Essays on Slavery
Volume 22 Nos 2 & 3
June September, 1976
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
5. Trans-Atlantic Slavery and the Internationalization of Race
26. Maronage in Slave Plantation Societies: A Case Study of Dominica,
Bernard A. Marshall
33. The Development of Jamaican Maroon Ethnicity
51. The End of the Atlantic Slave Trade to Cuba
Robert Wm. Love, Jr.
59. Summary, Overview and Questions: Excerpt from Blacks in Colonial
62. Anna Heegaard-Enigma
N. AT. Hall
74. Understanding Calypso Content: A Critique and an Alternative
Roy L. Austin
84. Black Carib Folk Music
Richard Hadel, S.J.
97. Poems: I Came on a Slave Ship; Sweat and the Lash
99. Review: The Rebel Woman in the British West Indies during Slavery
101. Review: Blacks in Colonial Cuba, 1774-1899
G. W. Roberts
103. Notes on Contributors
104 Books Received
105. Publications of the Department
VOL. 22 NOS. 2&3
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This issue of Caribbean Quarterly is published in commemoration of, and with the
assistance of the planners of, Carifesta 76-the second Caribbean Festival of Arts. This
event is regarded by many as an affirmation of faith in the capacity of the once depend-
ent and colonial peoples of the region to create for themselves out of their own experi-
ence. It also forms a good basis for unity of the region for it is a powerful enough re-
minder of the common legacy of slavery, colonialism and the plantation, poignantly
articulated in the artistic expressions of the Caribbean people. The music, song, dance,
literature, craft and other expressions are themselves a celebration of that faith in the
objectives which the entire region sets itself to become self-reliant, autonomous and self-
respecting entities in the world at large.
The release from a sense of impotence, a feeling of low self-worth and self-doubt now
brings into sharp focus competing strategies, ideologies and postures everywhere in the
Caribbean. This is to be expected for the issues are far deeper than the surface manifest-
ations of political party labels; and it is to these deeper issues that Caribbean leaders of
thought, whether they be politicians, artists, academics, community leaders, must ad-
dress themselves if effective development is to take place.
Continuous analysis, study, and re-assessment of the period of slavery and its immedi-
ate consequences are among the vital means of coming to grips with these deeper issues,
an understanding of which not only the historian and social scientist should feel a need
to have. The absolute total effect of the Plantation America slave system on all aspects
of life within and even beyond the geographical areas where it flourished challenges the
researcher and student of slave societies and their successors to a variety of approaches.
Dr. Locksley Edmondson in his study Trans-Atlantic Slavery and the International-
ization of Race attempts to broaden the reader's understanding of trans-Atlantic slavery
by lodging the subject firmly within the domain of international political economy. This
does not, however, abandon the need for further examination into what could be regard-
ed as domestic or comparative cross-national studies of slavery in the Caribbean. Dr.
Bernard Marshall's case study of Maronage in Slave Plantation Societies in Dominica
serves to amplify data collected in other accounts of this widespread response by the
slave to his involuntary exile and the capacity he displayed for systematic sustained,
organised armed resistance and guerilla warfare. How decisive such activity was in bring-
ing about the final collapse of the planter class is still a matter for debate. But Dr. Mar-
shall concludes that "the activities of the Dominica Maroons contributed to the erosion
of the economic base of the planter class in that island and . this in turn helped to de-
stroy them as a political force and therefore helped to make emancipation possible." It
is not the fashion of current scholarship to make as positive a claim for the Jamaican
Maroons. In fact there is evidence that the ethnic rivalry that existed was a strong
enough factor to weaken the impact of slave guerilla warfare against the British.
Dr. Barbara Kopytoff's contribution The Development of Jamaican Maroon Ethnicity
does not address itself to this question of the effectiveness of maronage on the dis-
integration of slave society. Rather, it examines the ethnic identity among 18th century
Jamaican Maroons and suggests that the achievement of the Maroons in overcoming
ethnic rivalries, while retaining a more generalised African heritage, foreshadowed a
phenomenon that was to take place in Jamaica as a whole in terms of the integration of
its Afro-American population. This eventual integration, states Dr. Kopytoff, was itself
"a new Afro-American creation, a new culture and a new identity."
But while the internal dynamic process of creolisation continued apace within terri-
tories of the region, external forces in the form of a continuing clandestine trading in
slaves continued to have its effect in certain territories. The British initiative in getting
the Slave Trade abolished in 1807 and the policing of the high seas by the British navy
did not altogether stem the flow of slave traffic across the Atlantic. Robert M. Love's
The End of the Atlantic Slave Trade to Cuba tells the story of the British Foreign Office
efforts to exhort, pressure, bribe and coerce various Powers, principally Spain and the
United States, to end their sanction or succour of the trade. It was an exercise in futility.
Posterity has indeed been left the legacy of inaccurate and misleading data on the num-
ber of African slaves brought to say a place like Cuba after 1807, and the difficulties
attendant on this are reflected in the excerpt from Kenneth Kiple's Blacks in Colonial
Cuba, 1774-1889. Both these contributions also point directions to the multiplicity of
factors which caused the eventual demise of the Slave trade and by extension slavery
and defy over-simplification to suit any one thesis. The actors in the long-drawn-out
drama were many and varied. Dr. Neville Hall in his Anna Heegaard... Enigma demon-
strates for example, the role of a highly born creole lady named Anna Heegaard in the
achievement of emancipation in the Danish Antilles. It also brings hitherto unknown
Danish West Indian information to the Anglophone Caribbean readers.
The heirs to the ex-slave society continue to betray responses in a society still in the
process of shedding the consequences of that period of its history. The artistic manifest-
ations in such modes as poetry, music and dance therefore find their place in this volume
in the form of two poems by Nicolas Guillen, the revolutionary poet of Cuba, a critical
analysis of certain aspects of the content of calypso by Roy L. Austin and an account
by Richard Hadel of the musical heritage of the Black Carib people of Belize.
TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVERY AND THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF RACE
The trans-Atlantic slave trade which flourished between the sixteenth and nineteenth
centuries and the 'modern" systems of slavery established in its wake had a profound
impact on evolving relationships between black- and white-world environments, some
consequences of which are still secreted in the contemporary world. Modern (or trans-
Atlantic) slavery not only conditioned attitudes and behaviour involving New World
white enslavers and black enslaved. It further had a bearing on the nature of developing
contacts between Europe and Africa, thus ultimately affecting the original systematiza-
tion of white-world and black-world relationships. It is appropriate here to quote
.. the primary historic origin of the modern color problem lies in the relation of
Europeans to African slavery, as that became established along the whole Atlantic
coast of the Americas from the Southern North American Colonies to Southern
Brazil, very much including the Caribbean area.1
What made trans-Atlantic slavery-the processes of African enslavement and the New
World systems of slavery to which they gave rise-so consequential was that it was part
and parcel of a developing European and white-world search for global influence and
power. Trans-Atlantic slavery, with all its ramifications, simultaneously affected and was
affected by dominant trends in the emerging modem international system. In this con-
sideration lies a most important distinguishing characteristic of trans-Atlantic slavery.
Being far more entrenched in ongoing international relations processes, its import came
to be far more pervasive over time and space than that of any other system of slavery
seen before or since.
It is proposed to examine the conditioning impacts of evolving international political,
socio-economic and (to some extent) psychological forces on the institutionalization of
trans-Atlantic slavery, and simultaneously to explore the contribution of slavery to
emergent patterns of a white dominant international order. The study's content is prim-
arily informed by race relations emphases; the context of analysis encompasses inter-
national relations/system considerations.
In developing these perspectives, the following issues seem worthy of attention:
(1) Why was modern (trans-Atlantic) slavery more susceptible to racialization cum
internationalization than pre-modern (ancient) forms?
(2) What was the relative and cumulative impact of racial, economic and religious
factors on the entrenchment of trans-Atlantic slavery, ultimately bearing on the triumph
of white-world racism?
(3) In exploring further the impact of slavery on the developing state of race relations,
what bearing do arguments about similarities and differences within the trans-Atlantic
slave system (the comparative dimension) have on the wider question of relationships
developed between black- and white-world environments (the international dimension)?
(4) What was the connection between trans-Atlantic slavery and consolidating
patterns of international political-economic-racial relations?
(5) Finally, what of the consequences to the subsequent development of racial and
colour cleavages on an international scale?
But before treating the foregoing considerations, it is necessary to delineate our
analytic perspective, viz., the internationalization of race.
1. The Internationalization of Race
As developed elsewhere by the present writer, the "internationalization of race" can
be seen both as an analytic rubric and environmental phenomenon.2 Concerning the
latter, it is merely a way of saying that the subject of race relations has over time become
increasingly enmeshed in international relations processes, ranging from bilateral to
global situations and involving both interstate and transnational dimensions ("trans-
national" being here operationalized essentially as non-governmental relationships tran-
scending politico-national boundaries).3
As an analytic rubric, the internationalization of race encompasses a consideration of
the factors and processes which project domestic racial issues and interests into the inter-
national arena; which conversely encourage an intrusion of international influences into
domestic race relations; and which lodge race as a variable within the international
system itself. Thus tendencies in race relations and international systems require simul-
taneous examination for determining the processes, implications and consequences sur-
rounding the internationalization of race.
Following from these general observations, some specific considerations bearing on
our immediate concerns may be entered:
(1) The study of slavery, like the study of race relations (of which the former is more
often than not considered to be a part), has usually been focused on domestic (single-
system) or comparative (cross-national) situations. Essential though such emphases are,
a full understanding of the operation and consequences of slavery must include system-
atic treatment of the international dimensions. The significance of Eric Williams' con-
tribution to the study of slavery lies not merely in its treatment of the economic under-
pinnings, which has served to broaden our understanding of the dynamics of trans-
Atlantic slavery, but further that it lodges the subject within the domain of international
(2) To highlight the internationalization of race generally, and to relate it specifically
to the phenomenon of trans-Atlantic slavery, is not to say, however, that the foci are on
things exclusively international and racial. An examination of the international arena is
complemented by single-system and cross-national explorations, involving where necess-
ary comparative temporal insights. And in order to have a fuller understanding of inter-
national racial factors, it is ideally necessary to probe all other relevant aspects of inter-
national relationships (especially political and economic) which might have a bearing on
the evolving state of, and linkage between, domestic and international racial relationships.
(3) The most important dimension of international racial challenges in their historical
and contemporary phases has concerned relations between black and white. The most
crucial historical determinant of the racialization of thought and behaviour was the
institutionalization of trans-Atlantic slavery, which was to lay the groundwork for the
subsequent heightening patterns of racial cleavage and which too came to be extended
in a wider context of white and non-white relationships.
(4) The internationalization of race as a phenomenon involves both the international-
ization of patterns of white dominance and the internationalization of non-white
challenges. It thus involves both racist and anti-racist components. In the context of
trans-Atlantic slavery, the former requires special emphasis, since the most significant
outgrowth was the consolidation of white-world dominance cum racism.
The first two points entered above hint at the relevance of applying an international-
ization of race analytic focus to the subject of slavery. The latter two establish in a pre-
liminary manner the importance of an examination of trans-Atlantic slavery to an under-
standing of the development of the phenomenon of the internationalization of race.
We now turn to an exploration of the considerations raised in the previous section.
