’s focus from the local urgency to cease slave trafficking in Cuba to a global movement towards the abolition of slavery. Finally, published in 1879, after years of intensive research and study, Historia de la esclavitud denounces the practice of slavery across civilizations throughout human history, describing the suffering endured and the ways it influenced Egyptian, Greek, Roman, medieval Spain, and other societies as well as the creation of the “New World.” 

Through this important work, he further supported his life-long stance against the trafficking of slaves in Cuba, a fight that had not entirely been won, as hacendados looked towards the plantation industry of the US South as a means to maintain their investment in the business  through annexation. Beyond this immediate context, in Biblioteca José Antonio Saco, Historia de la esclavitud, Dr. Eduardo Torres-Cuevas introduces the work as a fundamental one for anyone studying the history of slavery. Saco’s diverse knowledge and extensive use of sources are among the text’s most significant strengths. It is, according to Torres-Cuevas, not only Saco’s most important publication, to which he dedicated 38 years of research, but also,

“One of the most transcendental creations that a cuban historian has contributed to universal culture.” (1)