Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 The concept of culture
 The spread of commercialism, nationalism...
 Beliefs and superstitions
 Appendix A. Relating local foods...
 Appendix B. Governors during company...

Title: European and African Influences on the Culture of the Virgin Islands
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/CA01300715/00001
 Material Information
Title: European and African Influences on the Culture of the Virgin Islands
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: University of the Virgin Islands
Publisher: University of the Virgin Islands
Place of Publication: Virgin Islands
Publication Date: 2002
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA01300715
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
    The concept of culture
        Page 1
        Page 1a
        Page 2
        Page 2a
        Page 3
        Page 3a
        Page 4
        Page 4a
        Page 5
    The spread of commercialism, nationalism and religious zeal to the Caribbean
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 24a
        Page 25
        Page 25a
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 31a
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 36a
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 41a
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
    Beliefs and superstitions
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 55a
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 63a
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
    Appendix A. Relating local foods to the culture: Songs about foods
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
    Appendix B. Governors during company rule
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
Full Text

Europea and Afican

Itnfluenc0 oK t+ke

Culture ofttke Virgint blabd

Prepared & Produced by

of the
Division of-Curriculum & Instruction
Revised Edition


Project Introspection:

Ruth Moolenaar Coordinator

Fiolina Mills Educational Media Coordinator

Grace Ellis Graphic Artist

Helen Smith Clerk Typist II

classification number


Table of Contents


Chapter I -

Chapter II -

Chapter III


Concept of Culture .. ...
The Acculturation Process .
Land of origin .. ....
West Africa The Gold Coast
Exercises . . . . .

. 1
S 2
S 3
S 5

The Spread of Commercialism, Nationalism and
Religious Zeal to the Caribbean . .. .
Portugal . . . . . . .. .
Spain . . . . . .
England . . . . . . ... 1
Holland .. . . .. . .. . . 11
The Brandenburgs (1685-1715) ..... 1:
Denmark . . . ...... .. 1:
Colonization of St. Thomas 1671 .
Acquisition of St. John 1717 . . 1
Acquisition of St. Croix 1733 . 1!
French In The West Indies
St. Christopher (St. Kitts) ... . 11
Guadeloupe . . . . . . .1
Martinique . . . . . . . 21
Exercises . . . . . . . 2:

- Slavery
Early Practices .
The Trading Process
Branding . . .
The Middle Passage .
Division of Labor .
Interlopers . .
Exercises . .
Slave Laws . . .

Chapter IV Religion
The Reformation
Law and Attitudes
Exercises . .

Chapter V Beliefs and Superstitions . . . .
Voodoo Ceremony . . . .
Terms Associated with Voodoo .. ...
Beliefs and Superstitions of Neighbor-
ing Islands . . . . . . .

. . . . . .
. . . . . .
. . . . . .


Chapter VI Language
History . . . . . . .. 55
European Influences . . . .. 56
English, the Official Language . 56
Jamaican Folk Tale . . . ... .58
French Creole . . . . ... 59
Creole Expressions . . . .. .60

Chapter VII Folklore . . . ... . . . .
Regional Authors . . .

. . 61
. . 62

Chapter VIII Dance
African Origin . .
The Calypso . . .
The Caruso ..
Influences that have Shaped

Chapter IX -

Appendix A

Appendix B

the Folk Music.

Food . . . .
A Century After . . .
Exercises . . . . .

Relating Local Foods to the Culture . . 74
Songs About Food .. . . . . . 74
Governors During Company Rule ...... 77

Bibliography . . . . . . . 78


Once again a new idea is herein presented where, through
a bi-lateral approach to the study of the history of the
islands, efforts will be made to show African and European
influences on the economics, philosophy, and total way of life
of the Virgin Islander. Through this study the young Virgin
Islander also becomes aware of his common bonds with children
of his entire geographic area i.e., ancestry, struggle for
freedom, economic stability.

Prior to this study, resource material on this topic was
rather scanty. The paucity of this data posed frustrating
problems to teachers, especially those of the social sciences
who searched fruitlessly for such data to instruct the young
Virgin Islander in the skills and understandings he needs in
order to relate constructively to his geographic area through
an adequate understanding of his history.

The study is divided into three major divisions beginning
with a bi-lateral study showing African and European influences
on the history of the islands. Because geographic factors aided
in shaping the history of the area, the second section (under
separate cover) deals with the geography of the West Indies
with focus on the U. S. Vrigin Islands. The third and final
section is a series of maps (under separate cover) to facilitate
this study.

This second printing offers as a new feature, related
activities or exercises intended as tools to stimulate the upper
elementary or junior high school student to think about or to
react to the material presented. It is hoped that the teacher
will expand on these suggestions with effective techniques and
share them with fellow workers and with this office.

Finally, this edition also includes a bibliography which
offers sources for additional study on the topics presented.


To the young Virgin Islander, the Seventies can be iden-
tified as the "age of protest". As he gazes into the future he
sees an age of advanced technology, an age of competition for
jobs; he may also see an influx of newcomers who monopolize and
control industries, trade and the economy of his island. In deep
thought he ponders: "Where am I heading? What is it in my past
that accounts for my anxieties?"

The following account of his origin and the events that
molded his destiny may aid him in coping with the future, for, if
he accepts himself, he will either challenge or understand the
performance of his leaders. Then with periscopic vision he will
strive to improve local conditions and to contribute to the
future development of his island.

Questions to think about:

Do you think your education thus far is preparing you for the

Are you learning the skills that are needed for new machinery?

What new subjects do you think should be included in your cur-

When you speak with someone your age from another country, do you
feel inferior? superior? on equal terms?


The Concept of Culture

The concept of culture which is primarily the work of the
sociologist and the anthropologist has been defined in so many
ways. Anthropologists speak of the whole way of life of a
people the body of techniques, behaviors and generation to
another, and sociologists refer to culture as all the achieve-
ments of a group. In these respects then we can compare culture
to a steady stream or flow of ideas being passed on from gener-
ation to generation.

Most West Indians are proud of their culture, Zor unique as
it is, our culture sets us apart and distinct from members of
our race. In crowds or groups away from home, a West Indian can
easily identify another from his region.

Even though feelings of insularity do exist among groups,
there are common bonds through which empathy can be established.
Calypsonians sing of male superiority in contrast to their
American counterpart. West Indian women possess the natural
grace and body movements which their mainland counterparts pay
large sums of money to acquire. In addition, creole dialects,
culture aspects as folktales are links that in some fashion bind
West Indians as a group.

Is .there an identifiable Virgin Islands culture? So far as
evidence indicates, there is none, for only recently a few books
have been in print and a few artists have attempted to illustrate
our way of life. There is, nevertheless, common heritage or
regional homogeneity. Since the Virgin Islands share so much in
common with the rest of the West Indies, it can be further argued
that there is no identifiable, specific culture that can be called
Virgin Islands but regional culture traits are keenly discernible.

The culture of the West Indies is a mixture of African, Asian,
European, and American patterns. One advantage of this fusion is
that the West Indian can adjust quite easily to his surroundings,
yet, remain unique he employs his folktale hero's, Bru Anansi's,
witty personality (one eye on his new culture, the other eye
on his old). Very few places in the world offer a potpourri of
races, culture, and politics as the islands of the West Indies.
Blessed with strategic positions, they have always attracted
European nations seeking wealth and/or power. The Portuguese,
Spanish, French, Dutch, English and Danish have at some time or
the other colonized or exploited these islands or their people
and left their imprints. Indications of these influences can be
observed collectively as in island groups or on individual islands
wherein strong national loyalties and roots are revealed.

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The greatest influence on West Indians, however, has been
made by their ancestors, the Africans. This is evidenced by
the fact that, with the exception of a few countries, Negroes
comprise the largest racial group.

The Acculturation Process

Among the major types of acculturation listed in several
reliable sources, the one that suits our study best appears u:der
the heading "assimilation", a process by which one culture is
replaced. Many cases of assimilation are recorded in the histories
of various countries chief among them is the case of Negroes
carried from Africa to other parts of the world. Efforts will be
made to show how an African culture was superimposed by European
cultures and produced a West Indian culture.

Through the complicated method of sales, especially in the
New World, the tribal customs, family units, languages, religious
beliefs and economic status of the slaves were lost. However,
having enough wits they perceived ways of incorporating fragments
of their former culture into their newly acquired way of life.
This was especially true of their religion. As will be explained
in a later section, they accepted Roman Catholicism readily be-
cause they observed ways by which they could incorporate their
ceremonies (i.e. voodoo) into this new religion.

This study, therefore, shows how geography blended with his-
tory to produce what is known today as the Virgin Islander or in
broader terms, the West Indian, and begins with a look at the
land of their origin.

Land of Origin

West Africa is that part of Africa which is bounded by the
Atlantic Ocean on the west and south, by the Sahara Desert on
the north, and on the east by a line corresponding approximately
to the present eastern boundary of Nigeria. The climate is
composed of two distinct characteristics the desert receives
little rainfall and there is no permanent vegetation. At the
other extreme, the southernmost part receives large amounts of
rainfall and much of the coast is covered with thick forests
which can be farmed to secure employment.

The area is populated by men and women who are essentially
Negroes. West Africa is the land of Negroes. Because the
Negroes of West Africa did not keep written records, history

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depends on verbal reports about their traditions. It appears
that they lived in small descent groups which were led original-
ly by the oldest male member and eventually chieftaincy would be
held by a suitable male member. Their worship included the be-
lief in a supreme God who was the creator of the universe. Of
course there were lesser gods, who because they were closer to
man than to the Creator were often thought to be more efficacious.

The members of the group usually lived in a number of
villages scattered around the larger village where the chief
lived. The houses were built of sun-baked mud and usually roofed
with thatch. Gold and iron were mined and worked, and cloth was
made from the bark of trees. Gradually descent groups merged and
large communities came into being with a chief who was recognized
by larger groups of people.

Until the fifteenth century West Africa had been connected
to and influenced only indirectly by the outside world through
its relation with North Africa. Between 1434 and 1482 seamen
from nations of Western Europe, mainly Portugal and Castille,
began to explore West Africa. This exploration was quickly
followed by the establishment of European trading stations and,
by the sixteenth century, West Africa was deeply involved in
European trade and also with the newly discovered continent of
America.1 It was from West Africa that millions of her native-
born people were transported to become human beasts of burden.

West Africa The Gold Coast

Known since 1957 as Ghana but earlier as the Gold Coast,
this strip of land in West Africa gave to the West Indies and
America millions of people who were later renamed slaves.

The strip was also the scene of political competition among
several European countries. As early as 1471 the Portuguese
controlled the area. In their explorations they found that be-
tween the mouths of the rivers Ankobra and Volta lay a country in
which gold and gold dust were evident in such abundance that they
gave it the name of Mina, "the mine" or as we now say, the Gold
Coast. In 1482, Portugal successfully built its fort called Sao
Jorge da Mina. Besides the Portuguese other European nations
jostled for control of the area.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century there were as
many as thirty strong, well-garrisoned European forts, together
with a number of smaller trading posts or lodges. Both the
Dutch West Indies Company and the English Royal African Company
had their headquarters there; the Dutch at Elmina Castle which

lJ. D. Fage, An Introduction to the History of West.Africa, (London:
Cambridge University Press, 1962), pp. 1-8.


Ir 7

Fr,'edenshborg. eight teenthti'enlir sketch.

Reproduced from G. Norregade's DANISH SETTLEMENTS IN WEST AFRICA;
Courtesy of the St. Thomas Public Library.

they had taken from the Portuguese in 1637 and the English, only
some ten miles away at Cape Coast Castle, which they had captured
from the Dutch in 1554. The Dutch had ten other principal forts
on the Gold Coast, two of which, Asam and Shama, had originally
been Portuguese. The English had nine more which they had
erected themselves around 1660 and 1690. The Danes, who had ex-
pelled the Swedes from the Gold Coast in 1657, concentrated their
activities to the east of Accra while the Brandenburgs maintained
two forts in the West between 1685 and 1709.

The largest number of European forts, built on the Gold Coast
during the century after 1640, was intended to serve as bases for
the slave trade. The Dutch and English companies competed strong-
ly to secure the largest share of the trade of the Gold Coast. By
1785, when the Gold Coast was exporting about 10,000 slaves a year,
more than half the trade was in English hands while the Dutch
share was less than half.2

All the plantations of the West Indies depended heavily on
West Africa for slave labor as their demands for slaves increased.
The demand for slaves was continuous because the useful life of a
slave was at most thirty years and the slave population of the
plantations did not maintain its numbers by natural increase.
The state of servitude did not encourage men to raise families
and to marry and, in any case, women outnumbered men by about two
to one. Along with the demand for slaves on the plantation came
also Europe's demand for sugar, tobacco, indigo, and other crops.
Because of these demands the trade became rather competitive and
merchants from other countries became engaged in the business.
These included men from Sweden, Denmark, and Brandenburg. Dis-
advantaged by a late start, they realized that to deal effectively
in the trade and to compete with the powerful Dutch, they well
'needed to form national companies variously called West African
companies or West Indian companies.

A final note on European colonization of the Gold Coast may
very well center on a comparison between the influences of the
two powers enjoying longest control of West Africa Portugal and

The Portuguese held the area from 1471 until 1637 when they
lost control to the Dutch. Denmark's supremacy lasted from 1658
to 1850, the longest in the history of the strip. Yet, looking
back at existing evidences, one would assume that the Portuguese
made lasting impressions not only on the history but on the
people as well. The Portuguese have left as reminders their
language, numerous buildings, monuments and place names. Denmark
left nothing but names of streets and family names.

2Ibid., p. 70.

Christiauisbrrg, eighteenthi-centuIt sketci*.

Reproduced from G. Norregade's DANISH SETTLEMENTS IN WEST AFRICA;
Courtesy of the St. Thomas Public Library.

This same characteristic is evidenced in the Danish West
Indies, an area controlled by Denmark for over three hundred
years. The only evidences of Danish occupation in the now U.S.
Virgin Islands are street addresses)and some architecture.

The Gold Coast proved to be a "magic pot" for these early
adventurers. It produced slaves as rapidly as they needed
them. Ships had only to dispatch their human cargo from this
region to the Caribbean, pick up rum, tobacco, and spice for
Liverpool or Copenhagen and return to the Gold Coast to find
another shipment awaiting them. With such supplies available,
other countries watched and followed close on each other's
heels in a race to colonize the Caribbean and vie with each
other for control. Chapter II deals more with this movement.


I agree (do not agree) with the statement:
"There is no Virgin Islands culture".


Write a report on one of these topics:

I am an American first and a Virgin Islander second.

I am a Virgin Islander first and an American second.

The greater influence on life and culture of West Indians was
made by Africans.


culture tribe
acculturation exploitation
insularity generation

Use these six words to play the game "free association", a
technique used to produce or diagnose feelings. A leader
writes one of the words on the board and invites members of the
class to give a new word which comes to mind in reaction to the
initial word. The reactions are also listed. In conclusion
these terms form the basis of an under-lying attitude towards
the topic previously discussed or presented.


The Spread of Commercialism, Nationalism

and Religious Zeal to the Caribbean

Spreading with gigantic strides throughout Europe and the
New World during the early fifteenth century were three great
movements commercialism, nationalism, and religious zeal.
Several countries rivaled each other for supremacy of the sea
or for political power or merely for survival. Included among
these countries were Portugal, Spain, England, Holland,
Brandenburg (a small German state), Denmark and France.


Along with the Spaniards, the Portuguese, in the fifteenth
century, monopolized the sea trade. The Portuguese, great navi-
gators as they were, learned from the Italians the art of accu-
rate navigation and of mapping the coastlines they discovered.
Portugal, small as she was (65,414 square miles, a little larger
than the state of Maine), had two major purposes in undertaking
the exploration of West Africa. According to Fage, they were:
to direct the trade first of West Africa and then of the Indian
Ocean into channels which would not be under the control of the
Muslims, but which would bring it directly to Europe to the
profit of Portugal, and to find or convert and create Christian
allies in Africa to join with Europeans in a joint onslaught
against Islam.