2. Ancient vs. Modern Slavery: Some Relevant Comparisons
"Do not obtain your slaves from Britain", Cicero warned Atticus during the first
century B.C., "because they are so stupid and so utterly incapable of being taught that
they are not fit to form a part of the household of Athens."5 As is evident from these
remarks, and as has been well dissected by David Brion Davis,6 the historic phenomenon
of slavery in the Western culture did not originate with the system developed through
the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern version had ample philosophical defences and
social precedents of the previous two thousand years on which to draw for inspiration
and support. Plato and Aristotle, philosophical fore-runners of the Western political
tradition, were, as well, among the philosophical ancestors of the Western tradition of
slavery.7 This applied especially to the latter who made his position absolutely clear.
Maintaining that "some are marked out from birth for subjection, others are born to
rule," Aristotle set out to relate his generalized premise to the subject of slavery:
Those, therefore, who are as much inferior to others as are the body to the soul
and the beasts to men, are by nature slaves, and benefit, like all inferiors, from
living under the rule of a master.8
As Aristotle saw it, the slave's inferiority derived essentially from his having "absolutely
no deliberative faculty". "He, therefore, is by nature a slave. .. who shares in reason to
the extent of apprehending without possessing it." But it was in this capacity to "appre-
hend reason" that slaves were different from "brute beasts" which "merely obey their
instincts," which led Aristotle to conclude that "seeing that they [slaves] are human
beings and have a share in reason, it is surely out of the question to maintain that they
are incapable of virtue."9 Not surprisingly, such Aristotelian formulations were invoked
and tailored to the needs of latter-day racists seeking to rationalize their exploitation
and dehumanization, first, of enslaved New World Indians, and, later, Africans. Some
indeed proved even more innovative in their justifications of slavery, as when it was
maintained that Africans, and hence black slaves, were beasts, not humans. o
Cicero's thesis, too, when generalized in terms of the inherent intellectual and spirit-
ual inferiority of some, or conversely the pre-ordained superiority of other, peoples was
destined to strike a more responsive chord-though with crucial differences in specific
applicability-among many Western proponents of slavery some eighteen centuries later.
But in comparing Cicero's opinions with those prevalent in the latter period, two signi-
ficant differences emerge. First, his pre-conceived views of the ancient Britons were not
literally inspired by racial considerations-not at least in the modern usage of the term
"race"-and they were clearly not related to matters of colour. Secondly, it would have
been very strange indeed to find any typical nineteenth-century Western proponent of
slavery prejudging a people's qualifications for enslavement in terms of their potential
for intellectual improvement and acculturalization so as to equip them ultimately to
contribute positively to the maintenance and development of the socio-cultural com-
munity and the moral order under which they were enslaved.
If Cicero approached the subject of "racial" (or, more properly, ethnic) characteristics
and differences selectively, Aristotle-some of whose conclusions were shared by Cicero-
had earlier devoted more serious thought to the question during his discussion of the
ideal citizens of the ideal state:
This matter will be clear enough to anyone who takes a glance at the most famous
Hellenic states and the distribution of races in general. Those who live in cold
regions, particularly in Europe, are full of spirit, but lacking in intelligence and
skill; hence they remain comparatively free, but are backward as regards organiza-
tion and are unable to govern others. Asiatics, on the other hand, are intelligent
and inventive; but being without spirit, they are always in a state of subjection
and slavery. The Hellenic race inhabits an area midway between the two, and
shares likewise in the characteristics of both; it is at once high-spirited and in-
telligent. These circumstances enable it to remain free and make it the best govern-
ed of all nations; indeed it might rule the world if only it could be welded into a
Here was one of the earliest prominent examples of unabashed racial thinking, secreting
some basic elements of modern racism. Like the proponents of Aryan or Anglo-Saxon
"racial" superiority in later times, Aristotle took for granted Hellenic "racial" superior-
ity. Yet, in some fundamental respects, Aristotelian racism was of an order different
from the modernized version in its fullest stage of attitudinal development through the
nineteenth and early twentieth century.
In treating the "inferior races", his was not a cumulative inventory of alleged intra-
racial limitations, he being prepared to entertain consideration of a mixture of positive
and negative qualities residing within such races. While never doubting the overall super-
iority of the Hellenic "race", Aristotle felt obliged to admit that
Similar differences are found among the Hellenic peoples themselves: some of
these have one-sided natures, that is to say they are either intelligent or high-
spirited; others possess a happy combination of both qualities.12
More importantly, Aristotle's verdict, being based less on innate biological attributes
than on conditioning environmental factors as he perceived the latter's impact, was thus
not singularly and irrevocably articulated in terms of race per se. Earlier in his analysis,
Aristotle had indeed broached the subject of physical differences between "freemen and
slaves", concluding that no real significance could be assigned to that factor, such differ-
ences being more typical than innate:
The latter are usually endowed with strength to suit their employment, while the up-
right carriage of the former renders them unfit for servile work .... But the very op-
posite frequently occurs: slaves may have the bodies or the souls of freemen.13
Cicero's and Aristotle's concerns are, however, suggestive of the stimulus furnished
for race-oriented thinking by the institution of slavery-as indeed by the prospect or tri-
umph of imperial conquest over other racial or ethnic groups. There were, of course,
regional and temporal differences within the ancient (Greco-Roman) and modern
(trans-Atlantic) systems of slavery, thus inviting analytic caution in treating each as a
coherent and unified whole. We shall nevertheless attempt initially to delineate and
compare some of their most characteristic features and consequences, insofar as these
bear on our ongoing concerns.
To be sure, we find many similarities in the justifications surrounding, and the prac-
tices obtaining in, the ancient and modem forms.4 Both were based on structured in-
group and out-group differentiations, whether conceived of in terms of Greek vs. barbar-
ian or white vs. black. Both served to invite rationalizations concerning the natural and
necessary functions of slavery, and the inherent endowments of the "superior" enslavers
and the "inferior" enslaved. In both systems, we find systematically imposed limitations
on the political and legal rights of slaves; the inheritability of slave status remained a
common principle; constraints were operative in demarcated spheres of economic en-
deavour and social opportunity. The slave in both systems was an object of economic
property with all the inherent exploitation and degradation accompanying such a status.
But while Greco-Roman and trans-Atlantic slavery were systems well institutionalized
in the prevailing socio-economic cultures of their respective epochs, displaying some
common attributes, the evidence suggests some significant operative differences, the an-
cient form being apparently more flexible and less pervasive in application, and less last-
ing in consequence to the enslaved. There were, for example, instances in Greece where
slaves were granted full family rights, including the right of inheritance to their master's
property; and in that system, a wider variety of occupational activities was permissible,
there being cases of slaves rising to responsible administrative or managerial positions
in the public and private sectors. To underscore the comparative significance of the
latter, "where else than in Greece," asks William Westermann, "will one find a pur-
chased group of public slaves used as a police force, armed, and with powers of arresting
While in Greco-Roman practice slaves as objects of property were accordingly denied
their individuality, they were ironically endowed with a moral personality in Greek and
Roman law. Here then was a system containing some fundamental institutional and
philosophical ambiguities of a type which the more rationally structured trans-Atlantic
system in its fullest development had less difficulty in resolving. Given such differences,
the transition from slavery to freedom proved much less burdensome to those directly
affected in the ancient version, especially since those societies held out advance promises
of full and equal rights once the transition to freedom had been formally accomplished.
Greek slavery, Westermann concludes, was characterized by "an astonishing fluidity
of status in both directions, from slavery to freedom as from freedom to slavery," ex-
plaining, he suggests, "the absence of slave revolts in the Greek classical period." Not
all students of the subject would share Westermann's generous interpretations of such
ancient practices,16 but they would in common endorse his verdict concerning the most
fundamental difference between ancient and modern slavery:
Greek society was, of course, a slave society. Its slavery was Pf a type unfamiliar
to Europeans and Americans of the last two centuries. It had no color line.
(Therefore, pace Aristoteles, it had no single and clearly defined slave race or
The initial consideration bearing on that dissimilarity has been succinctly posed by Carl
Degler: "Modern slavery, however, differed from the ancient form in one important
way. It was imposed upon colored people only."7
The ancient system was not based on a restrictively demarcated racial intake. For a
while Greeks enslaved Greeks, a practice which Solon's law of 594 B.C. sought to pre-
vent. Most slaves were, however, introduced from diverse conquered regions of Greco-
Roman spheres of influence, predominantly from Asia Minor and the eastern Medi-
terranean with significant increments accruing from Western Europe in the later phases
of Roman slavery.
Africans, as Frank Snowden observes, were "far from rare sights in the Greco-Roman
world," fulfilli-g various roles-from slaves to ambassadors-thus leading him to assert
that "the Greeks and Romans counted black people in." IWhat can be claimed with cer-
tainty is that, unlike their latter-day European and North American slaveholding coun-
terparts, the Greeks and Romans did not automatically count black people out of
the prospect of full and equal participation in the polity. More to the point, the crucial
distinction in the ancient system was between freeman and slave, regardless of colour;
the modern version, by contrast, developed in such a way as to make most meaningful
the distinction between white and black, regardless of status of the latter (free or en-
As pointed out by Michael Banton, Oliver Cox, and Thomas Gossett, attitudes of
group differentiation obtaining in the Greco-Roman epoch were based not on biological
but on cultural or cultural-class premises, or were rationalized in terms of environmental
determinants.19 Cox pursues these comparisons further in suggesting that the even more
ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, or Persian civilizations displayed no evidence of "racial
antagonism" or thus of racism, "the philosophy of racial antipathy." Gossett, while
detecting elements of "racism" occasionally appearing in ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and
Jewish thought, concludes: "Among ancient peoples, discrimination against minorities
had a racist basis less often than might be supposed." Despite some specific differences
in their reading of ancient history, Cox and Gossett are, like Banton, fundamentally in
agreement on the proposition that racism-as-ideology had no place in ancient practice.20
As we have seen, race thinking was no modern invention; nor, as underscored by
Gossett, was it a unique Western discovery. However, it is generally agreed that racism
as a doctrine given concrete political and social significance is of relatively recent origin.
The clue to that state of affairs in Jordan's view lies in "the opening of West Africa and
the development of Negro slavery," since "before the fifteenth century.. the question
of the Negro's color can hardly be said to have drawn the attention of Englishmen or
indeed of Europeans generally."21
"Race," or more accurately the ideology of racism, has thus been labelled a "modern
superstition."2 For in those earlier instances where race thinking spilled over into racist
contention, they remained at the level of individual expression rather than societal
dogma. In any event, while, as Banton argues,
Expressions of something rather like racism can be found in many quarters [of
ancient thought]... it is dangerous to infer that in their cultural context they had
a meaning similar to that which they would have for a contemporary audience.
There may also be a contrast between the way in which a scholar emphasizes
ideas of race when elaborating a philosophy of history and the sort of action he
recommends in relations with other peoples.
3. Trans-Atlantic Slavery and the Development of Racism
We have drawn attention to one significant difference in the component characteris-
tics of ancient and modem slavery, namely, the divergent nature of their racial infra-
structures. That difference does not, however, in itself explain why systems of racism
eventually arose out of trans-Atlantic slavery practices. What might be said is that the
racially restrictive structural base of modern slavery was a predisposing factor in, but
not the efficient cause of, the final triumph of the ideology of racism.
To capture the essence of the latter phenomenon in its historical origins, it is necess-
ary to reflect on the impact of various domestic and international political and socio-
economic forces then in the ascendancy which controlled the institutionalization, prac-
tice, and consequences of slavery, which, in turn, came directly to bear on the subject of
The crux of Eric Williams' thesis on "the origin of Negro slavery" is that "the reason
was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheap-
ness of the labor." In pursuing that theme, he argues that the demands of the develop-
ing New World plantation systems, built mainly around the production of cotton, sugar
and tobacco, were such as to require a cheap, accessible and extensive supply of African
labour in view of the insufficiency of pre-existing resources based on the indentured
white labour and the enslavement of aboriginal Indians. "Slavery in no way implied, in
any scientific sense, the inferiority of the Negro", Williams contends. "Slavery was not
bor of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery."24
Carl Degler and Winthrop Jordan however maintain that modern Anglo-Saxon beliefs
concerning white superiority and black inferiority, and associated discriminatory and
caste-like practices, antedated slavery?5Drawing on United States experiences, Degler
long before slavery or black labour became an important part of the Southern
economy, a special and inferior status had been worked out for the Negroes.... it
was a demand for labour which dragged the Negro to American shores, but the
status he acquired cannot be explained by reference to that economic motive.
Jordan, similarly reflecting on the role of racial and colour considerations as motiv-
ating the initiation of black enslavement, wonders "why Negroes came to be slaves in
the first place." Common assumptions that "the degraded position of the slave degraded
the Negro in the white man's eyes" are insufficient, he avers, since the Negro "was not
fully a slave for Englishmen, until they enslaved him."
Jordan's thesis is simply that from the outset of the sixteenth century (pre-slavery)
contact of Englishmen with Africans, the former tended to distinguish themsleves sharp-
ly from the latter as a race, and that armed with such initial racial stereotypes, reinforced
by perceptions of religious debasement inhering in African heathenismm", the subsequent
transition to racial enslavement was thereby attitudinally facilitated:
In Africa, these qualities had for Englishmen added up to savagery; they were
major components in that sense of difference which provided the mental margin
absolutely requisite for placing the European on the deck of the slave ship and the
Negro in the hold.
Degler and Jordan both support Williams' view of the import of economic motives,
their main point of difference arising in the latter's minimization of the pre-influences
of racial and colour attitudes bearing on the establishment of slavery. Yet, when all is
said and done, the common conclusion which may be adduced in all these assessments
is that in the absence of slavery, through which racial prejudice and discrimination were
systematized, matters of race and colour would not have been destined to play so im-
portant a role in modern political and socio-economic thought and policy.
The enslavement of Africans in the New World was thus the factor crucial not only
to the viability of the modern slave system but also to the formalization of white racism
and its spread across national frontiers. As the New World colonists were well aware, an
exclusive reliance on indigenous Indian slave labour would have spelled the system's
early doom,6and what would have then been a case of domesticated racial oppression
through enslavement would not likely have developed into a phenomenon international
in scope, potency and consequence, defining and conditioning relations across and be-
It was through the slave trade that Europe and the Americas forged their first mean-
ingful contacts with Africa; and it was through slavery that African peoples were first
introduced to European and New World white racial subordination and oppression.
Some indication of the origins, scope and longevity of such contacts, of the main actors
involved and regions directly affected, appears in the Appendix below.
It was some time before the links between African enslavement and modem racism
were perfected. Williams' contention that racism in a substantive sense developed out of,
rather than preceded, slavery is in at least one respect given some support by those who
have pinpointed the role of religious difference and rationalization surrounding the
initiation of the slave trade?2 Even Jordan concedes that point, noting that "in the early
years, the English settlers most frequently contrasted themselves with Negroes by the
term Christian". But in consistency with his aforementioned thesis, Jordan hastens to
point out that the earlier beliefs, articulated primarily in religious terms, simultaneously
embraced considerations pertaining to race per se, thus generating a cumulative and self-
reinforcing process of incipient racism:
From the first, then, vis-a-vis the Negro the concept embedded in the term Chris-
tian seems to have conveyed much of the idea and meaning of we as against they:
to be Christian was to be civilized rather than barbarous, English rather than Afri-
can, white rather than black.
It should be noted that from the outset a religious, as opposed to a racial, rationale
for enslavement was more fully and consistently developed in the Catholic, as opposed
to the Protestant, colonial-slavery culture, but-as elaborated in the next section-this is
not to say that race-oriented considerations were absent, or even minimal, in the former
Religious considerations furnished a powerful impetus to the establishment of racial
slavery, and in the process served to facilitate the development of racism. A real prob-
lem arose when African slaves appeared susceptible to Christian conversion, thus under-
mining the theoretical basis for the perpetuation of slavery as a device for eradicating
heathenismm". Additional complications too inhered in that situation, as was recognized
by British Caribbean slaveholders who in the earlier stages of slavery took steps to deny
Christian instruction to slaves mainly for fear that they might be inclined to extract
some revolutionary tendencies from the Christian faith.28 Such slaves would have more
readily recognized the inherent contradictions between Christian ideology and white
Christian practice, or might indeed even be tempted to perceive of themselves as
equals-if only in the non-secular world.
In such circumstances, a racial rationale for enslavement became more consistently
developed, eventually superseding the religious rationale without being entirely dis-
associated from it.29 "What had occurred" by the late seventeenth century "was not a
change in the justification of slavery from religion to race," Jordan opines. "The shift
was an alteration in emphasis within a single concept of difference rather than a develop-
ment of a novel conceptualization."
The interaction of racial and religious variables in the growth of prejudice and.dis-
crimination was simultaneously being worked out on another front. By the nineteenth
century, anti-Semitism had developed on such a scale in Europe that Jews were, by now,
being redefined from a religious to a "racial" category, in a situation of declining re-
ligious rivalry and rising racial cleavages. Thus was symbolized the nature and meaning
of the historical linkages forged between religious and racial prejudice and, in particular,
the relationship of anti-Semitism to the growth of the modern race problem.30
Such then was the nature of historical interactions of religious and racial elements of
group differentiation and cleavage, culminating in the transition from a religious to a
racial frame of reference; and such was the historical impact of the developing role of
racial perception in European political thought and practice, phenomena which had
basic roots in the institution of slavery.
While recognizing the conditioning impacts of religious and slavery considerations,
Ruth Benedict maintains that "Racism did not.get its currency in modem thought until
it was applied to conflicts within Europe-first to class conflicts and then to national."
In the former connection, Count Arthur de Gobineau whose Essai sur l'inegalite des
races humaines (4 vols.; Paris: 1853-55) is conventionally regarded as the first classic
racist pronouncement, and who has thus found a niche in history as the intellectual
father of racism, was actually motivated more about the class question in Europe than
about the race question in general. But his case for Nordic or Aryan supremacy as a
basis for political leadership within Europe was pursued within a generalized theory of
racial character, thus serving as additional intellectual ammunition for advocates of
white supremacy at large.31
The conditions and processes governing the ultimate triumph of white world racism
are admittedly too manifold to be comprehended solely under the rubric of trans-Atlan-
tic slavery. But as Benedict surmises:
... it is possible to wonder whether the doctrine would have been proposed at all
as explaining these latter [class and national] conflicts-where.... the dogma is so
inept-if the basis for it had not been laid in the violent experience of racial pre-
judice on the frontier [of colonization cum slavery].
4. Comparative vs. International Racial Implications of Slavery
There are two competing schools of thought emerging from comparative investigation
into the relationships of slavery cultures and race relations cultures. Tannenbaum,
Elkins, and Klein are representative of the historical school which emphasizes the differ-
ences between Anglo and Iberian variants; others, such as Harris, Davis, Goveia and
Mintz, have in contrast underlined the similarities of, and continuities between, slavery
systems.32 The relatively less rigid formalization of slavery practices and the comparative-
ly greater fluidity in racial definition and status are, we are told by the former, distinct-
ive features of the Iberian approach.
One line of argument by that school is that marked differences between the Anglo
and Iberian models can be explained partly as a function of their contrasting religious
cultures which, it is claimed, in the latter instance served to mitigate the harshness of
slavery practices and to encourage more flexible styles of interracial contact. If such be
the case, it remains to be emphasized that whatever the modifying tendencies introduced
by religious variables in the Iberian variant, these apply only in relation to other com-
parable situations of racial overrule and not in terms of ideal models of race relations
warranting emulation. For, to be sure, Africans in Angola or Mozambique have hardly
been predisposed to proclaiming the relative advantages of the Portuguese presence
(withdrawn as recently as 1975), or the benefits of Portugal's historic "civilizing mission"
(a formulation fraught with racist connotation). Nor does it appear that most Brazilian
blacks derive comfort from the socio-racial order prevailing in that Iberian fragment.33
So persistent, and at times effective, have the Portuguese been in perpetuating an
official myth of "racial non-discrimination" and "multiracialism",4that a brief assessment
is in order. Portuguese policies and behaviour in the slavery-colonial settings-and here it
must be remembered that they initiated the trans-Atlantic slave trade and were as well
the longest colonial sojourners in Africa-were always racist to the core. For one thing,
the "salvation" and "civilization" of black subjects were premised on their aspiring to
Portuguese religious and cultural values; the reverse was never admitted. Further, what-
ever the rationalizations, once slavery and colonization involve clear-cut racial distinc-
tions between the rulers and the ruled, they are by definition racist, being both system-
atized forms of racial inequality. In any event, it has been authoritatively documented
that the operative patterns of Portuguese contact with those they enslaved or colonized
were, in Boxer's words, imbued with "conscious white superiority."35
Returning to our starting point, the fact of the matter is that the conclusion of the
first school pales into insignificance in the light of the impact of all orders of trans-At-
lantic slavery on the development of colour prejudice and discrimination, on the struc-
turing of racial stratification patterns, on the institutionalization of systems of white
dominance and black subordination/dependence, and on the internationalization of
5. Slavery and the Internationalization of Racial Challenges
It should by now be apparent that through a comparative spatio-temporal approach
to the study of slavery in its connection with the race question we have been seeking to
delineate an international system perspective on the historical dimensions of the racial
factor. It is not without significance that the African slave trade came to be characterized
in many quarters as the "international slave trade". This was no isolated historical epi-
sode. It was enmeshed in ongoing political, economic and religious struggles and search-
es for influence and power, pan-European in manifestation and consequently global in
Slavery, the first organized system of race dominance, was thus a phenomenon in-
tegrally related to the evolving international political order. In its initiation, as in its
termination, it was part and parcel of the European thrust for prestige and power on a
global scale, involving both elements of cooperation and conflict among the slaveholding
or imperialist interests. As time progressed, the question became increasingly caught up
in the web of European and American diplomacy,36eventually working its way into the
formalities of intergovernmental organizational and legal concern-as when the partici-
pants in the Congress of Vienna (1815) were moved to declare the slave trade an act of
piracy, or when the signatories to the Brussels Act of 1890 pledged to use all available
means at their individual disposal to terminate all forms of slave traffic.37
That the dynamics of slavery and its attendant racial implications could not be con-
tained within any given country or region was frequently revealed, for example, in the
interacting sequences of developments within Caribbean slavocracies, as in the spreading
factors or spill-over impacts involving transnational and intergovernmental interactions
between the United States and the Caribbean. Similar manifestations of transnational
impacts were strikingly illustrated in the nineteenth century spread of a variety of aboli-
tionist movements in the English-speaking world which, in the process, sought to forge a
commonality of interest transcending national or regional frontiers.38 Not least, the seeds
for the development of Pan-Africanism as a doctrine of black world liberation, and as a
symbol expressive of a search for black world solidarity, were sown in the conditions of
An examination of selected aspects of United States foreign policy and transnational
relations is helpful in shedding light on the links between domestic and external/inter-
national aspects of race, as affected by the institution of slavery. For example, not until
1862 did the United States find it feasible to establish diplomatic ties with Haiti (which
had acquired independence in 1804) and Liberia (founded in 1822 by blacks fleeing per-
secution in the United States, and declared a sovereign Republic in 1847). The secession
of the American South and the advent of the Civil War paved the way for such actions
which the Lincoln administration-moving cautiously, however, for fear of alienating
the border slaveholding states-with the encouragement of abolitionist forces, consider-
ed opportune now that Southern intransigence was not institutionalized in the national
decision-making arena. For the slaveholding interests had previously made it clear that
the recognition of any black nation, especially one like Haiti which had established its
independence through slave revolt, was incompatible with the promotion of domestic
slavery cum racism. As far as those parties were concerned, the equality of nations was
not merely a politico-legal issue; it was a racial one as well.39
It has also been pointed out by Bemis that not until "slave power was removed from
national politics" was the United States able to join fully in the effective prosecution of
international measures against the slave trade, a subject which had frequently compli-
cated American relations with the European Powers.40
The dynamics of United States slavery cum racism invariably assumed significant
internationalized politico-racial dimensions in the Americas. For example, the 1846-48
war with Mexico was pragmatically seen by slaveholding interests as a means of incorpor-
ating more land, the better to expand the territorial basis of slavery. In this aim, they
could count on the support of other whites whose psycho-political drives placed a pre-
mium on racial expansionism in the search for the fulfilment of a "manifest destiny".