Under the leadership of Prince Henry the Navigator, who
devoted his time, wealth and his influence to explorations, the
Portuguese ventured far into the Atlantic. As Grand Master of
the Order of Christ, Prince Henry had at his disposal the great
wealth of that Order taken over from the Knights Templar from
which he defrayed the expenses of his exploration. He made over
to the Order the revenues he derived from the Azores and Madeira.
He sent out ships to explore the coast of West Africa of which
little was known beyond Cape Iven, and he encouraged his sailors
to face the imagined terrors of tropical seas, where, apart from
the monsters reputed to exist, it was believed that the sea was
so hot that human beings must perish if they ventured there in

However, the Portuguese did not reach the Gold Coast until
around 1470 and it was in 1471 that the first Negro slaves were
brought to Portugal. Along with this trade and the traffic in
gold, pepper and ivory, Portugal enjoyed an envious reputation.

When, therefore, Brazil was discovered in 1500 by Pedro Alvarez
Cabral, Portugal had secured a stronghold in the Caribbean in
which she could continue her existing slave trade. In order to avoid
competition, the Portuguese further secured papal sanction
through the Bulls Romantics Pontifex, on the 8th of January, 1455.
Briefly, this bull was an effective means of ensuring that
Portugal should reap where she had sown and should maintain the
territory she had discovered and conquered by arduous efforts.3

Their expansion into Africa was initiated by the first
venture in 1418 to the island of Porto Santo. This was followed
by a call at the Canaries in 1427 and in 1431 to the Azores. In
1444, Cape Verde was explored and Sierra Leone in 1460.

In 1480, Bartholomew Diaz de Novaes rounded the Cape of Good
Hope and when the news of Columbus's discovery in 1492 reached
them, King John II ordered the preparation of an expedition to
India by way of Cape of Good Hope. Many other significant expe-
ditions followed, but Portugal's discovery of Brazil is all that
is of significance at this time. Portuguese treatment of slaves
and their colonists is explained in detail under another topic.

The Portuguese found that the slave trade was a lucrative one
and soon established a fort at Elmina. Conversely, the Africans
who traded slaves with the Portuguese for cloth, ammunition, and
other commodities, left their tribes to settle in new towns that
began to grow up beneath the walls of the fort. In turn, their
men chose wives from among them and new communities sprang up.

By the end of this time, the sixteenth century, the Portu-
guese were not the only Europeans anxious to explore West Africa.
Soon to follow were the Spaniards, the English, Dutch, Danish and
many other smaller countries.

Simultaneously, Spain, the "Queen of the Sea", through efforts
of Queen Isabella, furnished ships for Christopher Columbus who
claimed to have discovered America in 1492 and the West Indian
archipelago in 1493. Soon she had to her credit such lands as
Mexico, Central America, Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic
and Puerto Rico.

However, prior to these discoveries, Spain (Castile) and
Portugal were at war (1475 and 1479). Outstanding differences
between the two countries were officially settled in 1479 by the
Treaty of Alcacouas, by which, in return for Portugal's renun-
ciation of claims to Castile and the Canaries, the Castilian
authorities agreed not to dispute Portuguese possessions in West

Alan Burns, History of the British West Indies (london: George
Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954), pp. 58-60.

Possessing the mainland of South America, the southern tip
of the United States, and Caribbean lands, Spain was becoming an
extremely rich nation. Since there was no gold as expected by
Columbus on the islands he discovered, the Spaniards now resort-
ed to a second choice the sugar industry. But where was the
labor? Realizing the inability of the whites to cope with tropical
heat and the decimation of the native population of the islands
by ill treatment or disease, the Spaniards now turned to West
Africa for Negroes to till the soil and add to their high rising
revenues. Sir Alan Burns reports that as early as 1502 a few
Negroes had been taken to Hispaniola from Spain but in 1503
Ovando, then Governor of Hispaniola, issued an order that no
more Negro slaves were to be sent to the island as they ran away
and joined the Indians and encouraged them to resist the Spaniards.

The same reference accounts that in 1510 the King of Spain
gave authority for Negroes to be taken to Hispaniola to work in
the mines and by 1513 the numbers had increased sufficiently to
fix an import tax levied on all slaves imported into the island.

The beginning of the slave trade is also recorded by Sir Alan
Burns. He informs us that the license to supply African slaves,
tax free, was granted by the King as a favor to one of his
courtiers, Laurent de Gouvenot. When de Gouvenot's license
expired in 1538, the King sold to two German merchants the right
to supply slaves to West Indian colonies and this was the beginning
of the monopoly in the slave trade in the Spanish colonies.4

From then on the slave trade grew and along with the numbers
came problems such as illicit traders, high prices, revolts. These
topics are discussed in a subsequent chapter. The early invasions
of the Moors who had captured Spain and the Mediterranean area for
a while prompted both the Portuguese and Spaniards not only to
reclaim their properties but to beat the Moors on their own soil.
Rulers of Spain and Portugal waged warfare, advanced explorations
to unexplored lands. The hard battles of reconquest or subduing
the Moors lasted for centuries.

In 1492, Columbus discovered San Salvador, an island in the
Watling group off the coast of Cuba, then he sailed to Santo
Domingo and established a colony there, the first in the Western
Hemisphere of which the West Indies is a part. In 1493, his second
voyage, he discovered more islands by sailing farther south:
Dominica, Marie Galante, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St. Christopher,

Ibid., p. 123.

Nevis, Antigua, St. Croix, the Saints, Las Islas Virgenes. In
Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and San German, Spain established herself
in the New World as an overseas extension giving them her form of
government, her religion, her language, her culture and establish-
ing universities connected with the churches. This relationship
as we shall discover later led to sharp distinctions between her
slaves and those of other European powers.

Other Spanish explorers were Diego Valasquez who conquered
Venezuela in 1511, Cortes who conquered Mexico between 1517 and
1524 and Balboa who reached the Pacific in 1513. Consequently
Queen Isabella found herself proprietress of half the world.

Ponce de Leon was the first governor of Puerto Rico (1508);
his bones as well as those of his family lie buried in Puerto
Rico. It was from Puerto Rico that Ponce de Leon went across the
Caribbean to Florida in search of the "Fountain of Youth". He
lived in what is now Caparra; then after his death (1521) the
family moved to La Casa Blanca, built in 1525. His remains were
brought from Cuba by a grandson of the same name to Puerto Rico
and laid to rest in 1559 first in San Jose Church and later in
San Juan Bautista Cathedral in San Juan on August 12, 1908.

The fortification of Puerto Rico was spearheaded by the
Spaniards. La Fortaleza was finished in 1540 and El Morro
Castle was built during 1539 and 1591. On November 22, 1595,
Drake attacked San Juan and was beaten off (he died that year in
the Caribbean).

On September 25, 1652, the Dutch under Hendricks attacked and
leveled San Juan, but after weeks of fighting they were driven off.
In 1630, Governor Soto Mayore started the wall surrounding San
Juan city and that work took 150 years to complete. Between 1630
and 1771, San Cristobal was built. Then came attacks by the
British. The 1790 British attack on San Juan was repulsed.

On October 18, 1898, after the famous battle of San Juan Hill,
Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Cuba became United States pro-
tectorates. Before leaving the Spaniards, one very important note
should be emphasized. Spain as a nation was very passive in the
slave trade; therefore, slavery as a national movement did not
receive her endorsement. She relished her position as Queen of
the Seas.

Finally, with no expected dangers from the Muslims, she began
to concentrate on exploration of the African coastline from Cape

Bojador to the north of the Congo and beyond. By the beginning of
the sixteenth century direct commercial relations between West
Africa and Europe, and West Africa and the newly discovered
American continent were established.


From discovery until the second half of the sixteenth century,
Spain had the monopoly on territories in the West Indies. Then,
by constant wars or raids, her powers weakened and other nations,
England and France, loomed as threats to her control. Through the
voyages of John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh,
England ventured into the Caribbean waters. Hawkins, through a
series of raids, subdued the Spaniards, Drake circumnavigated the
world and Raleigh subdued the Spaniards. Enjoying the power of
these discoveries, England finally embarked on colonizing this
area. In 1595, Sir Robert Dudley laid claim to Trinidad. Sir
Anthony Shirley arrived in Dominica in 1596 and claimed Jamaica
from the Spaniards in 1597. St. Kitts was settled by Thomas
Warner and by the French in 1624. Later (1625), he colonized Nevis,
Montserrat and Barbados.


Encouraged by the conquests of the Portuguese and Spanish, the
Dutch concentrated on entering the Atlantic trade. By 1610, the
Portuguese naval power in the Indian Ocean had been destroyed and
the Dutch had secured complete mastery of the trade. By 1621 the
Dutch West Indies Company was formed. This company remained the
strongest European power on the coast of Guinea. It was the most
active and best organized agent in the Atlantic slave trade.
Gradually the Dutch claimed those West Indian islands that were
either unoccupied or thinly populated by the Spaniards. They
taught the islanders how to grow sugar for export.

By 1623, the Dutch are said to have had about 800 ships regular-
ly in the West Indies, some of them ships of war engaged in harry-
ing Spanish settlements and shipping, but the majority was engaged
in the slave trade and piracy on a small scale. In 1628, a Dutch
fleet is reported to have dealt a most devastating blow to the
Spanish treasure fleet when it captured two richly loaded galleons
bound from Honduras to Havana. The total loss of this fleet is
estimated at four million ducats; this was the greatest defeat
suffered by the Spaniards and brought their prestige in the
Caribbean to its lowest level.

Through raids and other forms of conquest the Dutch finally
colonized Curacao, St. Eustatius, Aruba and Bonaire. Saba was
settled in 1640. St. Martin was first settled by the Dutch in

1638 but a Spanish raid destroyed the colony and in 1648 it was
divided between the French and Dutch. This division still exists.

Thus with possessions as markets for the slave trade, the
Dutch joined the ruling countries in bringing black gold from
Africa. Curacao and other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean be-
came bases for a flourishing Dutch trade with the European colo-
nists in the West Indies.

The Brandenburgs (1685-1715)

The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was the last of the great
religious wars of Europe. The conflict was really a series of
wars which began as a civil war between the Protestants and the
Roman Catholics in the German states. Before the war was over,
most of the nations of Europe had become involved and there ensued
a struggle for territory and power. As a result of this war,
Germany was in a pitiful condition. More than half the people
were killed; villages, cities and farms were destroyed. Industries
suffered and thousands left home for An.erica to build new homes.

In due time, Brandenburg, a small German state that was re-
covering from the horrors of this war, began to scrutinize Euro-
pean colonization. It attempted to form a company in East India
land but without success. One Benjamin Raule, director-in-chief
for naval affairs, was instructed to secure a fort on the Guinea
coast. A man of restless activity and bold imagination, he was
brimful of schemes for promoting the Brandenburg-Prussian commerce
and was successful in achieving this. Having acquired a fort just
east of Elmina, the Brandenburgs now turned their attention to a
port where they could dispose of the human part of their Guinea
cargo. Here they.met with strong opposition, violence and threats
from the Dutch West India Company since Raule's idea was to colonize
St. Thomas as evidenced by this letter he wrote to the Elector on
October 26, 1685:

Everyone knows that the slave trade is the source
of the wealth which the Spaniards bring out of the
West Indies and whoever knows how to furnish them
slaves, will share their wealth. Who can say by
how many millionsof hard cash the Dutch West India
Company has enriched itself in this slave trade.5

Still possessed with this obsession to buy or lease St. Thomas,
Raule traveled to Copenhagen. Through trickery and scheming, a
loosely drawn provision went into effect.

5Waldemar Westergaard, The Danish West Indies Under Company Rule
(New York: The MacMillan Co., 1917), pp. 71-88.

The Brandenburgs did not waste time. Their first director was one
Laporte who was well suited for the job. Under the pretext of wait-
ing for instructions from home before taking up plantations they
kept the Danish officials in suspense until their impatience was
turned into a suspicion that the Brandenburgs were looking for a
chance to seize the entire island.

The vigor with which the Brandenburg authorities pushed their
business in procuring slaves and disposing of them on St. Thomas
and surrounding islands aroused fear in the Danes. Two early
Brandenburg slave ships which arrived in St. Thomas brought to the
island more than two thousand one hundred pieces of human freight.


Denmakr's occupation of African territories is of greatest
significance to Virgin Islands history since it shows the emergence
of the Danish West Indian Company out of the former East Asiatic
and the Gluckstadt (African) companies. The Danish West Indian
Company was authorized to colonize St. Thomas. Thus fortified,
Denmark was able to introduce slavery across the Atlantic to the
Danish West Indies.

An historic review of events preceding the slave trade will
explain Denmark's interest and participation in this trade as well
as her subsequent expansion on both sides of the Atlantic and her
political involvement therein.

A relatively small country, Denmark had quite an historic past.
She was the first nation to attempt to control the Baltic Sea,
which turned out to be the scene of many battles. In 1397, Queen
Margaret united Denmark, Norway and Sweden. This union was not
easy to manage, and there were many disputes. After a long series
of wars the Danes tried to force the Swedes back into the union
under the Danish King. For another century, Denmark fought Sweden
to regain the lost provinces. It was also during this period that
Denmark acquired her tropical colonies.

Meanwhile the feeling of nationality was gradually developing
in Europe. During the reign of Christian IV, the humanistic move-
ment gained considerable headway. When the University of Copenhagen
(founded in 1479) was reorganizing in accordance with new ideas,
the Lutheran reformation especially was a symbol. But sixteenth
century Denmark was in an economic decline. Her resources were
scant, her trade unsuccessful. King Christian IV then developed
keen interest in sending exploration groups to regain lost colonies
such as Greenland.

While Denmark fought for her existence asa nation, Danish and
Norwegian merchants were beginning to think seriously of securing
a chartered company to trade with America (i.e. the West Indies).

The first expedition to the West Indies was captained by Eric
Nielsen Schmidt who was selected for his previous knowledge of West
Indian waters and conditions. He is referred to in a contract
dated June 8, 1665. It is known that he died in St. Thomas in 1666.
The first Danish West India Company received its charter which
conferred very large powers on the company. The Danish West India
Company was authorized by Christian V to take possession and to
occupy the island of St. Thomas, also other islands near the mainland
of America that were uninhabited or suitable for plantations. The
company was also authorized to build forts in its defense in case of
attack. The Danish West India Company, under its charter, remained
in effect (with changes) for eighty-four years.

Colonization of St. Thomas 1671

Of significance to us is the fact that it was under this charter
that the settlement of St. Thomas was begun in 1671. George Iversen
was elected first governor of the new colony. Two ships were dis-
patched to St. Thomas: the "Gilded Crown" set sail on August 30,
1671. "The Fero" met with tragedy and unforeseen difficulties.
Springing a leak, it was delayed in Bergen for several months. After
leaving Bergen eighty-six persons of both sexes died on the journey.
"The Fero" arrived in St. Thomas on May 25, 1672, three months late.
Its arrival is vividly described by Dr. Westergaard:

"The Ship with a cargo valued at $18,172, arrived in
St. Thomas harbor on May 25, 1672 just three months
after its departure from Bergen. The pioneer band
went ashore on the following morning, raised the
Danish flag and took formal possession. They found
an island that seemed to them, as the Governor ex-
pressed it, well suited and large enough for their
purposes. No one was there to dispute ownership, the
English who had occupied having left six or seven weeks
earlier after burning off the roof of the store house.
The land had to be cleared of bush and forest before
it could be planted".6

Having thus established her powers in the West Indies, Denmark
concerned herself with the task of recruiting labor. Indians,
white indentured servants, white convicts all succumbed to the
tropical heat. The answer seemed to be African slaves. To do this,
however, a charter was necessary and Christian V passed an edict
which merged the African Company of Gluckstadt into the West India

6Ibid., p. 37.

Company and allowed it to trade on the Guinea coast.

Acquisition of St. John 1717

St. John had been claimed by the Danes as early as the first
administration of Adolph Esmit. In a letter written early in
1684, mention is made of an attempt through two moneyed merchants
from Barbados to set up "work" (forts) on St. John; but the
English governor, Stapleton, sent two sloops over to the island
thus driving away forty men sent over by Barbados merchants. On his
return to St. Thomas in 1688, Esmit was instructed to attempt the
settlement of St. John by placing from four to six men and to
encourage them to begin planting, but it was not until 1717 that the
project was actually carried out. One year earlier Governor Eric
Bredal of St. Thomas wrote the directors that many of the inhabitants
of St. Thomas were willing to settle on St. John, but that they were
held back solely by fear of the English who were unwilling to let
any nation go there and cut down the timber. On the twenty-fifth of
the following March, the Governor had a vessel loaded with guns,
ammunition and provisions from a recent visiting ship, to take him
to St. John with twenty planters, sixteen Negroes and five soldiers.
In his report he wrote:

"I have planted there the flag of our most gracious king
and fired a salute, and then we feasted and drank to the
health, first of our sovereign and then of the company.
Later I selected a place on which to build a fort, a
convenient location which commands the inlet of the
harbor as well as the harbor itself, and a level space
beneath it on which a village can stand. The harbor
is quite secure and when a person is within it he sees
land all about him."