Nor were the implications lost on black Americans who, as C. L. R. James tells us, were
so concerned over the impending war that at a National Negro Convention of the early
1840s they deliberated on a proposal-subsequently lost by one vote-"for a general
strike by the slave laborers of the South, who would act as a human wall barring the
United States Army from invading Mexican territory and turning it into a slave planting
Similarly, slavery-expansionist motives figured behind American imperialist designs
on Nicaragua and Cuba in the 1850s and, in a classic illustration of racial transnationalism,
slaveholding interests in the latter actively sought in the 1853-55 period to consolidate a
link with Southern annexationist interests, both being fearful of the prospects of "the
Africanization of Cuba" during the impending erosion and anticipated abolition of Cuban
United States slavery-racial regional diplomacy was at times stretched to include the
subject of Afro-American resettlement. Had Abraham Lincoln had his way, he would
have permanently solved the racial problem by simultaneously abolishing the institution
of slavery and-through emigration-the black presence on American soil. In the 1861-64
period, Lincoln sought to find suitable Caribbean or Central American locations to
which blacks might be encouraged to migrate. (African colonization schemes were also
considered by Lincoln but were rejected on the grounds of financial and administrative
burdens). But his hopes were frustrated by the unsympathetic responses of Caribbean
colonial regimes, and by the intense diplomatic opposition of Costa Rica, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. In any event, few black Americans seemed
favourably disposed to the idea, though there were some leading spokesmen such as
Martin Delany and Theodore Holly who were convinced that emigration to the Carib-
bean or Africa was an essential path to racial liberation.43
Leaving international political considerations aside, we also find slavery being intim-
ately connected with predominant transitions in the international economic order. It is
within that context that Eric Williams' thesis on the linkages between capitalism and
slavery-whether during the maturation of the latter or in its demise- is pursued:
The capitalists had first encouraged West Indian slavery and then helped to de-
stroy it. When British capitalism depended on the West Indies, they ignored slav-
ery or defended it. When British capitalism found the West Indian monopoly a
nuisance, they destroyed West Indian slavery as the first step in the destruction of
West Indian monopoly.44
But, as revealed in the following two assessments, opinions differ sharply on the relation-
ship of capitalism to racism:
Our hypothesis is that racial exploitation and race prejudice developed among
Europeans with the rise of capitalism and nationalism, and that because of the
world-wide implications of capitalism, all racial antagonism can be traced to the
policies and attitudes of the leading capitalist people, the white people of Europe
and North America.45
Racism attained its greatest influence just after the rise of capitalism but this does
not prove that there is any logical connection between the two. Their association
might be to some degree coincidental.... The suggestion that Marxism provides a
sufficient explanation of the appearance of racism in the middle of the nineteenth
century can be rejected, but the claim that Marxism explains how the initial errors
were utilized is a much stronger one.46
We need not here enter the debate as to whether racism is inherent in capitalism, but
it goes without saying-despite the fact that capitalism's philosophical founder, Adam
Smith, was uncompromisingly opposed to slavery on economic as well as moral grounds-
that the rise of capitalism was integrally associated with the rise of racial exploitation
on a world-wide scale.
The role of slavery in capitalist exploitation and the economic growth of the New
World is sufficiently known as to require no elaboration or documentation here. It has
moreover been underscored by scholars such as Eric Williams, James Walvin and Gaston-
Martin, that the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery contributed susbtantially to bur-
geoning capitalist development in Europe. On the other hand, the slave trade was, as
shown by Walter Rodney, "a basic factor" in the historical roots of African under-
development; and as Davis argues especially with reference to the British West Indies,
"Negro slavery has been associated with systems whose tempting profits have been
accompanied by slow economic and cultural stagnation".47
That such historical legacies and associated historical memories haunt the present-day
challenges of international economic stratification and reconstruction is evident when
we see Frantz Fanon, in his 1960 exhortation for a Third World revolution against West-
ern imperialist economic exploitation, being moved to declare bluntly that "The wealth
of the imperialist countries is our wealth too," since
Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The wealth which smothers her
is that which was stolen from the under-developed peoples. The ports of Holland,
the docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialised in the Negro slave-trade,
and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves.4
In sum, thanks to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and modem slavery, the formalization
of economic exploitation, dependence, and underdevelopment along racial lines assumed
international proportions hitherto unknown.
Such then were the circumstances under which, as W. E. B. DuBois submitted, "The
word 'Negro' was used for the first time in the world's history to tie color to race and
blackness to slavery and degradation"; and such was the historical situation wherein
"the world began to invest in color prejudice."49 For once slavery was linked to the on-
going predominating transitions in the international economic system, was sustained by
major actors in the emerging modern international political system, and was rationalized
in terms of inherent racial attributes, the stage was set for the internationalization of the
linkages of race, economics and politics.
6. Some International Politico-Racial Consequences of Slavery
Though that system of modern slavery was formally abolished by the end of the nine-
teenth century, the burdens of colour arising therefrom on political, socio-economic and
psychological fronts thereafter continued to afflict public policy and private behaviour.
The processes culminating in the abolition of slavery indeed "sharpened inherent con-
flicts instead of finding a solution for existing difficulties," as Hannah Arendt observes.
For example, the debates surrounding abolition in the United States and the British
Caribbean found, in Arendt's words, "a highly confused public opinion which was fertile
soil for the various naturalistic doctrines which arose in those decades"
The appearance of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species in 1859 is generally con-
sidered to represent the watershed in the evolution of naturalistic doctrine and racial
thought. Even though the common descent, and by implication the fundamental unity,
of the races of mankind was underscored by Darwin, his related theory of evolutionary
gradation within the human race proved more receptive to the climate of the times,
being tailored to sustain and strengthen race prejudice, to support the formalization of
differential racial privileges and status, and to legitimize the principle of the right of the
"fittest" races to survive by any means necessary.
The latter nineteenth-century Western colonialists thus had no need to invent doc-
trines of racial overrule in the service of their economic and political ambitions. For
though the institution of slavery was undergoing steady erosion by the mid-nineteenth
century, the ideology and practice of white racism which had been given its most power-
ful boost by that institution was steadily evolving with a dynamic of its own. Armed
with respectable intellectual and "scientific" authority, and backed by a pliable public
opinion, the Western imperialist world was approaching the final and grandest phase of
colonial expansion in a mood distinctly unpromising for the future of the darker races.s5
In the longer run, the initial impact of slavery cum white settler colonization in the
New World and the consolidating effect of late nineteenth-century colonialism-whose
most conspicuous feature was the political subjugation of Africa by Europe-on the his-
torical entrenchment of white supremacist doctrines and systems, were to have profound
repercussions, extending beyond the specific frontiers of slavery or colonialism, on more
generalized patterns of political, economic and racial relationships between the white
and non-white worlds, and within the international system.
In such a light is better understood why in 1919 we find a country such as Japan,
which had experienced neither slavery nor colonialism, being agitated over the racial
question to such an extent as to be disposed to seek remedial measures through the pro-
cesses of interstate diplomacy That was at the Paris Peace Conference when Japan un-
successfully attempted to have the proposed League of Nations Covenant explicitly re-
cognize the principle of racial equality, a notion that the international white power
structure refused to entertain.
Now that we are living at a time when a Decade for Action to Combat Racism and
Racial Discrimination (1973-83) has been proclaimed by the United Nations, it is fitting
to recognize how racial challenges to the present are haunted by racial traumas of the
past. In the latter connection, we are obliged to begin at least with trans-Atlantic slavery.
1. Talcott Parsons, "The Problem of Polarization on the Axis of Color," in Color and Race, ed. by
John Hope Franklin (Boston, Beacon Press, 1968). p. 366.
2. See e.g., Locksley Edmonson, "The Internationalization of Black Power: Historical and Con-
temporary Perspectives," Mawazo I (December 1968), 16-30, reprinted in Is Massa Day Dead?:
Black Moods in the Caribbean, ed. by Orde Coombs (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Double-
day, 1974), pp. 205-243; "The Challenges of Race: From Entrenched White Power to Rising
Black Power," International Journal, XXIV (Autumn 1969), 693-716; "Race and Human
Rights in International Organization and International Law-and Afro-American Interests,"
Afro-American Studies, II (December 1971), 205-224; "Africa and the African Diaspora: Inter-
actions, Linkages and Racial Challenges in the Future World Order," in Africa in World Affairs:
The Next Thirty Years, ed. by Ali Mazrui and Hasu Patel (New York: Third Press, 1973). pp.
1-21; "Caribbean Nation-Building and the Internationalization of Race: Issues and Perspectives,"
in Ethnicity and Nation-Building: Comparative, International and Historical Perspectives, ed.
by Wendell Bell and Walter Freeman (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications 1974), pp. 73-86.
3. This understanding of transnational relationships derives from the Keohane and Nye formula-
tion. See Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Jr., eds., Transnational Relations and World Politics
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972).
4. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (London: Andre Deutsch, 1964).
5. Quoted in Ruth Benedict, Race, Science and Politics (rev. ed.: New York, Viking Press, 1945)
6. David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University
7. In addition to Davis (note 6), Part 1, see e.g., Mavis Campbell, "Aristotle and Black Slavery: A
Study in Race Prejudice," Race, XV, No. 3 (1974), 283-301; Robert Schlaifer, "Greek Theories
of Slavery from Homer to Aristotle," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, XLVII (1936),
165-204; Gregory Vlastos, "Slavery in Plato's Republic," Philosophical Review,L (1941),
8. Aristotle, Politics, Book I, p. 11 in Aristotle's Politics and Athenian Constitution, ed. and trans.,
by John Warrington (London. J.M.Dent, 1959). Future quotations from Aristotle are drawn
from this edition.