The fort was then called Fort Frederiksvaern. They set about
to develop the island. Estates were laid out and soon there were
almost a thousand Dutch settlers. In spite of the heat and fever
the island developed; coffee, tobacco, indigo and sugar reaped high
dividends. After a series of depressing episodes such as drought,
a plague, a severe hurricane and disappointed Negroes, a severe
revolt occurred on St. John which ended in loss of property and

Westergaard, Ibid., pp. 127-130.

Acquisition of St. Croix 1733

St. Croix had a rich and colorful history. The only one of
the three islands with two towns was occupied by both Dutch and
English as early as 1652. They were later joined by some French
refugees from the island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts). A civil
war between factions ensued which resulted'in the expulsion of the
Dutch and French before 1652. In August of that year, a Spanish
expedition from Puerto Rico drove out the English. The Spaniards
had hardly settled there when De Poincy, the general of all French
islands in America, bought St. Croix and turned it over to the
Knights of Malta for colonization (1651-1654).

During the periods of 1657-1665 the island was further develop-
ed by the French; then in 1665 it was bought by the French West
India Company. In 1674, the King of France took possession of the
island. In 1733, after the slave rebellion on St. John, several
planters from that island got disgusted and started looking else-
where for possible settlements. The Danish West India and Guinea
Company then bought St. Croix from the French Crown and dispatched
a band of men to make the island ready for occupancy.

They arrived on January eighth in the harbor of Basin. After
saluting the Danish flag which was planted on a point of land near
the fort, they read the King's commission to the new governor, Moth,
and fired a salute.

Optimistic about their new acquisition, the Danes set about
making the island provide some revenue for their declining treasury.
They sent over their best engineers including Moth who was later to
be the island's first governor. They chopped trees, built a fort
on the north side and named it Christians Waern. A sermon was
preached and full authority was officially conferred on Governor
Moth. He and his soldiers marched to the fort under arms and fired
a cannon as the Danish flag waved overhead. He then extinguished
the symbolically lighted candle and relit it in the name of the
Danish Crown. Plants and herbs were pulled out of the ground, water
was tasted, stones were thrown and all acts were performed to
indicate the free, full, perpetual possession of the island which
had been taken in the name of the Danish king. The Danes now turned
to agriculture by attempting at tobacco and cotton. Inadequate
labor supply caused the crops to decline and the slave trade was the
next best answer for the Danes.U

8Ibid., p. 208.

French in the west Indies9
St. Christopher (St. Kitts)

Struggle for supremacy in the West Indies was mainly between
the English and the French. Spain is said to have been a passive
on-looker, while the Dutch concentrated on their possessions.
Almost all islands were at one time or the other controlled by
England and/or France. At some time there was dual control as
in the case of St. Christopher and St. Croix.

In 1620, Thomas Warner (English) joined an expedition under
captain Roger North which was sent out by a small group of wealthy
men to found a settlement on Guiana. On reaching his destination,
North landed some of his passengers among whom were Thomas Warner
and Captain Thomas Painton. Designing a scheme of their own,
Warner and Painton set sail from Guiana in 1622 for the island of
St. Christopher. They concentrated on making the place livable and
productive. Houses were built and crops planted. By so doing, he
granted to St. Christopher the prestige of being England's first
colony in the West Indies and earning the title of the "Mother
Colony". Along with another partner, John Jeafferson, Warner was
granted governing powers over the colony. With this leadership
the colony flourished.

At this time other daring young men had thoughts of the West
Indies. Two such men were D'Esnambuck and Du Roisey. These two
men undergoing recovery from a sea battle with the Spanish were
seeking shelter to repair their ships and regain their confidence.
Quite by chance they sailed into the waters of St. Christopher.
They landed and after looking over the land, decided to stay. They
joined forces with the English in efforts to fight the raiding

Content with their settlement D'Esnambuc and Du Roissey de-
cided to return to Paris with great plans. They persuaded Cardinal
Richelieu the newly self-appointed Grand Master of Navigation and
Commerce, to close a deal with them. This deal involved the for-
mation of a corporation known as the Company of St. Christopher in
which Richelieu was the largest shareholder. Its primary purpose
was to colonize the islands of St. Christopher, Barbuda and "other
islands at the entrance to Peru between the eleventh and eighteenth
parallels not possessed by any Christian prince".9

A second purpose was to instruct the natives in the Roman
Catholic faith and to cultivate the resources of the land for a
period of twenty years. To avoid trouble due to the dual owner-
ship, a treaty of partition was drawn up on May 13, 1627 whereby
the English reserved the middle section and the French the two

9Nellie M. Crouse, French Pioneers in the West Indies (New York:
Columbia University, 1940), pp. 10-57.

D'Esnambuc took the northern section or Capesterre portion.

The colonists lived not in total harmony, but at least with-
out open warfare. The French government after nine years, re-
placed the company of St. Christopher with a new company which
was called the Isles of America. Under the new company, new
possessions were added to the French Crown. These new colonies
included Martinique, St. Lucia, Grenada and Guadeloupe. Basseterre
became the capital of the French West Indies.


The slave trade began on St. Christopher by coincidence. A
privateersman named Pitrecotte arrived on the island with a ship-
load of Negroes captured from a Spanish trader. The slaves were
sold at handsome prices; but best of all, these slaves were
welcomed in the French sector since there was a shortage of popu-
lation on this side of St. Christopher. The English, he noted,
imported thousands of their fellowmen as indentured servants
prior to blacks.

Of course, the slave system almost came to an early end in the
French islands because of an early edict of the King of France
which claimed that "all those who reached the domains of the King
of France became free". However, those nearest to the king, Louis
XIII, besought him to abrogate this law in favor of the West Indies,
claiming that this was the only way Christianity would be brought
to these "savages". With approval granted, the French concentrated
on buying slaves from English, Dutch and Danish interlopers. The
French Guinea Company obtained slaves from the coast of Benin
where the men were supposedly suited for labor in the fields. Upon
arriving on the islands the slave trader put his slaves for sale.
They were then taken to the plantations and distributed among old
workers who taught them the routines and some mode of communication.
Very early on the islands the slaves were prepared for baptism for
they were considered inferior by their fellow blacks unless they
were baptized. With prosperity now a reality, the French considered
further exploration of new islands.

Receiving a patent from Cardinal Richelieu, two adventurers,
Monsieur de L'Olive and Duplessis, were assigned to colonize
Guadeloupe and to strengthen the Catholic faith in the island by
importing men, women and children into the colony. Three months
after Richelieu had signed the charter, de L'Olive and Duplessis
set out with their followers. In passing Martinique, they were
attracted by its beauty and anchored near Riviere du Carbet. Here
they performed the ceremony of annexation of the island to the
crown of France. They planted a rudely-fashioned cross near the
shore, and to it was fastened the coat of arms of His Majesty.
They then set sail, passed by Dominica and about three days later
anchored on Guadeloupe. The process of colonization was long and
slow. They experienced ill health, lack of food and the masters
treated their servants with great hostility. Indian raids on the
colony added to their distress.

D'Esnambuc in the meantime, distressed over the fact that
L'Olive had captured Guadeloupe which had been his secret plan to
colonize, traveled to Martinique and took possession of that island,

not knowing the others had already done so. D'Esnambuc did not
remain long in Martinique; as he passed by Dominica he realized
this was an opportunity to take possession of another large
island for France. He landed at some unknown spot.

He continued on to Guadeloupe which had been colonized in
1635 by Monsieur de L'Olive and Duplessis. Duplessis died soon
afterwards and de L'Olive remained and is reported to have
committed acts of cruelty to the Caribs in order to expel them
from Guadeloupe.

Internal struggles and financial deficits soon pushed the
French company into bankruptcy and as the Government was unwill-
ing to assume any direct responsibility for the colonies, the
Governor of each island was allowed to purchase it and maintain
it on a proprietary basis. Hovel bought Guadeloupe, and
Du Parquet, a nephew of D'Esnambuc who had succeeded Du Pont,
bought Martinique and St. Lucia.

Jean du Pont, a former lieutenant finally became governor of
Martinique, and after years of struggle with the Caribs finally
engaged the friendship of the Indians. He was later captured by
a Spanish vessel and put in prison for three years.

With the death of Pierre D'Esnambuc, the French West Indies
were now without a governor-general. After a long list of
possible successors was exhausted, the name of Phillippe De
Lonvilliers De Poincy, Knight of Malta was suggested and met with
immediate approval by the King and all concerned. He is considered
one of three great governors of the French West Indies and when he
died at the age of seventy-five he left the French in command of
a large portion of the West Indies. His demise also marked the
end of the pioneer era in the region, for shortly after the French
West India Company was given control of the possessions.


Belain D'Esnambuc took possession of Martinique on behalf of
the Company of the American Islands in 1635. It was only under
the administration of Jacques Du Paraquet, governor, the seigneur -
proprietaire of the island (1637-1658), that any real colonial
development began. Besides food crops and Petun (tobacco), sugar
cane was planted. It was introduced by the Dutch who had been
expelled from Brazil. These early times were a troubled heroic
period for the first French colonists who had to be constantly
on the lookout for the British and the Dutch.

The outstanding event of the period was the gallant defensive
action of some one hundred colonists retrenched in Fort Royal, who
kept the 40 battleships and 8,000 men of the Dutch admiral De
Ruyter at bay (1674). Under Du Paraquet the only populated area
was on the Caribbean coast where Fort St. Pierre and Fort Royal
were built. These forts were later developed into the towns of
St. Pierre and Fort de France.

Suggested Readings:

For additional information on the colorful history of the French in
the West Indies, continue reading the source of the preceding

In conclusion, mention can be made of other small countries
that attempted to colonize the West Indies or sell slaves to
European planters in America. Among these were the Swedes. In
order to compete with the strong nations, they needed the strength
of a company. Subsequently, one sees the formation of several
companies granting permission to deal in West Africa or the West
Indies, thereby affixing these areas in the name of the company.
The first effective English company was chartered in 1660 and w~as
called the Company of Royal Adventurers. In 1672, this was succeed-
ed by the Royal African Company. The first effective French
company was the French West India Company, chartered in 1664. The
slave trade was restricted to the monopoly companies because only
large and powerful companies could afford to have more and larger

Questions for Discussion

The slave trade was a lucrative one for most of the European powers
of which you just read. Are there any advantages of this for the
descendants of slaves on various islands?


Write a report comparing early Spanish and English explorers in
the West Indies. Discuss personalities (bravery), fleet, daring


What relevancy do these terms give to this chapter?

navigation decimation raids
papal illicit fleet



The term slavery applies to the social sanctioning of the
involuntary servitude imposed by onf0person or group upon another,
so defines Encycolpedia Britannica.

Early Practices

The practice existed from antiquity and sources were supplied
principally by warfare, piracy, kidnapping, purchase or breeding.
The histories of early Greece and Rome, Babylon, Egypt, Spain and
Portugal as well as other countries, reflect the practice and the
role of slavery.

Negro slaves (our area of interest) were imported in ever in-
creasing numbers into southern Portugal and neighboring regions
of Spain where Seville became an important slave market. These
regions had greatly suffered from wars between Christians and
Muslims and their populations were largely depleted. Imported
Africans were employed not only for service in wealthy households,
but also for work in the fields as well as a variety of tasks in
the cities, especially stevedores in the harbors. Because the
Portuguese, and to a lesser degree the Spaniards as a result of
many conquests, had little race or color consciousness, the various
elements of the population mixed relatively freely and ultimately
merged. This fact is expanded in a later chapter of this study.
As early as 1474, large numbers of Negro slaves were in Spain and
Portugal. By the middle of the sixteenth century, Algarves was
almost populated by Negroes and they outnumbered the whites in'
Lisbon. In Spain in 1474, Ferdinand and Isabella empowered the
Negro Juan de Valla-dolid, known as the "Negro Count" as the
mayoral of the Negroes to settle their quarrels and to enforce
the King's justice among them.

Research shows that even though among Columbus' crew on his
trip to the New World there were Christianized Negroes, there was
no intention to introduce slavery in the New World.

Years later when Europeans colonized the islands, they attempt-
ed to use the Indians as labor force on the plantations, but they
lacked the strength and succumbed in large numbers to diseases
brought over by the Europeans.

Some scholars on the subject of slavery account for the
introduction of slavery to the New World on the efforts of
Bartolome' de Las Casas, Roman Catholic Bishop of Chipas who,
as a subtle defense of the Indians, approached the new King,
Charles I, with the proposal that each Spanish settler should be
permitted to bring over a certain number of Negro Slaves. In 1517

10Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 20, p. 628.

this idea was accepted, although in somewhat modified form.
Thousands of Negroes were therefore brought in, not only to
Hispaniola but to other islands in the Caribbean and later to
the mainland.

The source citedabove claims the English were theost
important importers ofsiaves although the-Prenh, --the Dutch and,
others took part in the comierue-to-sply their own-olonie~lsr
la ger and richer Spanish possessions. The trade was usually
triangular (as was the Danish trade). Ships went out first from
a home port as Liverpool or Bristol for the Atlantic coast of
Africa. They carried liquor, firearms, cotton goods and varicls
trinkets that were exchanged for slaves. Then came the middle
passage from Africa toward the West Indies -- this was the slave
trade proper -- after the slaves were delivered the last leg of
the voyage began. Loaded with molasses and other staples, they
went home.

As mentioned earlier, slaves were supplied through many
sources; for our interest, however, some attention will be drawn
to the methods employed in recruiting slaves for the New World.

J. D. Fage, formerly professor of history at the University
of Ghana, devotes an entire chapter to the conduct of the slave
trade in West Africa. He reports:

Except in the very early days of the slave trade,
or occasionally on parts of the coast where trade
was not very well developed, it was exceptional
for the European slave owners themselves to cap-
ture and enslave Africans. The great majority of
the slaves carried across the Atlantic were pur-
chased from the merchants and chiefs of the
peoples living on the West African coastline.

Raids on the coastal peoples by European traders
in search of slaves were to antagonize those who
were willing to sell slaves already.1l

The coastal peoples were willing to sell their fellow Africans
into slavery primarily because they wanted European goods and had
discovered that the best way to get them was to sell to the
Europeans what they wanted and in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries what Europeans wanted from West Africa above all else
wereslaves. They therefore began by selling domestic slaves in
their own tribes and soon found that the slave trade was quite

11., p. 77.
Page, op. cit., p. 77.

profitable. When, however, the demands exceeded the supply of
domestic slaves, the merchants and chiefs began to cast about
for ways to secure more slaves. They then sold those in debt,
prisoners of war or kidnapped victims.

The Trading Process

The business of buying and selling of slaves is interesting
enough to be mentioned here. The trade was done completely through
the process of barter, and even though there was no common curren-
cy, to avoid complications certain mediums were used as exchange.
Dr. Fage explains that iron bars were used on the Windward Coast,
pieces of cloth on the Ivory Coast, gold dust on the Gold Coast,
iron and copper bars on the Slave Coast, cowrie shells on the
region between Accra and Keta and lastly brass basins on the Oil

An interesting side observation that could be used for a color-
ful study or debate is: Can Virgin Islanders trace their lines of
ancestry i.e., Ashanti or Aminas? The policy of collecting slaves,
the cooperation of African chiefs and standard characteristic
techniques of divide and conquer, all mitigate the unification and
identification of tribes transported across the Atlantic. Tribal
disintegration or destruction was further secured by storing slaves
in separate groups, at the forts constructed mostly to facilitate
trading. Situated near the river beds, these forts were used as
protection from enemy attacks. After examination the slaves were
chained and awaited a full shipment before they were transported
across the Atlantic.

Most of the slave trade was centered around the Slave Coast,
the Gulf of Guinea, the Gold Coast and Upper Guinea. Around the
Gold Coast and Upper Guinea large national companies monopolized
the trade, whereas along the other areas mentioned, the trade was
in the hands of individual European merchants and small companies.
By about 1785 more than half of the West African slave trade
was in the hand of British merchants. The French had the second
largest share of the trade. Even though it may be difficult to
state a definite number of slaves brought across the Atlantic, it
has been estimated that no less than fifteen million or no greater
than twenty million actually landed on America.

Before being put aboard the ships that would take them to the
West Indian islands, the slaves were collected and examined by a
surgeon. The healthy and strong ones were put aboard a ship while
the sick or defected in any way (the Magrones) were returned. Those
that were taken were put to kneel in groups at a time, while the
right shoulder was greased with palm oil and branded in the middle
with an iron that bore the initials C-AB-C (Churfurstlich Afrikanisch-
Brandenburgische Campagnie). 1

2bid., p. 80.

13Westergaard, op. cit., p. 142.




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The Middle Passage

For a detailed description of a major important phase in our
drama of acculturation, Tannenbaum's Slave and Citizen gives a
vivid explanation:

On the ship itself the men and women crowded between
decks with little air. For about fifteen or sixteen
hours a day they experienced poor sanitary conditions,
naked, chained about their ankles. Allowed a space
barely larger than five or six inches long, sixteen
inches wide and about two or three feet high, not high
enough to sit up. The men and women were kept apart
on the voyage and if the weather was clear and calm
they were allowed out on deck about eight in the morning
until five in the afternoon. But if it was stormy and
rough then they lived in the stench beneath deck, dark
steaming, slimy and wet. When the weather cleared
away and the hatches were opened, the stench was
impossible to stand near the hatch for few minutes. 14
Additional research proves that physicians who accompa-
nied the ships were unable to cope with the violent
outbursts of illnesses.

All the Negroes transported across the Atlantic did not survive
the voyage. Many lost their lives by battles or surprise attacks;
some fell by the wayside during the endless marches along the
narrow paths through forests and bush, down to the coast. Next,
some died in forts and some died on the ships. Finally, some
died after landing due to the exhausting voyage they had undergone.

What happened to the ancestors of present-day West Indians
when they reached their destinations? Soon to be the'source of
wealth and power for their European masters, the Africans passed
into the hands of Europeans upon arrival. Now what fate awaited
them? Parceled out to Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and
Dutch masters, their treatment depended in large part on the
policies and personalities of the owners whose personalities also
played an important role in the behavior patterns of the slaves.

Division of Labor

A word may be mentioned on the tasks or duties of the slaves
in their.new home. They were divided into field slaves, trades,
and domestic slaves. But in Brazil, as previously, mentioned,

14Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1946), pp. 22-25.


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their tasks encompassed a wider scope. Those in domestic service
were usually a kind of privileged elite although here again there
were many classifications depending on the nature of the job, the
character of the master and personal qualities of the slaves them-
selves. The next category was that of slaves engaged in various
trades. Third, and most numerous, were those working on plantations.

A glance at a day on the plantation is interesting. The follow-
ing passage gives a vivid description:

"Shortly after the slaves reached their destination
they were given a small portion of land to raise
their own food".

At this time, sugar cane and cotton were the leading
crops, since tobacco was on the decline. The sugar
cane was cut by Negroes with a sort of hatchet called
Kapaesser and was carried to the mill or sugar works.
Power was furnished mainly by windmills which were
supplemented by treadmills turned by mule power. At
least ten Negroes were required to keep one mill
working. Two, who were called rollers, fed the cane
stalks between the upright wooden cylinders. Others
carried fresh stalks-and removed the crushed ones.

An axe always lay near at hand with which to ampu-
tate the arm of the careless Negro whose hand might
get caught by the revolving cylinders, for when
help was scarce even three-quarters of a Negro was
better than none. The noon intermission from 12 to
1:50 gave them a chance to prepare meals. The day's
work ended at sundown but during harvest, chores
lasted until eight or eight-thirty when they fed
the livestock or carried water to cisterns or
distilleries. Saturday afternoons and Sundays were
free to enjoy themselves.3

Another worthwhile side observation centers around the error
of some European masters who under-estimated the native intelligence
of their slaves. The masters felt secure in their practice of
tribal disintegration thereby preventing strengthening of family
ties, but group dynamics prevailed and through subtle ways slaves
planned revenge or methods of escape.

Over the years the blacks became aware that through their
labor masters acquired wealth and power. Along with this affluence
came harsher laws and inhumane treatment. Finally, when this

15Westergaard, op, cit., pp. 125-141.



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treatment could no longer be endured the.natural action occurred:
they revolted and gained control, even if for short periods.
The slave owners then became concerned with saving their lives
and their wealth. They suddenly came face to face with the
realization that these chattels did have brains and could also
use them for planning, organizing and executing. The modern term
is leadership qualification.

To subdue them, as in the case of St. John, (1733), help was
recruited from the outside. Furthermore, stringent action was
taken to prevent recurrences. But other group revolts were
planned, including that on St. Croix in 1848. In the United
States there were uprisings let by Denmark Vessey, a West Indian,
Nat Turner in Virginia, 1831, and Gabriel in 1800 in Richmond,


No study on slavery would be complete without some reference
to interlopers. Their relationship to slavery was a rather close
one. The term interloper in reference to West Indian history is
defined by Dr. Norregaard as "privately owned English and Dutch
ships trading without permission".16 But other sources include
Spanish and Portuguese members of the trade. By nature of
definition alone they rate by comparison to pirates because of
their clandestine operations.

Several stern regulations passed on to the colonists by the
Spanish crown made trading difficult. For example, the colonists
were forced to supply gold and raw material of the tropics for
Spanish manufacturers and to use none other than Spanish vessels.
The colonists in return demanded to sell their produce in the
best markets. These demands were too high for Spain to meet and
the prices set by the monopolists were too high for the colonists.

Here is where interlopers played an important role. They
smuggled goods past customs and sold to buyers far below the
prices charged by the legal sellers. This particularly was the
case of slavery when the.demand for slaves was great. The limited
number of slaves legally permitted by the King was insufficient to
meet the need of the colonists who were clamoring for laborers to
develop their estates and work in the mines.

Here and there along the unguarded coast, at first in small
numbers but in a gradually growing stream, Negro slaves were land-

16Georg Norregaard, Danish Settlements in West Africa 1658-1850
(Boston: University Press, 1969), p. 59.

ed from small vessels which had no license to trade. Many
skippers were Portuguese who were able to obtain slaves from
Portuguese settlements in West Africa. The interlopers sold
their wares comparatively cheaply and became popular with the
colonists especially as they were willing to take payment for
their slaves in pearls, cattlehides and sugar rather than cash.
The officials themselves often wanted slaves and in other cases
were bribed to turn a blind eye to what was going on. In many
cases the authorities were powerless to intervene even if they
wanted to.

Public opinion sided with the smugglers and with those who
bought from them and the accepted breach of a single law led to
the more general disregard for all authority. Punished with
great severity when they were caught, the interlopers soon learn-
ed to resist by force any attempt by the officials to interfere
with their business. From smugglers they became pirates.

What about the type of ships that bore our ancestors across
the Atlantic? what took place on them? An excellent source on
this topic is Slave Ships and Slavery. Using excerpts, let us
take an imaginary trip aboard the Albion Frigate". We first
observe how the slaves are lodged; the two sexes are apart by
means of a strong partition. The forepart is set aside for the
men and behind the mast for the women.

If we compare this with the Portuguese we will note that
slaves aboard Portuguese ships had the added comfort of mats,
which were not only softer but healthier because the planks
retained dampness. We will also observe that quarters were kept
neat and clean because some of the crew were assigned especially
to this task.

Mess time we notice was rather interesting. The slaves ate
twide daily. The first meal consisted of boiled beans cooked
with moscovy lard. The second was peas or Indian wheat. Each
slave had a wooden spoon to feed himself. After meal time every.
day, slaves had a full coconut shell of water and from time to
time a dram of brandy to strengthen their stomachs. By way of
comparison the Dutch fed their slaves three times a day, while
Portuguese fed them mostly manioc meal.

The sick or wounded we see are visited daily by surgeons"who
accompany slaves on the trip. This was most necessary since
healthy bodies netted higher prices. In conclusion, a few names
of slave ships we may wish to include in our vocabulary on this
topic are: "Slave Ship Hannibal", "Albion Frigate". Company's
ships were "Princess Charlotte", "Kelleys Amalie", and

It is not to be assumed that all went well aboard the ships.
The slaves were wary and distrustful of the traders. Some enter-
tained the idea that they were being carried away to be eaten.
This thought made them rather desperate. Therefore, care was
taken to avoid mutiny, and destruction of the ships but despite
efforts, mutiny did occur. Punishment for mutiny included some
of the cruelest acts. The leaders were maimed limb by limb in
the presence of all slaves and finally the body was raised on a
post for all to see and to bear in mind."

Learning Experiences

Using the chart below as a guide, draw pictures or use real or
simulated objects to show things used as money exchange during
the slave trade.

Slaves were valued


Picture or maple

(1) On the Gold Coast

(2) On the Ivory Coast

(3) On the Slave Coast

(4) On Accra

Gold Dust

Pieces of cloth

Metal bars

Cowrie shells

Suacested Readings

---------------.- ------- ~~- --- -
For detailed description of mutinies on slave ships read:
George Francis Dow, Slave Ships And Slaving (Salem: Marine
Research Society, 1927), ch. VI.


How appalling it is to note that in the early years of
slavery Africans far out-numbered the whites on most islands
(i.e., French and British colonies, Danish West Indies)! But
despite this monopoly the plantation owners ruled as superiors.
What does this reflect of the slaves' mentality or of the
mentality of the planters?

We know that slaves were physically fit to assume control of
the islands for they were the only ones to survive the heat and
therefore comprised the only source of labor. (The Indians died
under the strain and heat while the white prisoners who were
imported also succumbed to the heat). It is assumed that the
slaves lacked the capacity to lead, but research proves that fear
of retribution was responsible for this. Furthermore, the ruling
class, in order to insure permanent prosperity, devised and
enacted stringent laws which, rather than protecting life and
property as laws are intended, reduced slaves in the British and
Danish colonies to personal property. However, Spanish and
Portuguese slaves fared better as having rights and status. The
following sets of laws are offered for comparative study: Las
Siete Partidas and the Justinian Code depict status of slaves on
either Spanish or Portuguese soil while King Frederick the V's
Slave Code-~hows treatment of slaves in the Danish West Indies.

KING FREDERIK den Stes SLAVEREGLEMENT for de Danske vestindiske per

Summary of
(KingFrederik V's Slave (Black) Code of the Danish West Indian

1. Deals with religious instruction of the slaves
It is prohibited to prevent anybody from joining the teaching
of the Gospel.

Sunday, Christmas Day (December 25), Three King's Day (January
6), Ascension Day, and Lady Day are to be celebrated by the
slaves and they are free from working.

There shall be no markets on Sundays and on the above mentioned
Holy Days.

2. Deals with looseness and persons frequenting slave women
Slaves can only marry with the consent of their owners.
Polygamy is prohibited.

Slave women's children by slaves belong to the mother's owner.

A free Negro woman's children are free whether the father is a
free man or a slave.

Slave children who have been christened shall be considered as
Christians and are entitled to receive a Christian burial.

No slave is allowed to carry a gun or a big stick.

Crowds of Negroes are prohibited under severe penalty.

3. Black Code

Deals with punishment of owners who tolerate (do not prevent)
slaves to crowd on their plantations.

Slaves are prohibited to sell sugar cane.

Slaves are forbidden to sell or offer anything for sale with-
out the consent and supervision of their owners.

Concerning the nourishment of the slaves

It is prohibited to give the slaves rum instead of the stipulated
provisions or to give them a day off to work for themselves.

The clothes to be given to the slaves.

The owners have to support and provide for decrepit slaves.

Slaves can neigher own nor acquire anything without the
permission of their owners.

The owners are responsible for actions carried out by the slaves
on the request of the owners, especially in cases involving trad-

Slaves cannot be in charge of shops or public services, nor can
they be witnesses in court, but their testimony can be used to
obtain more information.

Slaves can neither bring civil cases before court against anybody,
nor can civil or criminal cases be filed against them.

However, a slave can be brought before the Court and punished with-
out involving his owner in his case if the owner himself has had

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nothing whatsoever to do with the misdeeds of the slaves.

A slave has to be punished with death if he hits his owner or
proprietress or his owner's wife or children in the face or
elsewhere until the blood flows.

Deals with slaves who lay hands on free people.

They will be severely punished and according to the circumstances
punished with death.

Slaves committing thievery are to be punished with whipping at the
whipping post and sometimes with branding.

Owners have to compensate the person or persons who have suffered
by their slaves' thievery or let the sufferer have the slave.

Punishment for slaves having been marooned for more than one month
and punishment for repeated marooning.

Punishment for free coloured who assist run aways by housing them.

If a slave is punished with death according to information re-
ceived from the slave's owner, the owner will receive the apprais-
ed value as compensation.

To provide this money a head tax is levied on every slave.

In oases against slaves nobody is entitled to prerequisites or fees.

Deals with the owner's, the manager's, and the over-seer's rights
of punishment of slaves.

He who kills his slave will be punished according to the demands of
the situation.

Married slaves and minor children cannot be separated from each
other or from their parents by sale.

No slave can be taken away from his plantation except in cases
where the purchase sum has not been paid.

Usufructuaries of plantations shall not compensate Negroes lost
by fatalities nor do they have the right to slave.children born
during the period they use the plantation.

Owners who are of age can give their slaves their freedom without
having to give the reason for the freedom.

Slaves who are appointed heirs, executives, or guardians in a will,
will in such a capacity be considered as free.

Emancipated slaves should always be respectful to their former
owners, their widows and children, but otherwise have no
obligations towards them.
Emancipated persons should enjoy all the same rights as persons
born free and be entitled to the same respect and consideration.18

!8King Frederick V of Denmark, Black Code .for Danish West Indies;
February 3, 1755.

Las Siete Partidas

Las Siete Partidas, a body of Spanish laws which protected
the Negro as a human being, provided


1. The slave might marry a person if the slave status was known
to the other party.

2. Slaves could marry against the will of their master, if they
continued serving him as before.

3. Once married they could not be sold apart except under con-
ditions permitting them to live as man and wife.

4. If the slave married a free person with the knowledge of his
master and the master did not announce the fact of the exist-
ing slave status then the slave by that mere fact became free.

5. If married slaves owned by separate masters could not live to-
gether because of distance the church could persuade one or
the other to sell his slave. If neither of the masters could
be persuaded, the church was to buy one of them so that the
married slaves could live together.


The children followed the status of their mother and the child
of a free mother remained free even if she later became a slave.

Corporal Punishment

In spite of all his full powers over his slave, the master
might neither kill nor injure him unless authorized by the judge,
nor abuse him against reason or nature nor starve him to death.
If the master did any of these things, the slave could complain
to the judge, and if the complaints were verified the judge must
sell him, giving the price to the owner and the slave might never
return to the original owner.


Provisions as outlined in Las Siete Partidas for manumission were
numerous and detailed.

1. A master might manumit his slave in the church or outside of
it, before a judge or other person by testament or by letter,
but he must do so in person.

2. A slave became free against his master's will by denouncing a
forced rape against a virgin, by denouncing a maker of false
money, by discovering disloyalty against the king, by denounc-
ing the murderer of his master.

3. A slave might become free if he became a cleric with the con-
sent of his master or in some cases without the consent,
providing another slave takes his place. And if the former
slave became a bishop he had to put up two slaves each valued
at a price that he himself was worth while he was a slave.

4. A slave could appeal to the courts if he had been freed by will
and testament, and the document maliciously hidden.

5. Slaves could be witnesses even against their masters in
accusations for treason against the king, in cases of murder
of either master or mistress or in cases of adultery against
the mistress.

This body of law did not operate only on the Iberian Penin-
sula. When slavery was introduced in the New World the laws were
also transferred there. In the Cuban market, freedom was the only
commodity which could not be bought untaxed; every Negro against
whom no one had a claim of servitude was deemed free.

Furthermore under these laws a slave was free to buy his own
freedom through installments. This was especially true in Cuba.
A slave worth six hundred dollars could buy himself out in twenty-
four installments of twenty-five dollars each, and with every pay-
ment he acquired one twenty-fourth of his freedom. On delivering
his first installment, he could move from his master's house and
continue to pay interest on the remaining sum.


Slaves were often encouraged to hire themselves out and bring
their masters a fixed part of their wages, keeping the rest.