9. Politics, Book I, pp. 12, 24.
10. See e.g., Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, pp. 453-456; Winthrop D. Jordan,
White over Black: American Attitudes Towards the Negro, 1550-1812 (Baltimore: Penguin
Books, 1969), Chaps. 1 & 6, passim.
11. Politics, Book VII, pp. 200-201.
12. Ibid., p. 201.
13. Politics, Book I, p. 12. Aristotle, however, went on to maintain that there were significant
physical differences as readily apparent "as there is between the statues of the gods and the
average human form, all would acknowledge that the inferior class should be slaves of the
superior." Some latter-day racists in effect applied this portion of his argument in maintaining
that physical differences between blacks and whites derived from their being of different
species, a position which Aristotle (who had seen black slaves and freemen in Greece) presum-
ably would have rejected.
14. Impressions of the former are mainly derived from M. I. Finley, ed., Slavery in Classical Anti-
quity: Views and Controversies (Cambridge, England: W. Heffer & Sons, 1960). This collection
of previously published essays includes those by Schlaifer and Vlastos mentioned at note 7
supra. We have also drawn on Arnold A. Sio,"Interpretations of Slavery: The Slave Status in the
Americas, Comparative Studies in Society and History, VII (April 1965), 289-309, which in-
cludes some comparisons with Roman slavery. Our generalizations on the modern case are
derived mainly from the studies cited below at note 32.
15. William Linn Westermann, "Slavery and the Elements of Freedom in Ancient Greece," Quarter-
ly Bulletin of the Polish Institute in America (January 1943), pp. 1-15; reprinted in Finley, ed.,
Slavery in Classical Antiquity, pp. 17-32. Quotations here and elsewhere at pp. 7, 15 of the
16. See e.g., M. I. Finley, "Was Greek Civilisation Based on Slave Labour?" Historia, VIII (1956),
145-164; reprinted in Finley, ed., Slavery in Classical Antiquity. Sio's conclusions (note 14
supra ) clearly invite us not to over-romanticize the Roman version.
17. Carl N. Degler, Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United
States (New York: Macmillan, 1971), p. 25. Some relevant data appear in the Appendix below.
18. Frank M. Snowden, Jr., Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience (Cam-
bridge: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1970), pp. 183, 218.
19. It is of interest here to note that there were some anti-slavery advocates in the modern era who
did not question conventional wisdom on the racial inferiority of blacks, but based their con-
cern on the grounds that climatic and environmental, as opposed to genetic, influences were the
operative factors. Jordan, White Over Black, p. 305.
20. Michael Banton, Race Relations (London: Tavistock Publications, 1967), pp. 12-13 (quotation
two paragraphs below at p. 13), Oliver C. Cox, Caste, Class and Race: A Study in Social
Dynamics (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1959), pp. 321-325; Thomas F. Gossett, Race:
The History of an Idea in America (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), pp. 3-9. In discussing
the development of Muslim (especially Arab) racial thought from ancient to modern times,
Bernard Lewis in Race and Color in Islam (New York: Harper & Row, 1971) challenges the
"myth of Muslim freedom from racial prejudice." Helpful as that study is as a corrective to con-
ventional myths, the inescapable conclusion which emerges-and which is not sufficiently
underscored as such by Lewis-is that there have been significant differences in degree, as in
kind, between Islamic and modern Western approaches to slavery, race, and racism. Paul Coles
in The Ottoman Impact on Europe (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), pp.50-58,
.illustrates some institutional differences between slavery in the Turkish Islamic fragment and
the trans-Atlantic system.
21. Jordan, White Over Black, p. 12.
22. Jacques Barzun, Race: A Study in Modern Superstition (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co.,
1937); rev. ed. published under the title Race: A Study in Superstition (New York: Harper &
23. Hereafter the term "slavery" when used without qualification refers to the trans-Atlantic system.
24. Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, pp. 7, 19, 29.
25. Carl N. Degler, "Slavery and the Genesis of American Race Prejudice," Comparative Studies in
Society and History, II (October 1959), 49-66 (following quotation at p. 62); Jordan, White
Over Black, passim (following quotations and references at pp. x, 43, 91, 97).
26 New World Indian servitude for a time co-existed with African enslavement, but the more
that the former declined the more the latter rose. Mavis Campbell ("Aristotle and Black
Slavery," pp. 285-289) and David Brion Davis (The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture,
Chap. 6) both document a kind of dual standard in white attitudes to Indian and African
enslavement, best initially displayed in Bartolome de las Casas' successful plea to the Spanish
Crown ca. 1518 that Indian slaves deserved liberty and should be replaced by Africans. Increas-
ing white opposition to Indian, and support for black enslavement seems to have been due
inter alia to
(a) Indian roles in providing markets, produce and temporary alliances in frontier and other
(b) probable feelings of guilt over the alienation of Indian land and labour and the accompany-
ing violence in their immediate surroundings (Davis and Campbell);
(c) the closer racial proximity of the Indian to the white (Campbell's speculation);
(d) the fact that African enslavement was a more efficient form of productive enterprise on
the plantations thus inviting its systematic defence (Campbell).
But if Indian was eventually replaced by African slavery, with all the accompanying
rationalizations, Indians by no means escaped the virulence of racism which grew apace with
the entrenchment of trans-Atlantic slavery. In any event, the Indian was progressively sub-
jugated, within or without slavery.
27. The following discussion draws mainly on Banton, Race Relations, pp. 103-112; Cox, Caste,
Class and Race, pp. 326-328; Jordan, White Over Black, pp. 93-96; Williams, Capitalism and
Slavery, pp. 42-44.
28. Once the institution of slavery became entrenched, however, and once a racial superseded a
religious rationale for enslavement, British Caribbean slaveholders by the latter eighteenth cent-
ury more often than not supported missionary activity, seeing, in Marshall's words, "the virtues
of industry, sobriety, diligence, submission and honesty", preached by them as being of "great
economic benefit." By the 1820's planter fears of missionary activity resurfaced in a context of
rising slave and other opposition to slavery culminating in its abolition in the next decade.
Reviewing the overall record, while missionary activity in some areas served to alleviate or
undermine slavery practices-e.g., aiding the educational uplift of slaves and the development of
political leadership among them, or furnishing humanitarian inputs to the abolitionist move-
ment-such praiseworthy activities, as Marshall concludes with respect to the British Windward
Islands, "were outweighed by the substantial contributions that they made to the maintenance
and stability of the slave system." Goveia has a similar viewpoint with respect to the Leeward
Islands. See Bernard Marshall, "Society and Economy in the British Windward Islands, 1763-
1823" (Ph.D. dissertation; Department of History, University of the West Indies, Mona, 1972),
pp. 494-500; Elsa Goveia, Slave Society in the British Leeward Islands at the End of the Eight-
eenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), Chap. 5.
29. The classic symbiotic manifestation of religion cum racism in recent times has occurred in
South Africa where the religious imperatives of apartheid have been formally articulated-though
with less regularity over the past decade-and transmitted mainly through the institution of the
Dutch Reformed Church, a major socialization agency of Afrikaner nationalism.
30. See e.g., Hannah Arendt, Anti-Semitism, Part I: The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Har-
court, Brace & World, 1968).
31. Benedict, Race, Science and Politics, pp. 111-120 (quotations at p. 111); Michael A. Biddiss,
Father of Racist Ideology: The Social and Political Thought of Count Gobineau (New York:
Weybright & Talley, 1970); Biddiss, ed., Gobineau: Political Writings (New York: Harper &
Row, 1970); Jean Gaulmier, Spectre de Gobineau (Paris: J. J. Pauvert, 1965).
32. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas (New York: Knopf, 1947);
Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1959; 2nd. ed., 1968); Herbert S. Klein, Slavery in the Americas: A
Comparative Study of Virginia and Cuba (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Marvin
Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas (New York: Walker and Co., 1964); Davis, The
Problem of Slavery in Western Culture; Goveia, Slave Society in the British Leeward Islands;
Sidney W. Mintz, "Labor and Sugar in Puerto Rico and Jamaica, Comparative Studies in
Society and History, I (March 1959), 273-280. Aspects of the controversy are conveniently
drawn together in Ann J. Lane, ed., The Debate Over Slavery: Stanley Elkins and His Critics
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971). For other reviews or reassessments of this debate
see, e.g., Degler, Neither Black Nor White; H. Hoetink, The Two Variants in Caribbean Race
Relations: A Contribution to the Sociology of Segmented Societies (London: Oxford University
Press, 1967); Philip Mason, Patterns of Dominance (London: Oxford University Press, 1970),
Chaps. 11-13;Sio, "Interpretations of Slavery"; Roland M. Smith, "The Comparative Approach
to the Study of Slavery," Black Lines II (Summer 1972), 39-45. Eugene D. Genovese, The
World the Slaveholders Made (New York: Pantheon Books, 1969), is an authoritative Marxist
interpretation which cuts across both schools.
33. On the persisting "outer" and "inner burdens of color" (Degler, pp. 93, 153) deriving in Brazil
from "the weight of the past" (Fernandes), see e.g., Roger Bastide, "The Development of Race
Relations in Brazil," in Industrialization and Race Relations: A Symposium, ed. by Guy Hunter
(London: Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. 9-29; Degler, Neither Black Nor White, passim;
Florestan, "The Weight of the Past," in Color and Race, ed. by John Hope Franklin (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1968), pp. 282-301; Charles Wagley, Race and Class in Rural Brazil (2nd ed.:
New York: Columbia University Press, 1963).
34. See e.g., Antonio Alberto de Andrade, Many Races-One Nation: Racial Non-Discrimination
Always the Cornerstone of Portugal's Overseas Policy (Lisbon: n.p. 1961); Andrade, Many
Races But a Sole Nation: Outline of the "Theory of Portuguese Humanism" (new ed. rev.:
Lisbon Agencia-Geral do Ultramar, 1969).
35. See e.g., C. R. Boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415-1825 (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1969); J. Hammond, "Race Attitudes and Policies in Portuguese Africa in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," Race, IX (October 1967), 205-216; Eduardo Mondlane,
The Struggle for Mozambique (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969).
36. On various international political ramifications see e.g., W. E. B. DuBois, The Suppression of
the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (New York: Longmans,
Green & Co., 1896); C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San
Domingo Revolution (2nd ed. rev.: New York: Vintage Books, 1963); James, "The Atlantic
Slave Trade and Slavery: Some Interpretations of Their Significance in the Development of the
United States and the Western World," in AMISTAD I: Writings on Black History and Culture,
ed. by John A. Williams and Charles F. Harris (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 119-164;
Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, passim.
37. Thus were laid the foundations for more comprehensive international legal institutionalization
of concern in the twentieth century. Under League of Nations auspices, a "Slavery Convention"
was concluded in 1926 (amended by Protocol in 1953); in 1956, the United Nations adopted a
"Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and
Practices Similar to Slavery." See texts in lan Brownlie ed., Basic Documents on Human Rights
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 121-134.
38. The abolitionist movements represented a challenge to slavery, hardly to racism which having
developed largely out of the former increasingly came to have an independent vitality of its
own. By the time abolitionist sentiments were rampant, the racist damage was already done.
And while some abolitionists were anti-racists, others were racist in believing in the natural
superiority of the white but not in the perversion of Western ideals of liberty and theoretical
equality. Nor was humanitarianism as overwhelming an impulse behind abolitionism as it is
alleged to have been (note 44 below).
39. Consult relevant sections of Raymond Bixler, The Foreign Policy of the United States in Liberia
(New York: Pageant Press, 1957); Rayford W. Logan, The Diplomatic Relations of the United
States with Haiti, 1776-1891 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1941); Ludwell
L. Montague, Haiti and the United States, 1714-1938 (New York: Russell & Russell, 1966);
Charles C. Tansill, The United States and Santo Domingo, 1789-1873: A Chapter in Caribbean
Diplomacy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1938).
40. Samuel F Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States (rev. ed.: New York: Henry Holt,
41. James, "The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery," p. 143; Archie P. McDonald, ed., The Mexican
War: Crisis for American Democracy (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1969), passim.
42. On Nicaragua see Bemis, A Diplomatic History, pp. 327-333. On Cuba see generally Lester D.
Langley, The Cuban Policy of the United States: A Brief History (New York: John Wiley,
1968), and specifically C. Stanley Urban, "The Africanization of Cuba Scare, 1853-1855,"
Hispanic American Historical Review XXXVII (Februaryl957), 29-45. Concerning the latter,
the majority of Cubans were then of African descent and the prospect of the country being
eventually dominated by free blacks was worrying to white supremacist interests in Cuba and
the American South.
43. Benjamin Quarles, Lincoln and the Negro (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), pp. 98-
123;132-133; 191-194; M. R. Delany and Robert Campbell, Search for a Place: Black Separat-
ism and Africa, 1860 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969)-republication of
1959-60 documents; James Theodore Holly and J. Dennis Harris, Black Separatism and the
Caribbean, 1860 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1970)-republication of 1857 and
44. Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, p. 169. Elsa Goveia and Marvin Harris also question the signi-
ficance of humanitarian motives underlying abolition.
45. Cox, Caste, Class and Race, p. 322. Also see Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made, Chap.
3, on the "correlation between greater racial prejudice and capitalist development."
46. Banton, Race Relations, pp. 168-169.
47. Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, passim; "W. I. [West Indies] Wealth Helped Push British
Industries to Top," summary of a lecture by Dr. James Walvin (University of York, England)
reported in the Jamaican Weekly Gleaner (Kingston), 16 December 1970; Gaston-Martin,
Histoire de l'esclavage dans les colonies franchises (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948)
passim; Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (London: Bogle-L'Ouverture Pub-
lications, 1972), pp. 103-112; Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, p. 171.
48. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1966), pp. 80-81.
49. W. E. B. DuBois, The World and Africa (enlarged ed.: New York: International Publishers,
1965), p. 20; DuBois, "The African Roots of War," Atlantic Monthly, May 1915, p. 708.
50. See e.g., Hannah Arendt, Imperialism, Part II: The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Har-
court, Brace & World, 1968), Chap. 2 (foregoing quotations at p. 57); Christine Bolt, Victorian
Attitudes to Race (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971); Philip D Curtin. The Image of
Arrica: British Ideas and British Action, 1780-1850 (London: Macmillan, 1965);Gossett, Race
The History of an Idea in America, passim; Rubin F. Weston, Racism in U. S. Imperialism: The
Influence of Racial Assumptions on American Foreign Policy, 1893-1946 (Columbia: Univers-
ity of South Carolina Press, 1972), Chap. 1; Eric Williams, British Historians and the West Indies
(New York Africana Publishing Corporation, 1972), passim.
CURTIN'S ESTIMATES OF SLAVE IMPORTS TO THE AMERICAS
AND EUROPE, 1451-1870*
Recipient 1451- 1601- 1701- 1811-
Region 1600 1700 1810 1870 Total
British North America 348.0 51.0 399.0a
Spanish America 75.0 292.5 578.6 606.0 1,552.1
British Caribbean 263.7 1,401.3 1,665.0
French Caribbean 155.8 1,348.4 96.0 1,600.2
Dutch Caribbean 40.0 460.0 500.0
Danish Caribbean 4.0 24.0 28.0
Brazil 50.0 560.0 1,891.4 1,145.4 3,646.8
Old Worldb 149.9 25.1 1750
Total 274.9 1,341.1 6,051.7 1,898.4 9,566.1c
Annual Average 1.8 13.4 55.0 31.6 22.8
Philip D. Curtin, "The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census" (Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1969), Table 77, p.268. Curtin's table provides further data on the
country-by-country intake within the recipient regions. As noted by Curtin (pp.1-12),
historians' estimates of the volume of the slave trade have ranged from 3-5 million to 25
million; and C. L. R. James in "The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery" (note 36 supra)
at p. 125 observes that "some estimates give 50,000,000 and some go even higher."
Most historians have conventionally settled on a 15-20 million estimate, a "vast consen-
sus" challenged by Curtin (p. 1) on the grounds that "historians have copied over and
over the flimsy results of unsubstantial guesswork." Curtin's analysis is however based
on experimental and tentative projections, some of which are admittedly based on
The data presented above do not coincide with African exports since the number of
slaves who perished during the ocean voyage are excluded, overall estimates ranging
from 13 to 33 percent as cited by Curtin (p. 276). Curtin's treatment of slave losses in
transit (Chapter 10) does not arrive at an overall estimate for the 1451-1870 period.
a Thanks to a more favourable sexual balance among slaves here than elsewhere, a re-
latively high rate of natural increase minimized the need for substantial nineteenth-
century imports. "The endurance and even expansion of United States slavery, without
any substantial additions from importations, is unique in the world history of slavery.
Neither in antiquity nor in Latin America was a slave system sustained principally by re-
production of the slave population." Degler, Neither Black Nor White, p. 61.
bEurope, Sao Tome, Atlantic Islands.
CCf. estimates of slave imports to the Americas (1500-1850) by Edward E. Dunbar
(1861) on which many later estimates were based-which Curtin (pp.6-8) dismisses as
pure guesswork. Dunbar's estimates which follow are calculated from relevant data
presented in Curtin (p.7).
MARONAGE IN SLAVE PLANTATION SOCIETIES:
A CASE STUDY OF DOMINICA, 1785-1815
Ever since the establishment of plantation colonies in the New World by European
powers, the African who had been forcibly removed from his homeland and transported
across the Atlantic to supply the labour force, reacted to his enslavement. This reaction
took many forms. It ranged from collective and violent acts such as ievolts to individual
acts such as poisoning or murder, refusal to work, and flight from the plantation as in-
dividuals or in groups.
Even though individual acts of flight were annoying to the planter because of the loss
of labour power, such actions were hardly a threat to the plantation system itself or
social stability in the islands since they generally represented peaceful methods of resist-
ance to slavery rather than collective or violent ones. When, however, the escaped slaves
established viable self-sufficient communities and used them as bases for collective as-
saults on the settled plantations-assaults involving arson, plunder and murder, the very
existence of the plantation system was at stake.
It is this type of activity which has been termed maroonage, and indeed, the Maroon
communities which were to be found in almost every plantation colony in the New
World,1 put up heroic struggles for their freedom and independence- struggles which
seriously disrupted white economic activity and threatened to destroy the social order
itself. In some of these struggles the metropolitan powers either suffered outright military
defeats or were unable to gain a victory and in such instances were forced to sign treaties
with the Maroons guaranteeing them their independence.2 The Maroons of Dominica
were a part of these struggles.
The island of Dominica became a British colony in 1763 at the Peace of Paris which
terminated the Seven Years War with France. At that time the island had a population
of 1,718 Frenchmen and 5,872 slaves engaged in the cultivation of coffee, cocoa and
spices. Within the next ten years, the British had established a sugar industry and a slave
society with a population of 3,850 whites and 15,753 slaves. For the next forty-two
years the existence of the plantation economy and the slave society was threatened by
According to one contemporary writer, the Maroons were originally slaves of Jesuit
missionaries resident on the island at the time it became a British possession. With the
establishment of British rule, the missionaries sold their lands and slaves to English
settlers. It is alleged that these slaves for some reason took dislike to their new masters
and deserted the plantations with their wives and children for interior parts of the island
where they were joined from time to time by runaway slaves from other estates, whom
they sheltered and protected. There they organised themselves into social and political
units headed by chiefs, sub-chiefs and captains. From these bases, these "banditti"5 de-
monstrated their hostility to the British presence by making attacks on the plantations
which resulted in the destruction of property and loss of life.
The actual number of Maroons cannot be established with a great degree of accuracy.
One estimate given in 1785 put the number at 3006 and when they were defeated in
1814, the tally was 578.7 Again in 1800, military captains found a camp of eighty
houses, each capable of holding from ten to twelve persons. Whatever their actual num-
bers, however, they were certainly a force to be reckoned with.
According to Richard Price, Maroon communities had to be almost inaccessible and
located in inhospitable, out-of-the-way areas if they were to be viable. The topography
of Dominica offered .such viability and effectively aided the Maroons in their struggles.
As one governor reported in 1785, the mountainous interior which the Maroons inhabit-
ed abounded in fastnesses, places of concealment and roads that were almost impassable.
In addition, there was "a great plenty of ground provisions in all parts" and streams of
water on almost every acre.10 A detachment of troops that penetrated a Maroon camp
was surprised to find 300 acres of land "fully stocked with all kinds of provisions" and
even sugar cane. The Maroon camps therefore not only provided their inhabitants with
a haven almost inaccessible to Europeans but also with commodities necessary for sus-
Indeed throughout the eighteenth century the Dominica Maroons were rated second
in organisation, discipline, strength and unity of purpose to their counterparts in Jam-
aica.12 Although they commenced operations shortly after the establishment of British
rule, it was not until the last two decades of the eighteenth century that they were re-
garded as extremely dangerous as they took to open raiding on the plantations. In 1785,
one governor described them as "an internal enemy of the most alarming kind"l3and for
the next thirty years they truly constituted an imperiumm in imperio 14
It was Maroon policy to always make use of the element of surprise in their attacks.
They would suddenly come down from their fastnesses to the plantations, burn, loot
and kill any white people they encountered and then retreat behind their almost impreg-
nable hideouts. Such raids were sometimes reprisals for punishment meted out to their
colleagues whom plantation owners had recaptured and re-enslaved.
For instance, upon the receipt of information that one of their band had been recap-
tured and disciplined by the Governor, who owned a sugar estate, a party of 100 fully
armed proceeded to this estate at 7 p.m. the following night. They burnt all the buildings
to the ground and threw four whites and others killed into the flames. It was said that
they treated the "principal black" on the estate in the same manner and wounded his
family, wife and children. They then returned to their homes carrying considerable
The year of this incident, 1785, was the same year that they had threatened "to de-
stroy every English estate in the island."16 Bands of Maroons ranging in numbers from
forty to fifty set fire to five estates completely destroying buildings and crops, forcing
the whites to retreat to other areas. So serious was the situation that the metropolitan
power sent out huge supplies of arms and ammunition for the use of the local troops
with instructions to the Governor to apply for additional reinforcements from the neigh-
bouring islands of St. Vincent and Grenada.17 But the military expeditions were totally
unsuccessful. They found it impossible to penetrate far into Maroon territory especially
the stronghold controlled by Pharcelle, who made good use of his knowledge of the
As Maroon activities intensified and as British efforts to suppress them became more
ineffectual, the colonial political leaders opted for negotiation with leaders of the com-
munities. They sought to win over to their side Pharcelle, reputed to be the strongest
Maroon leader, with the hope that he would assist them in suppressing the movement.