Skilled artisans, masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheel-
wrights, tailors, musicians were special beneficiaries of this
arrangement. Ordinary laborers were allowed to organize them-
selves into gangs. They offered themselves as carriers on the
wharves of the city or to do any of the heavy work that came to
hand. Women often hired themselves out as wet nurses and both
male and female slaves peddled a thousand wares through the

In Brazil and Cuba, especially, slaves were allowed to sell
products from their own plots and save their money toward their
freedom. It should be made clear that slavery as an institution
was cruel and brutal wherever it existed, and the slaves of Spain
and Portugal were not exempted from this treatment.

In spite of whatever cruelty or abuse that existed on Catholic
dominated soils, the slave was considered equal in the sight of
God. The master had an obligation to protect the spiritual in-
tegrity of the slave and to teach him the Christian religion. The
slave had a right to become a Christian and to be baptized.
Baptism was considered his entrance into the community.

In 1680, the assembled bishops in Cuba urged that all Negroes
attend church. From the very beginning the Catholic churches in
America insisted that masters bring their slaves to church to
learn the doctrine and participate in communion. The assembled
bishops in Mexico in 1555 urged all Spaniards to send the Indians
and especially Negroes to church; similarly in Cuba in 1680. In
fact, Negroes were baptized in Angola before leaving for the
Atlantic journey to Brazil. As a Catholic, a slave was married
in the church and the bans were regularly published. It gave the
slave's family a moral and religious character unknown in other
American slave systems. It became a routine for slaves and masters
of the same plantation to attend mass on Sundays, and regularly
before retiring the slaves assembled at the masters house for his
blessings. Religious fraternities sprang up among the slaves.
These were influential and honorific institutions with elected
officers and funds subscribed to by the slaves out of their.meager

19Tannenbaum, op. cit., pp. 48-60.

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Marriage under British Laws

Legally, the British slaves could not marry and the religious
unions could be dissolved at any time. The wife had no legal
status and the family as such was not a unit. Under an act of
the British Parliament slaves could be sold by the sheriff in the
execution of all debts. It was not uncommon to break up the
families of the slaves for the satisfaction of debts as well as

Similarly, slaves in America received the same inhumane treat-
ment. Owners were hostile to manumission. The slave was not re-
garded as human but merely as property, and was denied the right
to Christianity.20

In St. Thomas, several churches still retain balconies which
were erected especially for seating slaves who were compelled to
attend but were not allowed to participate in services.

Mr. Darwin Creque cites that in 1711, the Lutherans under
Frederik IV established a mission church especially for Negroes.21
However, in modern organized religions of the West Indies there is
no segregation of churches. Trend is toward church unity as
exemplified in the Council of Churches.

20rIid., pp. 84-86..

21Darwin Creque, The United States Virgin Islands and the Eastern
Caribbean (Philadelphia: Whilmore Publishing
Company, 1968), p. 32.

The Justinian Code22

The practice of slavery as an institution provides many areas for
interesting discussion. Among these is the topic dealing with
the slave laws and how these laws shaped the psyche of the slaves.

The Justinian Code, a set of laws governing the rights of the
slaves, was elaborated by Alfonso the Wise between the years
1263 and 1265. Throughout this code there was the inherent
belief in the equality of men under the law of nature and man.
In 1474, there were large numbers of Negro slaves both in
Portugal and Spain. By the middle of the sixteenth century
Algarves was almost entirely populated by Negroes, and they out-
numbered the whites in Lisbon. In Spain in 1474, Ferdinand and
Isabella empowered the Negro Juan de Valladolid (known as the
"Negro Count") as the "mayoral of the Negroes" to settle their
quarrels and to enforce the King's justice among them. By way
of contrast, under the British West Indian laws, the Negro slave
could not hope for freedom. The slaves in the British West
Indies were almost completely denied the privileges of Christi-
anity. The plantation owners opposed the preaching of the Gospel
on the grounds that it would interfere with the management of the
slaves, make them recalcitrant and put notions of rebellion into
their minds. Churches did little indeed for the thousands of
West Indian Negro slaves. The Episcopal Church confined its own
activities to the whites and left the Negroes to different
denominations. In contrast to Spanish laws, the British set up
no requirements for religious training of the slaves and it was
not until 1816 that the Assembly of Jamaica ordered the vestries
to provide chapels and made provisions for instruction of the

22Tannenbaum, op.cit., pp. 44-45.



The Reformation

Amidst all this commercialism and national zeal movements,
there was another dynamic movement spreading through and affect-
ing the same European nations involved in the colonization of the
West Indies. Known in history as the Reformation, the movement
split the Christian empire into several divisions. Initially
religious unrest, it enveloped social and political areas.

In medieval European history there were underground movements
against the concept of the Pope as the spiritual head and the
Holy Roman Emperor as the secular head. This eventually led to
schisms and constant wars. The dissenters claimed that "the papacy
was a network of interests involving diplomatic and military
adventures as well as a jungle of administration and law in which
was embodied an ugly element of chicanery and graft".23 It was
further claimed that the papacy was in possession of immense wealth
and in some countries owned large portions of land; others attacked
the perversion of the doctrine of grace and the externalizing of
the sacrament of penance. This diversity of beliefs resulted in
the spreading of various religious doctrines. From England came
Presbyterianism; Lutheranism became the national religion of
Denmark, Spain remained predominantly Roman Catholic. From Saxony
or Herrnhut, came the Moravians. From France came the Huguenots;
from the Netherlands, after a series of religious conflicts, came
the Netherlands Reformed Church or Calvinists. The Dutch Reformed
Church was the first church of continental European background to
establish itself in the United States. As a result of mass immi-
gration into the United States divisions of major religions were
formed and spread throughout the country and eventually reached
the West Indies.

Religion has always played an important role in the lives of
Virgin Islanders and, in broader terms, of most West Indians. Their
young come in contact with religion very early'in life since almost
every activity from birth to death receives prayers for divine
favor. Furthermore, most public gatherings, civic or otherwise,
are conducted in such a manner that the religious phase must be
included. This is especially true of weddings, baptisms, gradu-
ations, club assemblies, funerals.

Religion, therefore, is another regional homogeneity from which
the young West Indian may derive some answers about his past. This
chapter in our drama of acculturation attempts an historic review
of African and European influences on religion in the West Indies.

2"The Reformation," Encyclopedia Britannica (1970), XIX, pp. 37-52.

"Naked they were born and
Naked they were sold".

When the Africans were forced from their homeland to become
slaves, they traveled empty handed -- that is they were not
allowed to carry personal belongings or family mementos. However,
they brought the intangibles -- their memories, beliefs, and
superstitions. In modern jargon -- they brought soul.

As previously mentioned, Saturdays and Sundays were free
from menial work. This time was spent in recreation and reli-
gious activities.

History reveals that Roman Catholicism was the initial
official religion of the islands and was practiced by the
Spaniards. Columbus brought the religion of Spain to the New
World. Africans, therefore, were introduced to Roman Catholicism
upon their arrival in the New World. They readily accepted the
religion because they were able to observe symbolisms within the
faith with which they could identify and probably supplement their

John Hope Franklin in his scholarly work From Slavery to
Freedom reports that the early form of religion among Africans
was ancestor worship, and other writers on the subject claim the
earliest form of worship as practiced by Africans was serpent
worship, in which the pythons acted as messengers of the god or
the spirits. They alone could interpret the feelings of the gods.
Prior to voyaging across the Atlantic, voodoo was their principal
cult in West Africa. Voodoo as a worship or cult has been a
source for many writers and it is interesting to note reasons why
the voodoo practicing slaves readily accepted the Roman Catholic
religion as their official worship.

Catholicism and Voodoo24

A reliable source on this topic is "Haitit Black Peasants and
Voodoo", in which the author cites areas of common identity between
Roman Catholicism and voodoo. First, voodoo liturgy is fashioned
'from Catholic liturgy. Standing before a lace bedecked altar with
lighted candles, the priest or priestess recites Paters, Confiteors
and Ave Marias, followed by hymns to the Virgin and Saints. The
famous African prayer (Priere Guinin), which opens the solemn
ceremonies begins with Catholic prayers and interminable invocation
of saints. Their own loa (saints) are summoned afterwards.

24Alfred Matraux, Haiti: Black Peasants and Voodoo (New York:
Universe Books, 1960), pp. 59-70.

Secondly, vooddo has appropriated the use of holy water with
which the devotees are sprinkled from a leafy branch. They even
use it as a drink which will guard them against any spell that is
cast on them.

Thirdly, looking at religious posters or pictures, voodooists
are able to interpret common symbolisms. An example is the
picture of St. Patrick standing with snakes at his feet. St.
Patrick is identified with Damballah Veido, the snake god. In the
same way, in another poster, Our Lady of the Sorrows represents
to them Ezili-Freda-Dahomey because the jewelry she wears and the
sword transpiercing her heart evoke the riches and love which are
attributes of the voodoo goddess.

Next, St. Jacques le majeur (James the Elder) who is shown as
a knight encased in steel has naturally been identified with
Ogufferaille, the blacksmith and warrior god.

Lastly, Roman Catholic saints are accepted as being comparable
to loa. Candles, too, are used during ceremonies, especially when
they invoke their god.

Dr. Metraux lists the following voodoo gods: (1) Legba, the
interpreter of the gods. Only he can translate men's prayers and
transmit them to visible powers. In Africa his symbol, which is
seen outside every hut, is a heap of earth surmounted by a phallus.
(2) Agwe has jurisdiction over the sea, its fauna, flora as well
as those who make a living from its bounty. He is invoked under
the names of "Sea Shell", or "Eel" or "Pond Tadpole". His emblems
are miniature shells, blue or green paddles, and sometimes small
metal fish. (3) Zanka, is the minister of agriculture. He is
always dressed peasant fashion: a straw hat, rough blue smock, a
straw satchel slung over his shoulders, and a short clay pipe in
his mouth.

One of the most famous of the voodoo deities is Damballah -
Wedo, the snake god who long gave rise to the idea that the Haitian
peasants were ophiolaters. As a snake god, Damballah particularly
haunts springs, lakes and ponds of which he is a guardian. Like
his wife, Aida-wedo, he is compared to the rainbow which in voodoo
cosmogony is nothing more than a heavenly serpent.

As previously mentioned, Christianity existed in the West
Indies before the exodus of Africans to this area and Roman
Catholicism was the dominant religion in most of the islands.

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Today it retains this status among most French and Latin oriented

Protestantism entered at various stages and for various
reasons. The Jews were some of the early settlers of the islands
and.some were in the employ of the Danish West Indies such as
Oliver Pauli Frank. The number of Jews grew steadily, especially
when Rodney attacked the island of Saba in 1781. Many fled to
St. Thomas seeking protection.

Jews have been assimilated into the Virgin Islands community
and generations of the faith have been born here. To date several
members of this sect have been governors of the United States
Virgin Islands. Governor Gabriel Milan is recognized as first.
According to Westergaard he was of reputable family which had
connections in Portugal, Flanders and Hamburg. His family was
related by marriage to the well-known Portuguese-Jewish Houses of
Da Costa and De Castro. Other Jewish governors include Morris F.
De Castro and Ralph M. Paiewonsky.

Moravians arrived on St. Thomas around 1732 and on Antigua and
Jamaica in 1754. Their chief contribution is best described in the
introductory lines of the publication The Moravian Mission to the
African Slaves of the Danish West Indies 1732-1828: "During the 252
years (1665-1917) that the United States Virgin Islands were under
Danish sovereignty, the religious instruction and general education
of the Negro population which numbered approximately ninety percent
of the inhabitants of the islands, were left exclusively in the
hands of missionaries of the Moravian or United Bretheren Church.
During the first years of settlement the Negroes received no
education or religious instruction and it was not until the arrival
of the first Moravian missionaries in 1732 that they became the
beneficiaries of a serious missionary effort". 5

While it is admitted that Moravians were the first to con-
tribute and work zealously toward the education and advancement
of slaves, it is also true that other sects at subsequent times
worked for the spiritual and educational welfare of the Africans.

The enclosed chart reveals some interesting figures. Sub-
mitted by Governor Peter Von Scholten, the table shows that in
1834 (about 100 years after the Moravians) Roman Catholics in
St. Croix were 916 free men and 6,430 slaves. In St. John, 19
were free men and 46 slaves, while in St. Thomas there were 4,056
free men and 2,265 slaves. Compared with Moravians the count of
the same year reveals a grand total of 13,735. Roman Catholics
had 3,267 more than the Moravians whose figure was 10,268.

25Patricia Shaubah, The Moravian Mission to the African Slave of
the Danish West Indies (St. Croix: Prestige
Press, 1969), Introduction.

The other denominations conducted worship with plain, formal
liturgies. Their code of conduct was rather stern and rigid.
Naturally then, because of the restrictions placed on them, the
slaves took to secrecy in order to carry on their native practices
or cult.

The relationship between master and slave was characterized
as the governing and the governed. Cruelty was oftentime reason
enough to create the major problem of the day -- the runaway
slave. What was most perplexing to the masters was the fact that
those slaves who actually escaped successfully to a Latin (Catholic)
dominated island as Puerto Rico often returned to St. Thomas or
St. Croix a baptized or free Negro and no penal action could be

Baptism was one ceremony that played an important role in the
life of the slave. When he left Africa, according to Dr. Freyre,
he was trained in the rituals of his new religion, and as in the
case of Brazil the unbaptized slave felt inferior to his baptized
companions and looked forward to this ceremony.

Religion in the West Indies today includes a representation
of almost every known or practiced faith. A breakdown of some of
the more predominant ones reveals Roman Catholicism and Episcopalian-
ism as the most predominant. An historical explanation for Roman
Catholicism's influences is that Catholics allowed more freedom
of expression yet maintained a "big brother" .attitude with their
parishioners. Still another reason for this stronghold in the
Caribbean is the fact which World Book explains: twelve priests
went with Columbus in his second voyage in 1493 and in 1512 the
first Episcopal church was set up at Santo Domingo. The creeds
and doctrines of Roman Catholicism governed the parishioner's way
of life.27
Information taken from the Caribbean West Indies Yearbook 1972,
shows the following distribution in the West Indian islands:
Roman Catholics 299,649
Anglican 175,042

Anglicans 25,000

Roman Catholics are predominant in Dominica, Antigua,

26Roman Catholic Church," World Book Encyclopedia (1960), XV,
p. 379.

Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis. In the Netherlands Antilles, 80% are
Catholics. In the Leeward Islands, Anglicanism has the greatest
number of adherents. In Jamaica, Anglicanism outnumbers other faiths
but there is a large percentage of Baptists, Church of God, Roman
Catholics, Methodists and Moravians. In the United States Virgin
Islands almost all religious faiths are represented but Roman
Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans are greatest in

There seems to be a link between religious control and the
personality traits exhibited by slaves brought to the Caribbean.
This can very well be a topic to be undertaken for further study.
However, for our purpose, the young West Indian may be inspired
through the following comparative report of behavior patterns as
they were influenced by religion:

Laws and Attitudes

Throughout research on this study a marked difference in
attitude and laws governing Negro slaves has been most evident. It
is most interesting since it has been revealed that these laws and
attitudes shaped the personality and psyche of the slaves which in
turn influenced the socio-economic quality of the governing country.

The Masters and the Slaves identifies the role of the slave in
Portuguese colonies as the heart and soul of Brazilian life. Be-
cause of the stern and rigid personality of the Portuguese, life
in the Big House or plantation was usually dull and cold; but it
was the Negro's happy laughter that brought new life to the plan-

All praise and credit-for the economy, the social life and the
prosperity of Brazil was further attributed to the cooperation
and performance of the slaves.

Dr. Freyre attributes this freedom of spirit to the close ties
between the church and the slaves.

Not that the priests ceased to exercise control over their subjects
but there was a sharing of beliefs. The slaves were allowed to
publicly display their fetishes, beliefs and customs at certain
festivals. Practice of their cult was never denied them and so
resentment in this area was at a minimum.28

A second source which documents this difference in attitudes
is Slave and Citizen by Dr. Frank Tannenbaum. The source reveals
attitudes towards manumission, punishment, marriage, religion and
many areas affecting the lives of slaves.

28Freyre, op. cit., pp. 373-374.

To better analyze the over-all conditions under which slaves
existed in the New World, Dr. Tannenbaum categorized the slave
system in this area under three major groupings. The British,
American, Dutch and Danish were at one extreme, and the Spanish
and Portuguese at the other. In between the two fell the French.
The first group is described as having no effective slave tradition
and whose religious institutions were little concerned about the
Negro. The Spanish and Portuguese, however, believed that the
spiritual personality of the slaves transcended his slave status.
In between were the French who had no slave laws, but did have the
same religious principles as the Spanish and Portuguese.

Unlike other European dominated religions, the Jesuits allow-
ed Portuguese slaves to participate in religious ceremonies. The
format of these ceremonies is interesting. There was no edifice
built especially for this purpose. Ceremonies were held in the
Big House, and there was complete freedom of expression -- claping
of hands, drums, and musical instruments made by these people.
Interestingly enough, modern day Roman Catholic ceremonies in their
new mass, are returning to this country atmosphere by use of
guitars, clapping of hands, even themes of hymns are emphasizing
togetherness, brotherly love, freedom songs and dignity of work.



In addition to the contributions to the spiritual welfare of the
slaves, Moravians were also pioneers in educating slaves. In the
1800's the Moravians were given full responsibility for education
in the public school system of the then Danish West Indies.
Frederick Martin was a pioneer in this movement and worked both on
St. Thomas and on St. Croix. Write and present a report tracing
public education in the U.S.V.I. and including names of pioneer

Tapics for Discussion

The following are related topics on witch-craft. From
conversations with senior citizens, try to find answers for the
following questions.
1. What is a talisman?
2. Where does it find its origin?
3. Our funeral rites are quite ceremonial. Many of the
ceremonies, however, are modified and modernized.

a. What are "wakes"?
b. Trace their origin in voodoo cult.

29Tannenbaum, op. cit., p. 78.

4. In some islands it is beZieved that on the third night the
deceased pays a visit to his home where food and water are
prepared for this visit. Read Metraux's Haiti: Blaok
Peasants and Voodoo and compare early African funeraZ rites
with the above.


Beliefs and Superstitions
An excerpt from J. D. Elder serves as the punch line for
introducing this topic.

Human history shows that mankind no matter what
his culture, has traditionally turned to witch-
craft for answers to his anxious questions about
misfortune, failure in life and uncertainty about
the fiure of his family, his crops and his own
And so West Indians are not unique in their belief and/or
practice of obeah as the prevailing superstition of the area.
Furthermore, Dr. Elder explains, witchcraft is not the invention
of colored people. The Celtic peoples whom the Roman legions en-
countered in Iberia and later drove to the hinterlands of Britain
left behind them countless urn-fields and megaliths like Stonehenge
-- evidences that they practiced a highly developed system of
magic and witchcraft. Practitioners of magic and ritual in West
Europe were mostly of the cult of druidism. The word druid
derives from continental Celtic according to the writings of
Caesar and Cicero who translated it to mean "knowledge of the oak".

In Ireland druidism was highly developed. The druids claimed
they possessed the ability "to see" the invisible, to obtain prior
knowledge and to produce magic through the means of trance,
frenzies or stimulated inspiration. Continuing the trace of
patterns of witchcraft as practiced by European countries, Dr.
Elder cites the invasion of Spain by hundreds of witches who were
assigned to make disciples of the women of Aragon. At the trial,
the witches confessed participating in orgies until they came
face to face with Satan himself."
The young West Indian may find it interesting to learn that
the practice of obeah is on the decline. As will later be dis-
cussed, legislation in some islands has been enacted to consider
such acts illegal and/or harmful but Guyana has been recently
considering legislation to legalize obeah as an important part of
the culture.
The following reliable references are cited as sources for the
definition, origin, practice and decline of obeah. J. Antonio
Jarvis defines obeah as "the study and practice of unorthodox
medicine combined with witchcraft". "Obosom", Jarvis reports, "was
the guardian spirit of the Ashanti and therefore obeah was the in-
volved result".32

30 J. D. Elder, The Roots of Witchcraft (Mona: University of the
West Indies, 1969), p. 12.

31Ibid; pp. 6-7.
Antonio Jarvis, The Virgin Islands & Their People (Philadelphia:
Dorrance & Company, 1944), p. 126.

Still another detailed definition is found in Dr. Joseph
Williams' work:

Obi (obeah), a system of sorcery prevalent,
though not to so great an extent as formerly,
among the Negro population of the West Indies
colonies. It appears to have been brought
from Africa by Negroes who had been enslaved
and to these obeah men (or women) the blacks
used to resort for the cure of disorders,
obtaining revenge, conciliating favor, the
discovery of the thief or adulterer and the
prediction of the future. The practice of
Obi had become general towards the close of
the last century both in the West Indies and
the United States and there is little doubt
that the obeahmen exercised vast influence
and that they carried on a system of secret
slow poisonings, the effects of which were
attributed by their more ignorant fellows to

The system resembles other superstitions
of savage peoples. It may have originated
in ancient religious practices in which
sorcery bore a large part.33

So very often the terms voodoo and obeah are mistakenly
thought to be synonymous. A trace of origins, places of concen-
tration and practices involved may clarify the lines of demar-

One major point they share in common is their place of origin.
Both beliefs were brought to the New World by Africans for the
most part. Dr. Elder reminds us that what we find in the Carib-
bean today is definitely nothing but a cross fertilization between
African, Asian and European systems of witchcraft cultures.

From thereon the lines of departure widen, for obeah is
reported by several writers on the subject to have been brought
to the New World by the Koromantin (Ashanti) while voodoo was
brought by the slaves from Dahomey and was practiced on the
island of Haiti.

Joseph Williams lists the following major differences between
the two practices:

33Joseph Williams, Voodoo and Obeah (New York: Dial Press Inc.,
1932), p. 136.

1. Voodoo involves the shedding of blood, either the sacrifice
of a white goat or cock (called white sacrifice) or the human
sacrifice (called the red).

2. Voodoo requires the celebration of its rites, participation
of a priest and priestess.

3. Obeah can be worked alone and in secret and is not tied to
the presence of the snake as is the case in voodoo.

4. Lastly, obeah, which kills only by poison, does not show the
blood at al. It does not attach the religious intonations
as voodoo.-
Volumes can be written to list reasons why people resort to
the practice of obeah. A few examples follow: to cure diseases,
obtain revenge for injuries or insults, predict future events,
security in one's job, promotion on jobs, to receive the favor
of a loved one, to influence superiors.

For no reason other than the ample availability of resource
material, obeah on Jamaica will be used as additional information
on obeah in the West Indies. Dr. Williams' accounts for the origin
of obeah in Jamaica out of the suppression of the myal dance.
Obeah then gained ascendancy and developed into a quasi-religion
with hatred for the white man and the ultimate overthrow of the
white masters as an object. Myalism, it should be explained, was
a different practice from obeah. Though somewhat similar, myalism
was the old tribal religion of the Ashanti and its powers lie in
the fact that the myal men or women were the people who cured
those whom the obeah man had injured.

The practice, which derived its name from a dance that it
featured, occupied great status among the slaves. The obeah man
introduced a dance called myal dance and formed a secret society,
the members of which were to be made invulnerable or if they died,
life was to be restored. Belief in this miracle was secured by

A mixture of rum was given of a character which presently
induced sleep so profound as by the uninitiated and alarmed to be
mistaken for death. After this had been administered to someone
chosen for this purpose the myal dance began and presently the
victim staggered and fell, to all appearances dead. Mystic charms
were then sold; the body was rubbed with some infusion, and in
process of time, the narcotic having lost its power, the subject
of the experiment rose up as one restored to life, a fact for
which the obeah man claimed the credit for finding the causes of

3bid., p. 118.

Obeah often takes the form of poison and in many islands
legislation was passed forbidding the practice. A look at the
tools and utensils of the obi or obeah man is interesting or
even amusing. Oftentimes the chief instruments are dried bones,
bottles and vials, string, feathers (large and small) herbs of
all descriptions, powders for love potions, colored liquid and
other paraphernalia.

Many adults still remember the frightening moments when as
children they were confronted with the obeah man. The trade
seems to have been almost exclusively the male's prerogative,
and rather lucrative. Mojt times these men were unshaven,
unbathed and totally unkempt. Some disfiguration was also a
physical characteristic-bulging eyes, swollen lips, enlarged
goiters, sores or warts and restless eyes.

However, these deficiencies were deceiving for beneath this
impecunious condition was the cunning personality of one who was
able to deceive the gullible or ignorant patient.

No attempt will be made to list examples of the activities
of the obeah man, but the references listed, i.e., Williams,
Metraux, Elder, offer excellent readings on this.

Voodoo Ceremony

Once defined as a dance, voodoo has evolved into a strong
religious belief in a supernatural being in the form of a snake,
on whom depends whatever goes on in the world. The ceremonies
or services of which voodoo worshipers must acquaint themselves
in order to find favor with the loa and have their sins forgiven
them are known as "manger-loa" or the feeding of the loa. The
gods are not addressed without being given a taste of their
favorite dishes. Though the ritual meals are based on Haitian
recipes, the nature of the dishes, their preparation, and the
manner in which they are served, are all governed by rules it
would be dangerous to break, for the loa are most sensitive in
culinary matters.

The blood sacrifice is the culmination and climax of the
long succession of rites included in every ceremony. At big
feastings of the loa not only a considerable number of fowls,
but even billy goats are sacrificed. The goats are covered with
silk or velvet mantle and wear a scarf tied at the roots of their
horn as head gear.

The color of these adornments symbolizes the god to whom the
victim is dedicated. Those who persistently regard voodoo as a

35 Ibid., p. 147.

kind of witchcraft attach satanic significance to the lighted
candles fixed to the horns of the goats. In voodoo practice, a
candle or taper is lit every time communication is made with
the spirit.

The victim must eat or drink a sacred kind of food or liquid.
Refusal to do so indicates the animal does not accept its own
death and must be replaced by another one since it fails to be
acceptable to the gods.

The identification between sacrifice and victim goes so far
that the former begins to behave as if he himself is to be
immolated. He rails at his faith and pretends to be desperate.
The faithful often bestride the animal before it is killed. Its
blood is collected in a gourd and tasted by the officiating priest
and the "servants of the Gods" in turn.

In conclusion, the reader may wonder what is the present
status of voodoo. Should it be regarded as a practice of the
uneducated or superstitious adherent? Metraux answers these
thoughts in rather an objective manner. He states:

Voodoo should not be examined as a col-
lection of folklore and beliefs. It is
a religion of singular complexity which
has lost none of its creative energy
and "functions" in the technical
anthropological sense of that term.

Voodoo is not only fervently believed in,
but its adherents never cease to enrich it
with fresh liturgical contributions -- voo-
doo belongs to the modern world and shares
its civilization. Its ritual language is
contemporary and its duties have their be-
ing in our industrialized universe.

Despite the color of its adherents it is a
Western paganism to be discovered with joy
or horror according to one's disposition or

Terms Associated with Voodoo

Zombies Zombies are the living dead, or more accurately
persons who are considered to have died, who were buried within
full view of all but have been brought back to life by a sorcerer
who has enslaved them. The resurrection is only partial. Zombies

36Metraux, op. cit., pp. 82-83.

remain in a very dazed condition and are incapable of the exercise
of will power. They resemble those who "have been given ether".
They can be identified by their air of stupidity and their nasal
voices. Their masters lock them up in a room of their temples all
day and there they stay mute and immobile.

Zombies have to be fed but care must be taken never to allow
them to taste salt, one grain is enough to dispel their lethargy
and renew their will power. Many educated Haitians share the
peasants' belief in zombies but they account for the existence of
these living corpses through use of drugs known only to the hougans.
Sometimes flesh and blood zombies are exposed but they generally
are only idiots or lunatics.

Zobop is one who, wanting to get rich quickly and without
effort, as acquired a "burning charm" from a sorcerer. As a
result of his intercourse with evil spirits such an individual
loses all his scruples and acquires a taste for evil as such.
Zobops form gangs and frequent country roads and paths after dark.
to attack solitary travelers whom they "eat" figuratively and
sometimes even literally.

Werewolves female vampires who suck the blood of little
children at night. The werewolf preparing for one of these
nocturnal sorties divests herself of her skin, by rubbing her
neck, wrists and her ankles with an infusion of magic herbs and
then hides it in a jar or some other secret cache where nobody
can find it, burn it or smear it with red pepper.

In her raw condition the werewolf flaps her arms and legs to
prepare herself for the flight she is about to begin. Flames gush
from her armpits and her groin and a turkey's wing sprouts from
her back. She rises into the air suddenly, right through the
thatching of the roof. Luminous tracks -- shooting stars, no
doubt -- mark her flight through the heavens. A law of the
supernatural world stipulates that a vampire cannot eat a baby
unless it has been offered to her by its.own mother. A vampire
having alighted near a house where a child lies sleeping, first
enters the kitchen, which in the country is a small shed at some
distance away from the house itself.

From there she softly calls both mother and child. The mother,
only half awake, answers "Yes". "Will you give me your child?"
If the mother is drugged with sleep and answers "Yes" againkall )
is lost. It is, therefore, the mother who clears the way for
the vampire. In order to suck the child, the vampire enters the
house in the form of a cockroach or another kind of insect
or else inserts a long drinking straw between chinks in the wattle

walls. Not all the blood is drunk at once but the vampire
returns every evening until the child dies, sucked completely

The only way of protecting a child from vampires is to "spoil
its blood" by bathing it in a solution of evil-smelling substances.37

Beliefs and Superstitions of Neighboring Islands

Although deeply attached to the Roman Catholic Church,
Martinique still clings to some Indian and African traditions or
superstitions. The silk cotton trees are haunted by zombies, the
guiablesses are at the best on moonless nights and out of the way
huts are inhabited by quimboiseurs.

The zombies these are ghosts from beyond the graves, they
avenge themselves for wrong done them during their life time and
plague their forgetful families. Many houses are said to be
haunted by zombies and only seanciers have the power to drive
them away.

The Quiablesses irresistible female apparitions. They lure
to their destruction those who walk alone in the night.

The Quimboiseurs the quimboiseurs actually exist, whereas
zombies and quiablesses are imaginary. By appointment (and for
cash) they practice their good or evil magic by means of all but
miraculous recipes, quimbois a sorcerer, a medicine man and a
mesmerizer; the quimboiseur will enable you to rid yourself of an
enemy or win a lover by means of a love potion.

The Gens Gage's people said to be in the pay of the devil.
Being in league with the devil, the gens gage's have the power of
turning themselves into animals.

Funeral Wakes when someone dies, the family and friends
hold a wake. While the kneeling women pray by the corpse, the
men recount the life of the deceased. With the help of rum punch
they soon forget the mournful aspect and tell stories or riddles.

Five Common Superstitions concerning Good Friday

(Z) Drop the white of a freshly laid egg into a glass of clear
water at noon on Good Friday and one's future activities
will be revealed. For example, if the white of the egg forms
a church with steeple, etc., a wedding will take place in the
near future. If, however, the white assumes the shape of a
ship, travel to some distant shore is forthcoming.

3Ibid., p. 96-99.

(2) An egg laid on Good Friday never delays; instead, it
dehydrates and shrinks to the size of a nutmeg. This
is considered medicinal.

(3) Digging around the roots of a thistle plant at noon on
Good Friday will yield bits of coal which are considered

(4) Animals communicate with each other on Good Friday.

(5) Sharp objects such as pens, needles, knives and sciseore
are never used on Good Friday.



Language is the skill that distinctly separates human beings
from lower forms of animals. Through communication culture is
disseminated, generations are educated, deeds and events are
recorded. Unlike the disciples at Pentecost we do not all under-
stand each other's tongue; however, foreign languages can be learn-
ed and some individuals can communicate fluently in several
languages. Such people are called linguists.

In the West Indies, language has an interesting evolutionary
history. There is ample evidence, written and otherwise, which
reveals that the earliest inhabitants, Caribs and Arawaks,
communicated in a structural language.

Then came the Africans, members of either descent groups or
larger tribes with organized forms of communication. However,
because of the complicated manner in which slaves were sold, it
was oftentimes difficult for them to communicate among themselves.
Communication with masters was an even more frustrating situation.
Through planning, the Europeans taught their slaves a dialect
which came to be known as Creole. Creole contained part of the
formal language and part African dialects. With this medium there
was a breakthrough in communication whereby master-slave communi-
cation developed.