Accordingly on October 15th 1794, the Assembly unanimously voted that the
government should hold talks with Pharcelle. Members voted to propose to Pharcelle
that he and such others of his party as he should name, would be given their freedom,
and parcels of Crown land by legislative enactment in return for a pledge of assistance in
hunting and capturing runaways and Maroons. Such an accommodation was regarded as
vital to the existence of the plantation system on the island.
The Council concurred with this opinion and a special committee was appointed to
begin negotiations with Pharcelle. On December 9th, an agreement was reached between
Pharcelle, the Governor and members of the Council and Assembly. The text of this
agreement was that Pharcelle, his two wives-Martian and Angelique- and twelve of his
men would be declared free and granted Crown lands adequate for their present and
future subsistence. In return for this, Pharcelle and company were to hunt the woods
for Maroons and other runaways, receiving a monetary compensation for each one
brought in. It was further agreed that after the passage of the Act conferring their free-
dom that Pharcelle and his company would be subjected to military discipline in the
same manner as the soldiers in the King's regiments and that Pharcelle would be under
the effective jurisdiction of the Governor who was authorised to appoint a chief or
chiefs of the party in the event of his death, incapacitation or infirmity.19
This agreement, however, failed to curb Maroon activity and hence guarantee any
degree of stability to the island. Indications are, that either Pharcelle was being deliber-
ately deceptive when he put his signature to the text or that, he subsequently changed
his mind, because he did not carry out his part of the bargain. The last decade of the
eighteenth century, particularly the period after the treaty, was marked by an intensi-
fication of guerilla-type activity and "very considerable desertion of negroes from the
estates", 20 to the camps. Indeed, such activities taxed the resources of the colonists to
the limits and the situation was aggravated by the fact that military campaigns yielded
little if any results. In one attack on a camp, provision grounds were reportedly destroy-
ed, but in an attack on another a sergeant was killed and when the troops finally arrived
inside the settlement they found it deserted. This lack of success was attributed to a sus-
picion that the Maroons "were perfectly acquainted with our expedition, and were pre-
pared for us".21
The captain of another detachment reported a similar occurrence. After a long and
tiring march of six hours' duration he found that the Maroons had deserted the camp.
"Indeed", he wrote, "we have reason to suspect that they have too many friends in every
direction along shore to leave them ignorant of any step taken against them".22
Such suspicions were not unfounded. The Maroons. did in fact have emissaries, spies
and informers on the slave plantations, and this was so not only in Dominica but in
other parts of the New World where Maroons were to be found. Indications are that
they were quite aware of the military expedition in 1797 and adopted the counter-stra-
tegy of leaving their camps for the settled plantations at precisely the time when the
troops had left these areas in search of their hideouts.
This, indeed, was a time when Maroon activity created a situation in which "trade
and cultivation was much retarded and the colonists kept in increasing agitation." Bands
of Maroons marched through the country-side, burning, looting and plundering and on
one occasion they even advanced as far as the capital, Roseau, demanding the Governor's
head.3 The capture and execution of three of them by local militia troops and the pub-
lic display of their heads in the market-place as a deterrent to others,4seemed to incite
them to even more attacks. Maroon "outrages were such as to occasion much uneasi-
ness". And the regiments found it more and more difficult to reach the strongholds with
increasing casualties from traps such as pikes and stakes set in the vicinity of the camps25
In instances where they were able to penetrate they found the areas deserted. After one
such expedition, Pharcelle who had served as a guide was jailed for "insolent and highly
suspicious conduct", and the political leaders also considered banishing him from the
The first decade of the nineteenth century brought no relief to the plantocracy. The
Maroons were also increasing their strength with runaways from the estates at great
economic loss to the planters, one of whom put up his estate for sale since he had no
slaves to cultivate it. The Maroons were reported to be "plundering and murdering white
and peaceable coloured inhabitants" with life and property being equally insecure.7As
the planters began to abandon their estates in large numbers, a hue and cry was raised
for tough and firm action. In response to this pressure, troops were mobilised from the
neighboring islands and the Governor issued a proclamation on May 10th, 1813, offer-
ing the Maroons free and unconditional pardon if they surrendered by the fourth day of
June. Those who refused to comply, it stated, if taken by military might, would be
"With the utmost rigour of military execution, their place of refuge and har-
bours destroyed, their provision grounds laid waste and the punishment of
death inflicted on those who are found in arms".28
This military force consisted of the local militia, the troops stationed in the island,
including an all-black detachment, and a special corps of Rangers.29
A copy of the proclamation was sent to a Maroon camp by a Maroon who had earlier
turned himself in and offered his services to the local authorities. But upon his arrival,
he was, consistent with Maroon discipline, tried and shot for treason by Chief Quashee.
Upon receipt of this information the Governor offered a reward for Quashee's head, but
Quashee in return, offered a reward of two thousand dollars for the Governor's.30
The Maroons refused to comply with subsequent proclamations urging them to sur-
render31 and as a result, the troops were mobilised against them. At the end of November
1814, 559 of them had surrendered, 195 to the Black Corps, 111 to the other troops
and 153 to managers and constables to the estates. Only eighteen were killed in action.
Of those who surrendered, eighty-one were tried at court-martials, and thirteen were
hanged. The majority, however, were banished from the island or worked in chains.
Several questions immediately pose themselves. Why were the Maroons who inhabit-
ed such inaccessible and out-of-the-way areas and engaged in unconventional types of
warfare so easily defeated? And why did the defeat take the form of a surrender? Fur-
ther, what role did Pharcelle, who had arrived at an.accommodation with the authorities
in 1794, play in all this? After his imprisonment for suspicious activities on the expedi-
tion of 1800, nothing at all is mentioned about him in the literature I have examined,
but the available evidence indicates that he, by acting as guide on some campaigns,
opened a door to British penetration into Maroon territory, a door which was widened
by other Maroons who went over to the Government, and that this contributed to the
debacle of 1814.
It was not until the last decade of the eighteenth century that British troops pene-
trated a Maroon camp and this was done with the assistance of Pharcelle, even though
he was arrested afterwards.33 Even though the camp was vacant the troops set fire to the
provision grounds in an effort to starve the Maroons into surrender.4 This tactic they pur-
sued in the 1813 campaign as they gained access to other camps with the aid of Maroons.
The Maroon who was tried and shot by Chief Quashee had not only turned himself in,
but had also offered his assistance to the local authorities in the location of hideouts
and suppression of the movement, an offer which was of course accepted.as As the
troops gained access to the hideouts by these means, the Maroons retreated to other
areas. But the troops burnt the provision grounds and used the captured areas as bases
for similar assaults on other pockets of resistance. By March 1814 this tactic was largely
successful and well might the Governor boast that the Maroons had the choice of "either
starving in the woods or surrendering".6 The final success of this tactic accounts fcr the
fact that only eighteen Maroons were killed in action while the majority surrendered.
The final defeat of the Maroons, however, should not detract from their achievement.
As in Jamaica, the Maroons were exceptional for their effective and prolonged resistance
to slavery and white control of the island. It is clear that their actions were directed to-
wards the sole aim of destroying the white ruling class and they saw that this could be
done by forging an alliance with the plantation slaves who were the most oppressed group
in the society. For a period of thirty years they destroyed entire plantations, disrupted
commercial activity and kept the whites in a state of terror and panic.
And despite their defeat they made a contribution to the destruction of the slave sys-
tem in the island. When emancipation came in 1833 it was the result of a combination
of forces, humanitarian, social, political and economic. Eric Williams has highlighted the
importance of the deterministic impact of economic factors set in motion as early as the
second half of the eighteenth century. As the position of the planter class deteriorated
economically, so did the political influence they exercised in Parliament and had used to
veto policies thought to be antagonistic to their interests, such as slave emancipation.
The Act of Emancipation itself was a political defeat for a planter class that had been
weakened economically. It should be clear by now that the activities of the Dominica
Maroons contributed to the erosion of the economic base of the planter class in that is-
land and that this in turn helped to destroy them as a political force and therefore help-
ed to make emancipation possible.
In a wider and more long-range perspective, the struggles of the Dominica Maroons as
analysed here, are extremely relevant to the present situation in the Caribbean. Today,
most of the region and indeed the Third World is plagued by the existence of colonial-
ism or neo-colonialism with capitalist interests controlling the key sectors of the econ-
omy while the majority of the black masses serve as the "dependent" labour force, in
some instances in conditions approximating slavery. Some of the racial attitudes and
stereotypes of the Black Man emanating from the days of slavery are still prevalent in
the region: this situation might be radically altered if the oppressed peoples were to
emulate but not make the mistakes of the Dominica Maroons.
BERNARD A .MARSHALL
1. See Richard Price, ed., Maroon Societies, Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas, (New
York: Doubleday, 1973). Introduction.
2. The British signed such a treaty with Maroons of Jamaica in 1739.
3. See Bernard Marshall, Society and Economy in the British Windward Islands, 1763-1823, un-
published doctoral dissertation, University of the West Indies, 1972, pp. 48-49.
4. Thomas Attwood, History of Dominica (London, 1791), pp. 48-49.
5. This was a term used to describe them by a colonial governor in the early nineteenth century.
6. C.O 71/9; Governor Orde to Sydney, December 15th, 1785.
7. C.O. 71/50; President Lucas and enclosures to the Earl of Bathurst, August 28th, 1815.
8. C.O. 71/30; Captain Monroe to Governor Johnstone, December 12th, 1797.
9. Price, op. cit., p. 5.
10. C.O. 71/9; Governor Orde to Sydney, 1785.
11. C.O. 71/32; Governor Johnstone to the Duke of Portland, September 4th, 1800.
12. C.O. 71/9; Governor Orde to Sydney, December 15th, 1785.
14. C.O. 71/49; Governor Ainslie to the Earl of Bathurst, March 21st, 1814.
15. C.O. 71/9; Governor Orde to Sydney, December 15th, 1785.
17. C.O. 71/9; Sydney to Governor Orde, February 7th, 1786.
18. C.O. 71/10; Governor Orde to Sydney, April 16th, 1786.
19. C.O. 71/27; Minutes of Meetings of the Dominica Council, October 15th, and December 9th,
20. C.O. 71/30; Governor Johnstone and enclosures to the Duke of Portland; December 16th, 1797.
23. Anon, A Resident, Sketches and Recollections of the West Indies (London, 1828), pp. 86-89.
24. C.O. 71/30; Governor Johnstone to the Duke of Portland, February 10th, 1798.
25. C.O. 71/32; Governor Johnstone to the Duke of Portland, September 4th, 1800.
26. C.O. 71/33; Governor Johnstone to the Duke of Portland, January 7th, 1801.
27. C.O. 71/49; Governor Ainslie to the Earl of Bathurst, June 26th, 1814.
28. This proclamation is to be found in C.O. 71/49.
29. C.O. 71/49; Governor Ainslie and enclosures to the Earl of Bathurst; Letters of March 21st and
June 26th, 1814.
30. C.O. 71/49; Governor Ainslie to the Earl of Bathurst, March 21st, 1814.
31. C.O. 71/49; Proclamations of June 1st, and October 3rd, 1813.
32. C.O. 71/50; Return of Slaves killed, taken and surrendered between May 10th, 1813 and
November 22nd, 1814.