It has often been said that the speech of West Indians re-
flects the rhythm as outlined in the contour of their mountains
or hills. This rhythm is a combination of tonal patterns, voice
inflections and accents. Each area has its distinct accent which
to the stranger is difficult to be identified. West Indians are
proud of their accent which can also be rather helpful when on
distant shores.

These accents are the results of European colonization. In
addition to Africans, several European countries have influenced
the language of these islands -- Spain, France, England and the

Topological Chart Showing the Relationship of the Creole
Languages to Each Other, and to the Indo-European and Niger-
Congo families respectively.

thart reproduced from B. L. Bailey's CREOLE LANGUAGES OF THE CARRIBEAN AREA;
Courtesy of the St. Thomas Public Library.

European Influences
Following is a distribution
language of the West Indies:

Spanish Influence

Santo Domingo
Puerto Rico

French Influence
Dominica (in part)
St. Maarten (in part)
St. Lucia

Dutch Influence
St. Eustatius
St. Maarten (in part)

of European influences on

English Influence

St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla
St. Lucia
British Virgin Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands

Danish Influence

United States Virgin Islands

Scotch-Irish Influence

St. Croix

English the official language on St. Thomas

The British occupations of the islands must have had a bear-
ing on making English more important that any other language.
With the declining demand for sugar in the early nineteenth
century, many Dutch planters packed up dnd left. St. Thomas. In
1839, only 27 plantations out of 65 were under cultivation, and
only about one fourth of these grew sugar, while the others were
given over to dairying and raising crops. The last Dutch-speaking
pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church left in 1811; after 1828 the
pastors for that church were English-speaking Americans. These
factors effectively indicate the decline and lingering death of
Creole Dutch.

A creole language is not the attempt of "simple" people to
speak a language beyond their comprehension; it is a language
with a European vocabulary welded on an African way of building
meaning. The West Africans who were brought to the West Indies
as slaves shared the same morphological structure on which to
build their language. The slave owners supplied the rest.
Creole was what was happening in the New World, a mixture of
elements from the Old World.

The decline of Creole Dutch was due mainly to the fact that
St. Thomas was open to a heavy British influence. St. Thomas, in
the 1700's, was a renowned port. Americans came to trade lumber
and salt fish for molasses. English merchants let other people
learn their languages, but insisted (and succeeded) in having
business records kept in English. Official proclamations were
published both in Danish and in English. The slaves who worked
on the docks and in the warehouses learned English. It became
the town language; Dutch Creole became the"country language of
the St. Thomian plantation slaves. Hence, English became a
status language associated with a better life and greater oppor-
tunities. The Moravian missionaries often received requests from
slaves to teach them English.

Jamaican Folk Tales

Almost every West Indian is bi-lingual, since he has at his
command his official language plus a private language unique to
each island. This "private language" enables him to identify with
his countrymen or to communicate privately. Ably assisted with
gestures, facial expressions and intonations it is a whole language
in itself. At times colloquialisms express most adequately when
formal language cannot. In most islands the term Creole is applied
to this private language. The term Creole suggests a person as well
as a language.

Beryl Loftman Bailey in her book Creole Language of the
Caribbean Area, traces Creole as a language of Africans, who on
their arrival found themselves in mixed tribal groups. Having no
common means of communication they learned their masters' languages.
There was little pressure on them to give up their particular
structural patterns, so n urally out of this fusion there emerged
a new language structure

Jens Larsen traces the origin of the Negro Dutch Creole to
St. Thomas from where it spread to St. John then to St. Croix.
Even though Danish, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese were
all spoken on St. Thomas, Dutch became the base of this dialect.
This was due in part to the fact that the Dutch were the largest
number of slave owners at that time and they taught slaves their
language. Slaves who already knew this language were used to
teach the new arrivals. Thus it was that Africanism became part
of the Creole. Through the years phrases and/or expressions were
added or deleted Until it was polished to the stage where it was
spoken by Negroes and Europeans. Eventually, it became a written

Various dialects are still spoken on many West Indian Islands.
Two popular ones are papiamento, a mixture of Spanish, French and
Dutch, and Patois, a broken French. Jamaica has its Jamaica Creole.

Beryl L. Bailey, Creole Language of the Caribbean Area
(Columbia University 1963), p. 6.

39Jens Larsen, The Virgin Islands Story (Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1950), pp. 103-106.

The following story, a Jamaican folktale, is an example of
Jamaican Creole.
"Bull As Bridegroom"
Deh is one woman get a daughter. One day in de yard "he saw
a man, big stout man. He put co'tin'ship to her. De woman said
yes. When de man come to de yard breakfas'time he didn't eat;
always went away where some clean grass is. 'he got a brudder
watching' him all de time. When he go, de man begin to sing,
"See me, Nancy, a wind,
T'ink a me, Nancy, me come"
De man tu'n bull and eat his belly ful o' grass. When he eat
done, he sing again,
"See me, Nancy, a wind,
T'ink a me, Nancy, me gone"
Den he tu'n de shap a de man back.
When day of de wedding, de boy said, "Sister, you know wha'
dat man coming here is? Dat man a bull". His sister said, "0
bwoy, go 'way! Where you ever hear cow can tu'n a living soul?
Pay come home from church, sit roun' de table, everybody giving
toast. Dey call upon de woman brudder to give toast. De brudder
said, "I won' give toas", but I wi' sing". De man said, "No,
give toast; so de little boy commence to sing.
"See me, Nancy, a wind
T"ink a me Nancy, me come"
De man begin to bawl out an' knock his head, call out fe
toast. De boy begun to sing again,
"See me Nancy, a wind
T'ink a me Nancy me come".
De ha'r of de cow grow, an' de four foot, and de big bull
began to jump and buck down all de people in de house, an' he
gallop an' dey never see hom no more again.40
French Creole
Creole is spoken on Martinique. It is closely related to the
Creole languages spoken in Guadeloupe, Haiti, French Guiana the
neighboring British Islands, Reunion and Mauritius. It originated
as the first African slaves were introduced being the only means of
expression between masters and slaves. Creole still contains some
African forms in its syntax (from the languages of Dahomey and the
Gold Coast) but the vocabulary is mainly of French origin with
contributions from the Caribs, English and Spanish tongues. When
spoken slowly enough it is easily understood by people from France.
A few French Creole expressions follow:

40Marthaw Beckwith, Jamaica Anansi Stories (New York: G. E.
Strchert & Company, 1924), pp. 108-109.

Creole Expressions

Fout' ka fai cho how hot it is

La pli ka vini it is going to rain

Jou ouve it is daylight

Ca oule what do you want

An nous alle let's go

Couman ou ye how are you

Moin pas save I don't know

Tout' i bel ti fia Gee what a pretty girl

An ti brin some a little



Folk tales are sometimes defined as myths or legends handed
down to other generations. This is considerably true of folk
tales of the West Indies. Similarly, as other aspects of the
culture of the West Indies, folk tales, too, can trace their
origin to African influence.

A natural setting for the advent of folk tales to the New
World was at the bed side of the master's daughter when nannies
told bedtime stories to the drowsy youngster. More than likely
these tales were about African ancestors or their gods. Very
often they told about animals who took the shape of men or who
could communicate with men.

Here we see then the introduction of the father and son team,
Anansi and Bru Tocoma, into the New World. These two characters
directly derived from the Ashanti were principals in almost all
West Indian tales. Interestingly, Joseph Williams in his book
Voodoos and Obeahs cites a comparison of Anansi, the spider, as not
having the importance in African superstitions as the snake in
voodoo. Dr. Williams reports also on the characteristic elements
of Anansi's tales. In West Africa, spider tales are very amusing
and must be told through the nose while the story teller crawls
about. In Dahomey, his equivalent is a turtle and his tales are
not half so amusing.41

Many islands boast of their folk tales and islanders take
pleasure in narrating them to the young and/or off-island friends.
Time was, when this was the only source of recreation. Before the
advent of radio or television in the islands, story telling kept
families and friends together. The scene was in the back yard,
and especially on "moon light nights" when families and friends
gathered together to listen to "obeah stories", "jumbi stories",
and "Bru Nancy" and "Bru Tocoma" tales; these sessions often lasted
until midnight.

Today, famous writers have recorded tales especially for
children. An excellent example is West Indian Folk Tales by
Phillip Sherlock, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West

41Williams, op. cit., p. 119.

Witty and humorous, the tales tell of animals, birds, trees
and events with which young West Indians can identify and which
they can appreciate.42 Besides folk tales, the West Indies also
have contributed to the literary field as the works of famous
writers depict. Topics range from the obvious, as on being West
Indian, to in-depth studies of local or world wide topics.

Regional Authors
Thefollowing list is by no means complete, but offers a
sampling of regional authors. The field of poetry includes names
as Derek Walcott's In a Green Night and The Castaway; Corey
Emanuel's Reflections; Edwin Bralthwaite's Righ of Passage; Arthur
Seymour's Over Guiana Glouds; Cyril Creque's Trade Winds and
Anthologies include those of G. R. Coulthard (Ed.), Caribbean
Literature; 0. R. Darthorne's Caribbean Narrative; Barbara Howes,
From the Green Antilles; Edna Manley (Ed.) Focus; Kenneth Ramchand
(Ed.) West Indian Narrative; Andrew Salkey Ea1T, West Indian
Stories from the Caribbean.
In the area of fiction the following names are offered: P.S.
Allfrey, The Orchid House; Jan Carew, Black Midas; John Hearne,
Under the Window; Lamming, On Age of Innocence; Mais, The Hills
Were Joyful Together.
Drama Jose Antonio Jarvis, The King's Mandate is outstand-
ing. Resource material is offered through the works: Valdemar
Hill Sr., Golden Jubilee; Darwin Creque, The U.S. Virgin Islands
and the Eastern Caribbean; Eric Williams,The Neroin the
Caribbean; K. Norris, Jamaica: The Search or an Ientity. Enid M.
Baa, The Sephardic Jews: V.S. Naipaul, The Middle Passage; C.L.
R. James, The Black Jacobins; David Caengata, St. Croix at the
Turn of the Twentieth Century; Folk literature is represented in
the works of: Louise Bennett, Jamaica Labrish; F. G. Cassidy,
Jamaica Talk; E. Connor (Ed.), Songs from Trinidad; Sir Phillip
Sherlock, Anansi the Spider Man; J. Antonio Jarvis, Bluebeard's
Last Wife.

Historians include Eric Williams From Columbus to Castro; V. Hill
Rise to Recognition.

Note: Most of the listing of authors mentioned above were taken
from The Islands in Between, edited by Louis James.

For examples of Virgin Islands folk tales, Project
Introspection has previously prepared .a booklet
entitled "Here and There in the Virgin Islands".

42Phillip Sherlock, West Indian Folk Tales (London: Oxford
University Press, 1966).



African Origin

Volume 4 of the World Book Encyclopedia describes dance as
the "language of the body . the movements may interpret
religious history or beliefs or they may interpret things in
every day life"3

With West Indians, dance is definitely a language of the body;
rhythm is reflected in the musical quality of the voice, in the
speech patterns which are fast or boisterous like the rushing waves
or soft and musical like the light breezes. Walking or dancing
are accented body movements and laughter carries the rippling
patterns of the hills. Babies respond to music naturally. Very
early they can be observed clapping hands to a catch tune or
attempting to imitate dances. This gift of natural rhythm is a
combination of African and European influences.

Many known dances may be of African origin, among them the
caruso, the bamboula, the chica, the calenda, Don Pedro, and the
Leghia. The caruso is a dance done in pantomime, used to express
feelings. The theme usually depicts any situation of sensational
quality, as illicit love affairs, cruelty of masters or neighbor-
hood gossip. Unfortunately, the accompanying songs were passed
on by word of mouth and original lyrics were never recorded.

The bamboula, so named because the drums were made out of
thick bamboo, was another popular dance in some islands. The
drummers sat astride two drums that were covered with goat skin.
Using fingers and wrists the drummers would strike one slowly and
the other rapidly. Other instruments used in this dance were
what are known today as maracas -- little calabashes or gourds
filled with small stones or grains of corn. These were shaken by
striking them on the hands by means of a long shaft. The dancers,
forming a circle, regulated the tempo of the music by clapping
their hands or by their chants. One quality which the Negroes
possessed was improvising, a characteristic used wittily today by
many calypsonians. The Negroes improvised as they danced in
circles or challenged each other to do "his thing".

The Don Pedro, which was prohibited in some islands, was
closely related to voodoo practices. During this dance, partici-
pants partook of a drink that was spiced with ammo. The dancer
usually collapsed dead.

Europeans, too, left their influence on dances of this area.
The masters performed dances of their homeland. At social gather-

43The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. IV (1960).

i -

Reproduced from K. Larsen's DANSK VESTIDEN 1666-1917;
Courtesy of the St. Thomas Public Library.


ings they danced the lancers, minuet, waltz, polka, mazurka. These
were eventually adopted by the Negroes and passed on. Today in
some of the islands these dances are performed on special occasions.
In St. Croix, Virgin Islands, wide efforts are made to retain these
dances and to encourage young people to accept them. However, in
the counterculture movement that has engulfed this area, modern
American dances take precedence. Pre-schoolers can compete with
their older siblings in doing the "Funky Chicken", the "Rubber Band",
the "James Brown", the "Boogaloo" or the "Break Down". But,
nonetheless, regional dances also stimulate young and old as the
Reggae, the Jamaica Ska, and Calypso. The music of the West Indies
also reflects African and European qualities.

The Calypso

The calypso music, the exclusive product of Trinidad, is a
rich Afro-West Indian combination. William Attaway gives an
historic account of the calypso. The following is offered as
information for the young West Indian:

Basically, it (calypso) can be called the music
of Afro-West Indian natives who make up the
majority of Trinidad's population. Its rhythm
is in two/four and four/four time and its
pattern is strongly African.

Originally, as the Spanish influence dominated
large portions of the Caribbean, calypso ac-
quired some types of all Spain.

As arresting as the drums might be and as
moving as the music undoubtedly is, it is the
lyrics which make calypso popular throughout
the Western Hemisphere. The lyrics are always
witty, full of'double entendre and satire and
are frequently improvised on the spot to 'comment
on some pressing topic of the day. Verse and
chorus are sung by a leader called a calypsonian.44

The following lines are quoted from the same work to throw
more light on what was previously mentioned under both topics:
"Slavery" and "Language".

Most calypso heard today can be traced back
musically to the eighteenth century Trinidad.
The African slaves were not permitted to speak
as they worked, but they were allowed to sing.
The calypso sung in a patois to baffle the ears
of the masters was'their way of plotting revolt,

44William Attaway, Calypso Song Book (New Yorkt Mc. Graw Hill
Boo Company, 1957), p. 7.

conveying the local news or simply getting a
corroded hatred out of their system.

Mr. Attaway gives an interesting comparison with original
calypso to the present-day type:

Life in the West Indies has changed greatly
since the days of slavery and the calypso has
changed with it.

The old melody was simple. Archaic calypso
was virtually monotones with a background
chorus supplying a simple call and response
accompaniment. In the early 1900's singing
and dancing were accompanied for the most part
by drums and sticks. Through the years in-
creasing use of melody has brought calypso to
its present form. As far as can be ascertained
calypso was never sung in English until the
turn of the century. At first it was only
accepted at the bottom of the stratified island
society. Only at carnival time were the Negroes
allowed to blow off steam publicly with home-
made instruments and homemade songs. As it rose
from obscurity to respectability the calypso art
was accompanied by the rise of a new order of
musical ability, the self-created peerage of the
Calypsonian. The flamboyant artists have adopted
witty, imaginative and bizarre official names.
Some are historical, some use folksy appellations
and some place emphasis on nobility.45

Today the calypso, both as song and dance, is used as a
tourist attraction and the songs are so composed, thus losing
their true flavor. However, at carnival time in the various
islands, the activity known as Calypso Tent affords an opportuni-
ty to see and hear the artists at their best. Under a brilliant
array of lights and color, the calypsonians sing of current issues,
local and abroad, and compete for the title of Calypso King.

In his characteristically clever approach, Sparrow recently
composed the popular "Zinah", sung completely in patois, the song
generated much interest in the dialect and was overwhelmingly
accepted by the patois speakers residing away from their native

Closely associated with the calypso is the steel drum. Also
a product of Trinidad, the idea was originated in the oil refineries

5Ibid., p. 7.

by the workers. The oil drums are cut at different heights and
hammered to get different tones. The drums complement the
calypso, but skillful players have rendered with proficiency
selections from classics as Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" or
Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus". The steel drums are the heart beat
at carnival time in most of the islands and all within hearing
sway automatically to the beat of the drums.

The Caruso

The caruso was a popular dance style on St. Croix around the
early part of the twentieth century. Comparable to the bamboula
of St. Thomas, the only instruments used were drums. The drummers
sat back to back as the chorus sang. The songs accompanying this
dance took the form of local newspapers or gossip columns. This
technique is similar to that employed by slaves who as they worked
in the fields sang and planned revolts or plotted murders. The
caruso was used to report some sensational topic. It was also a
method used to censor a neighbor for some wrong doing or to praise
a citizen for an achievement. The following words are taken from
the song "Judge Jackson, King of the Islands". They depict the
feelings of the citizens towards Judge David H. Jackson of St.
Croix for his efforts and achievement in gaining freedom of the
press which was granted to the people by the Danish Crown around
Judge Jackson was the King of the island
Let my people go.
He told his people beware of the white man
Let my people go.
He went to Denmark to plead for the black man
Let my people go.
Oh Hamilton Jackson was King of.the islands
Let my people go.
The war ship was in the harbor
Let my.people go.
It fired a salute as he approached the harbor
Let my people go.
Oh Hamilton Jackson was the King of the islands
Let my people go.


Dr. Hugo 0. Bornn in his work on teaching music in the class-
room offers excellent material on words and influence of folk
music which we have used for clarification.
"The Virgin Islands folk song is obviously music for dancing,
and the words are often fragmentary or non-existent. One reason
for the failure of the words to survive along with the melodies
may be the fact that early songs were sung in Creole, .a language
which was widely used until well into the nineteenth century when
English gradually displaced it as the dominant language.

Creole wan derived mainly from the Dutch language with contri-
butions from many other European tongues and African dialects. It
boasted a published grammar and Bible. Creole has vanished along
with other aspects of the old culture, but its inflections and
accents may be traced in the speech of the people of today and in
the folk songs.

Another reason for the loss of the words of the songs may lie
in their earthy, often bawdy character. In the nature of folk
songs many of them had several versions. Queen Mary was a plan-
tation worker who became a legend in a worker's insurrection in
1878. With a genius for leadership, she led guerilla bands in a
savage, bloody struggle. Several songs came out of this incident,
including Queen Mary which was adopted as a marching song by the
Players on solo instruments took turns embellishing the
melody and some, notably flautists, delighted in showing their
virtuousity by improvising florid variations of ever-increasing
brilliance with each repetition of the song.
The "scratch-band" was a rhythm band, pure and simple, and
each insturment carried an independent pattern which would be kept
throughout the piece. The resulting complexity of rhythmic counter-
point was sometimes overwhelming, and, caught up in the hypnotic
spell of the rhythm, the dancers were driven to more and more
frenzied attempts to match the music with the abandon of their

"Since its birth on the plantations of the seventeenth century,
many and diverse influences have shaped the folk music of the
islands. Among the most significant are the African bamboula drum,
music of the various European settlers, inter-island culture, and
the Afro-Cuban habanera.

European Settlers
"Oter musical influences reflect the checkered history of the
islands which were occupied at various times by the English, Dutch,
Spanish, French, Knights of Malta and Danish. Thus, European
influences were brought to bear on the native music. Songs such
as Alai, Alai, Bru Matty, Bru, and the singing game Brown Girl are
reminiscent of English quadrille and lancer figures, popular square
dances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and Queen Mary,
ironically, has the flavor of Danish marching songs sung by the
very soldiers against whom it was directed.

Inter-Island Contacts
The influences that shaped the native music did not come solely
from successive waves of conquerors. Another source was the lively
inter-island commerce which existed throughout the nineteenth
century. Songs were carried from one island to another by migrant
workers, by ships' crews and cargo workers, and occasionally by
political refugees. Some of the songs may still be discovered in
different versions in many islands and generally it would be
impossible to decide which is the original version"46

46Hugo Bornn, Resources for a Program in Music Study (Ann Arbors
University of Michigan, 1965), pp. 108-115.



Many factors influence attitudes, preferences, preparation,
utensils and even serving of food in the West Indies. Grouped
into several categories the most prominent factors may be geographi-
cal, political and cultural. As with other segments of this region,
one factor having influenced the other, none can hardly be singled
out as predominant. For example, cassava, introduced by the Caribs
(political) who bequeathed to us cassava bread, and the utensils
needed to make this dish (cultural). The Carib probably followed
the old adage that what was edible for the birds was also edible
for him, as he ate and experimented with the luscious tropical
fruits and the healthy roots and leaves. They learned to extract
poison from the cassava before grinding it into flour. They hunted
and ate agouti and other animals indigenous to the area.

Spice, a favorite condiment for West Indian dishes, was brought
in by traders from Africa. Used to give taste and relish to dishes,
pepper, cloves, garlic, cinnamon, and nutmeg are used abundantly.

Our African culinary heritage includes such dishes as fried
fish with spicy sauce, roast lamb, nuts in sauces, rice, couscous,
a starchy meal used with meat. Besides meat, much of soul food is
directly from Africa. The mortar and pestle, a must in every West
Indian kitchen, came directly to the area from Africa. Used for
pounding meal and spices, the utensil is made of wood or even stone.
Today this favorite is replaced by electric blenders, but it is
still kept in homes as a collector's item.

The homemade ovens constructed from large galvanized tins and
placed over the famous charcoal pot are also considered archaic
and replaced by push button gas or electrical stove and oven

Culturally, each island has its own mode of preparation, and
one may find ingredients of kalaloo, for example, quite different
from place to place.

Because of the abundance of certain crops, West Indians have
experimented with and have produced a variety of dishes. For
example, bananas, the leading crop of Dominica, can be turned into
fritters, bread, puddings, pancakes, ice cream, casserols, omelettes,
meringue, flambees, pies, banana celestes and even roasts.

The visitor while island hopping down the West Indies will
realize that meals are not only influenced by geographical factors
but by cultural differences as well. A meal composed of the seven
requisites may include one or more dish which will reflect politi-
cal influences. Meat dishes on Jamaica may include curried goat,
while on Haiti stuffed guinea hen may be the main course and on
Puerto Rico, roast pig will be the special of the day. Vegetables,
more than likely, will be indigenous to the area these may
include dasheens, yams, sweet potatoes, tanias, pigeon peas,
plantains. Fish is a favorite food in the area, and is prepared
in numerous ways. It is boiled, fried, baked and Jamaica has its
own escovitch fish dish; the flying fish is almost the national
dish on Barbados. Turtle is considered a delicacy on most of the
islands. Fruits in various styles form the base for most dessert
dishes. These include bananas, coconuts, mangoes, soursops and
several others.

Special dishes play an important role during holidays. For
example, Christmas is incomplete in the United States Virgin
Islands without "guavaberry", a native liquor made from a berry,
syrup, spices, with an-alchoholic base. On Dominica and several
other islands the favorite Christmas drink is sorrel. Sweetbread,
a yeast sort of fruit cake, is another Christmas delicacy in the

At Easter, especially on Good Friday, fish dishes are served
including gundi, made from herring, salmon or codfish. Again
religion is seen as a great influence on the lives of West Indians
since the practice of abstaining from meat on Good Friday and days
of obligations is common practice.

In Puerto Rico the favorite holiday meat is barbecued pig
(lechon asado) and the popular holiday desserts include: pasteles
which is offered to singers as they serenade homes-pasteles de
arroz or rum omelette. Two favorite beverages on most of the
islands are maubi, a fermented drink, and ginger beer.

To the Europeans goes the credit of introducing sugar and its
by-products, molasses and rum. Even the pirates have left their
contributions on the art of West Indian cooking. Pirates were
branded with the name "buccaneers" by the Europeans because of the
way they cured the meat which they hunted by cooking it over slow
open fires. Today we barbecue or charcoal broil meat, a modifi-
cation of the buccaneers' technique.

From the Chinese and East Indians, many of the islands have
learned to cook rice, curried dishes and hot sauces.

Finally, coffee, the end of all meals, was reportedly in-
troduced into Europe around 1615, reached the West Indies during
late seventeenth century and has remained an important item on
shopping lists.

A Century After

Considered a blessing by its advocates, slavery was finally
abolished after a long and slow process. Introduced into the
New World by the Portuguese and the Spaniards the practice
subsequently proved to be such a lucrative business for the
English, Dutch, French and other European nations that manumission
was met with opposition and reluctancy.

Furthermore, supporters of the trade claimed that the Africans
were happier in the West Indies than in Africa since most of them
who were sold as slaves were prisoners and would have eventually
been killed. They were even considered more fortunate than poor
whites in England who were victims of poverty and unemployment
despite their Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta.

The Emancipation Bill in the British Colonies was passed on
August 28, 1833, but freedom was granted gradually. One year after,
house slaves were considered as freed men while field slaves were
last to be released from bondage.

Children fared best of all since they were immediately granted
liberty. On July 31, 1834, all slaves in the British colonies heard
the words: "You are free". It is said there were mixed reactions
- some prayed and sang hymns with great feeling yet others were
jubilant and sang and danced. A momentous occasion for 715,000 West
Indians now free people. In the French colonies, freedom was given
in 1848. That same year after a serious uprising in St. Thomas,
Danish West Indies, Governor Peter Von Scholten read his famous
Emancipation Proclamation: "From this moment . ."

The Dutch freed their slaves in 1863. Those in Puerto Rico
were emancipated in 1873 while Cuba dissolved the system in 1886.
An apprentice period bridged the gap between slavery and freedom.
This process psychologically prepared both slave and master for
the changes.

One hundred years have passed since emancipation. West Indians
have traveled steadily up the ladder of progress and success.
Through the years some islands have made progress while others
stood still in their tracks. Such inertia may be attributed to the
ratio of supply and demand and/or ineffective leadership.

The twentieth century has produced a new breed of West Indians
far removed from the acquiescence of their progenitors. They know
that slavery is still alive today in many forms. One only needs to
read the newspapers to find that in Saudi Arabia slavery is alive;
in India one is destined to remain a slave throughout life; Peru
and Pakistan practice slavery. In our backyards, we find political

leaders who choose to keep their people poor and illiterate.
Finally, if we take a close look within our community we observe
other subtle forms of slavery. The West Indian's goal then is
to be a man among men.

No longer oriented to saluting or nodding to the wealthy
land owners, they understand and accept the mandate that while
the Past is of historic significance, their time is the Present
and they must be prepared to "DO IT" in the Future. This is why
they are enrolled on college campuses at home or abroad; this is
why they are attempting to perpetuate their culture through
various forms of expression; this is why they question what to
their minds seem to obstruct progress. Through the years they
have overcome and now they are preparing to be in command.

Concluding Exeroises:

Composition: The following quote is taken from the Tannenbaums'
Slave and Citizen, pp. 39-40:

"Without the Negro, European and American, life could not have
been the same. Despite the cost of life, sorrow and broken bodies
the Negro was the base of European colonization. It was the Negro
who was the laborer; it was the Negro who filled every occupation,
skilled and unskilled. They were cooks, laundresses, masons,
nurses, skilled artisans."

There are several documents which protect the rights of the
individual. Among these are the Bill of Rights, the Thirteenth,
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Ammendments of the United States consti-

Exercise: Write a paper showing how members of minority groups
can use the previously mentioned documents as protection against
unfair practices.

Appendix A

Courtesy of Mrs. Marva Browne for

Project Introspection-Teachers Workshop

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

December 2, 1971 2:00 3:30 p.m.

Theme: Relating Local Foods to the Culture

Songs About Foods

Miss Marie Richards of Frederiksted, St. Croix is author and
composer of the following songs entitled "Crucian Kalaloo",
"Mauffay" and "Okra Fungi and Fish". These songs are caruso-

Crucian Kalaloo

Yo' talk about yo' peas and rice
Yo' like yo' fish an stew
But dere's no dish so sweet
and nice
Like a Crucian Kalaloo

Wha ah we goin do
Wid out a bowl ah kalaloo
Don tell us eat no rice
Kalaloo an rice aint nice

Some like ah dish ah good
Wid plenty ah salt meat, too
Wen we hungry, we put it away
But we wan Kalaloo


O, tis good, we all like it,
De babies like it, too,
We eat ev'ry bit, it keep us
Crucian Kalaloo


If you want to learn to cook
Get a pencil and a book
If you want to cook mauffay
Listen good to what I say.

Mauffay that's the stuff
Ah! we never can get enough
strangers say
Crucians like a good mauffay.


If you want to cook it right
Soak the salt thing over
Put it on until he biles
Season, stir he for awhile
No forget the tomato them
Make the Mauffay taste like
Stir, the flour pon the spot
Mauffay done, take off the

Okra fungi and Fish

Have you heard the news
Santa Crucians got the blues
The story goes like this
We like okra fungi and fish

Cook it any style
Stirred, fried, or biled
Turn the fungi soft
Ah! one will clean the plate
them off.

OPA came to town,
Cornmeal was rationed down
When you talk bout calamity
That was flour scarcity


Okra Fungi and Fish
What a dish
Do you wish
Okra Fungi and Fish
Aint got not better dish
than this.

"The West Indian Weed Woman"

One day I met an old woman selling
And I wanted something to eat
I thought I was going to put a bit in her way
But I take back when I meet
I thought she had bananas, oranges or pears
It 'twas nothing.that I need
For when I asked the old woman what she was selling
She said she was selling weeds.

She had her dress tied up over her waist
And was wriggling down the street
She had on a pair of old slaps on her feet
And was wriggling down the street
Just then she started to name the different weeds
And I really was more than glad
Although I can't remember all that she called
These are a few she had:

Man tiabba, woman tiabba
Tantan fall back and lemon grass
Ninnly root, gully root granny backbone
Bitter payee, lime leaf and toyo
Coolie bitters, corilah bush
That ah the old time iron weed
Sweet broom, sprout and wild daisies
Sweet fate and even toyo.

She had bitter gomna, portogee bomba
Conga Laurp and twelve o'clock broom
Sarsparillh, wild tomato, soursop leaf
And Papa bitch weed
Wild bush, wild cane, wild leaf, monkey liver
That's bitterer than wild bay root
Action stands and even monkey liver
And all the rest you may need.

When I hear how much bush she had
I was dumb I couldn't even talk
She started to call from Capry Corner
And never stop 'till she reached Orange Walk.
The woman has me so surprised
Taht I didn't know what to do
That my girl came and give me
A cuff in my eye and I didn't even know who was who.

Sweet broom, sweet fate, and lemon grass
I hear them good for making tea
And then I hear bed grass and wild daisy
Is good to cool the body
The woman's tongue was even lisping
But she was calling out all the time
She even had a little canawa eye
And the other that left was blind.

She had pap bush, elder bush, black pepper bush
Then soldier, corporal and carpadulla
Fabian leaf, money bush, soldier posely
Pumpkin blossom and even devil doer
Demon congo, grass in galore
Physic nut, and lily root
In fact the only bush she didn't have
Was the bush for the every day soup.

Appendix B

In the West Indies the first governor who took possession
of the island of St. Thomas on May 25, 1672 was:

Jorgen Iverson who was succeeded by Nicoloi Esmit, who
received his appointment on September 10, 1679 and was desposed
by Adolph Esmit, his brother who was to have been relieved by
Jorgen Iversen, who again started out (for West Indies) in
November 1682 on the ship Hafmanden (Merman) where he was kill-
ed by mutineers; whereupon the said Adolph Esmit was supplanted
by: Gabriel Milan who was appointed in 1684 but because of bad
conduct Gabriel Milan and Adolph Esmit were sent home as prison-
ers by Commissioner Michel Michelsen and (they) arrived here in
October 1686 and meantime Christopher Heins was Vice Governor
until March, 1688 when Adolph Esmit again arrived in St. Thomas
and took command. Christopher Heins became Vice Governor and
was succeeded by John Lorensen. In that year (1690) the
lesseeship of St. Thomas began under Jorgen Thormohelen who in-
stalled Frans De La Vigne as governor of St. Thomas but John
Lorentz remained in the meanwhile as vice governor and looked
out for the Company's interest and remained as vice governor until
February 19, 1702 when he died.*

*This is a direct quote reprinted from Westergaard's, The Danish
West Indies Under Company Rule, 1671-1754 and is offered as data
for among other things, the first five governors of St. Thomas
during Company Rule.


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