34. See p.
35. C.O. 71/49; Governor Ainslie to the Earl of Bathurst, March 21st, 1814.
36. C.O. 71/49; Address of Governor Ainslie to the Council and Assembly, March 2nd, 1814.
37. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, (Chapel Hill, 1942).
THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAMAICAN MAROON ETHNICITY
Today, when we speak of ethnic diversity or heterogeneity of Caribbean peoples, we
usually lump together all African-derived peoples, and contrast them with others who
are derived entirely, or in part, from Europeans, Indians, Amerindians, Chinese, and so
forth. If pressed for further distinctions, we can mention certain groups that show
greater "Ashanti" or "Yoruba" influence, but most such distinctions cannot be carried
very far. They might point to a dominant African influence in the past, but not to an
exclusive one. Furthermore, the amalgamation of African-derived populations of the
Caribbean is now such that few people's identity is dependent on a connection with a
specific African area or ethnic group I When traces of some particular African ethnic
origin can be found, the important point is surely that the African heritage can be traced
at all, not that the connection is to one group rather than to another. Certainly one de-
tects no feelings of ethnic rivalry, competition or hostility based on descent from differ-
ent African stocks. In other words, there is today no political significance attaching to
differences in African ethnic origin.
But this was not always true in the Caribbean. In the days of slavery, when thousands
of Africans were imported yearly and a large proportion of the population in most terri-
tories had been born in Africa, African ethnic identity was an important fact of life. It
could serve positively as a source of comfort and solidarity, and as a rallying point in
slave rebellions, but it could also be a divisive element, leading to rivalry and hostility
among groups of different origin. This occurred on the plantations, and was even more
pronounced among Maroons, escaped slaves who gathered in inaccessible retreats in the
interior of islands and mainland territories.2 It is among these Maroons, uninhibited by
plantation rule, that African ethnicity had the freest rein, to shape and be shaped by the
groups of Maroons it united or divided.
This paper examines the question of ethnic identity among the 18th century Jamaican
Maroons. It will first consider the nature of African ethnic groups in the New World.
Then it will look at the ethnic diversity among the Jamaican Maroons of the early 18th
century, the problems the diversity caused, and the solutions that allowed the Maroons
to emerge as integrated societies. Finally, it will suggest that the achievement of the
Maroons in overcoming ethnic rivalries while retaining a more generalised Africai herit-
age foreshadowed a phenomenon that took place in Jamaica as a whole and made poss-
ible the integration of its Afro-American population.
African Ethnic Groups in the New World
Before going any further, let us distinguish and clarify several concepts central to the
1. Reference group3 -Any group, real or imaginary, with which a person feels iden-
tified. An Akan-speaking slave in Jamaica might feel identified with any or all of the
following: his home lineage, village and chiefdom in Africa; the shipmates with whom
he shared the passage across the Atlantic; all persons associated with his plantation, slave
and free, Black and White, all Akan-speaking persons in the island; all slaves in the island;
and so forth. The stronger the identification, the more likely it is to direct a person's be-
haviour. The group that claims a person's strongest loyalties is called his primary refer-
ence group. A reference group based on ethnic identity may be called an ethnic refer-
2. Culture-bearing group 4 -A group with common cultural norms that are developed
and maintained through the interaction of its members. This concept deals with
"culture" not as a collection of discrete traits, but as a continuing product of group
interaction, a live and constantly adjusting set of patterns that makes social life possible.
This view is particularly useful in dealing with African slaves brought to the New World
because it focuses our attention not on the bits and pieces of their African ancestry
that survived the middle passage, but on their adaptive and creative efforts to fuse new
sets of common patterns among themselves out of the diverse raw materials they had at
hand. Culture-bearing groups may be overlapping, and an individual may belong to more
than one such group at a time. The slaves on a plantation might become a culture-bearing
group; so might the Akan-speaking slaves on that plantation. For the members of both
these groups, the scope of their common culture would be limited to certain areas of
3. Ethnic identity -Consciousness of kind, based on perceived similarity of culture
and origin, and usually of language as well.
4. Ethnic group (culture-bearing)-A group based on common ethnic identity that
has common cultural patterns developed and maintained through the interaction of its
members. An ethnic group as here defined is a culture-bearing group.
5. Ethnic pool A collection of individuals of a given ethnic background who do not
constitute an ethnic group as defined above, but whose basic similarity of language and
culture is such that ethnic groups could arise among them with relative ease, for exam-
ple, all Akan-speaking Africans in Jamaica. Ethnic groups would be likely to arise among
members of an ethnic pool whenever local clusterings of them lasted long enough to
allow them to develop common norms through interaction, and particularly when they
were surrounded by others of different ethnic backgrounds.
A striking finding of recent research on ethnic groups in Africa has been the flexibility
of ethnic identity and ethnic group boundaries. While ethnic identity does not normally
change very much in an individual's lifetime if he stays in the same place, surrounded by
the same people, migration may result in redefinitions of ethnic group boundaries and
of the basis of ethnic identity itself. One finds such ethnic redefinition in multi-ethnic
African cities and towns today. New immigrants, with few or no fellow "tribesmen" in
the towns, will immediately widen the basis of their ethnicity to find a lowest common
denominator by which to link themselves to other people. While at home the important
criterion may have been membership in a particular chiefdom, in the city a larger
common region of origin or a common language may serve to justify a claim of common
ethnicity and thus allow a person to attach himself to an ethnic group whose culture
may differ in many respects from the one he left at home. For people who seldom go
home to their natal villages, the new town community can become the dominant focus
of ethnic identity and may even come to supersede the old loyalties to village and chief.5
The important point to keep in mind is that ethnic identity should be seen here as a
linking principle rather than a fixed attribute.
The readiness and ease with which modern Africans engage in a creative and adaptive
redefinition of ethnic boundaries and an expansion of the basis of ethnic identity, and
their creation of new ethnic groups in changing circumstances (as when they become
separated from their home villages), can help us to understand the nature of African
ethnic groups in the New World during slavery. Africans whom the New World planters
called by a common name such as "Eboes," "Pawpaws," "Mundingos," and so forth,
were clearly not the same sort of unit as an ethnic group in Africa, even if they some-
times bore the same name. The "Congo" in Jamaica were not all BaKongo, but included
Africans from a number of ethnic groups throughout the Congo region and sometimes
Angola as well. The "Coromantee," so important in fomenting Jamaican slave rebellions,
were not all Ashanti. Edward Long, in 1774, called attention to the complex reality that
The Negroes who pass under this general designation are brought from the Gold
Coast; but we remain uncertain whether they are natives of that tract of Guiney,
or receive their several names of Akims, Fantins, Ashantees, Quanboos, &c from
the towns so called, at whose markets they are bought ..6
The Coromantee slaves who did come from the Gold Coast might have been bitter
enemies at home, but in Jamaica they constituted what we would call an ethnic pool of
slaves from a broadly similar background; and this broad commonality included people
who spoke mutually unintelligible but related languages, and practised diverse but simil-
ar customs. Within this pool, common ethnic identity might be asserted, and when that
happened, the same processes of ethnic redefinition one now finds in Africa must have
been operating on a large scale. Africans from the Gold Coast, finding themselves cut off
forever from their ties at home, sought to establish new ties with the people around
them whom they found most familiar: people from the same area who spoke related
languages and had similar traditions.
These processes of ethnic redefinition must have started even before the Africans
reached the New World. We know that slaves who shared the middle passage considered
themselves kin; and even before that, in the slave factories and baracoons of the African
coast, African captives in their fear and sorrow may have found comfort in asserting kin
ties with others who, if they did not come from the same village or chiefdom, at least
came from a part of their known world.7 Reference groups of fellow sufferers were
created and given a charter of kinship. The assertion of common ethnicity did not by it-
self make them ethnic groups as defined above. For that, they had to develop common
norms and means of communication among themselves, to adjust the differences in their
languages and cultures, to resolve their diverse customs into a common culture. This
process could start as soon as they came into contact with one another, and was con-
tinued on the slave plantations of the New World and in the bush where Maroons en-
countered one another.
Such New World African ethnic groups, as opposed to ethnic pools, were thus local
creations, groups of individuals who could identify and interact with one another and in
doing so establish cultural norms. Each local group of, say, Coromantees would have
differed somewhat from the next in custom and dialect, depending on the relative re-
presentation of different Gold Coast peoples and of other factors of group composition,
as well as on the relative isolation of the group from others on a plantation or in the
bush where Maroons gathered. Different local groups of Coromantees doubtless had a
great deal in common; any group could and did absorb new adult members and two or
more local groups could easily adjust their cultural differences to form a larger common
ethnic group. But this does not mean that different local groups of Jamaican Coroman-
tees were always ready to join, or to assert their common heritage and claim kinship and
brotherhood with one another, that is, to allow their primary reference group to extend
to include other Coromantees. That would have been a strategic decision of the moment.
Coromantee slaves from several plantations who were planning a joint rebellion would
assert their common ethnic identity. Rival Coromantee Maroon bands who were fighting
one another would not, but if one such band defeated another, common Coromantee
identity might be called upon to aid in the assimilation of the defeated band. In other
words, the ethnic identity of Africans in the New World could be manipulated in the
same strategic ways ethnic identity is manipulated in Africa, or anywhere else for that
The bonds between members of the newly created ethnic groups, most of whom had
been strangers to one another, must have been as heavily dependent on shared experi-
ences as on their common African heritage. A shared middle passage, residence on the
same plantation, escape together, membership in the same Maroon band: each of these
in itself might be used as a basis for a claim of kinship. Africans who had shared several
or all of these experiences must have had a strong bond indeed. But while the bonds
between individual members may have been very strong, Afro-American ethnic groups
must have been in general more fluid and less cohesive as groups than their rural counter-
parts in Africa. This would have been due to several factors. First, the African members
did not grow up in the group, but were diverse in origin. They might from time to time
discover that they had more in common with members of other local groups than with
others in their own group by virtue of having been more closely related in Africa, or of
having shared the journey across the ocean. Such cross-cutting ties would be likely to
keep group boundaries flexible, and make it relatively easy for individuals to move from
one local group to another when circumstances allowed, as, for example, when a Coro-
mantee slave from one plantation was sold to another plantation containing Coroman-
tees. Second, the rapid turnover of population of the plantations, caused by the high
mortality rate, the large numbers of Africans imported yearly, and the power of the
masters to sell slaves at will, meant that any existing local group might frequently incor-
porate new members, and new groups were constantly being formed. The larger the pro-
portion of new members, the less the shared experience of the group as a whole, the less
developed its common culture, and the less its cohesiveness. Third, a group of Coroman-
tees on a plantation was not an exclusive group for all purposes, and indeed, not for
most purposes. They were a limited culture-bearing group, re-creating their own Akan
culture in some spheres of life, but they also belonged to the larger culture-bearing
group of all slaves on their plantation, a group that had its own flexible boundaries and
changing membership. They may have lived in their own quarter of the slave village, but
much of their life was shared with other slaves, and they were taking part in the planta-
ation's and the island's developing Creole culture as well.8 Thus, on a plantation, an
African ethnic group had limited scope to develop its own norms apart from those of
the other slaves, and the lives of all slaves were, of course, severely constrained by the
social institution of the plantation.
In the bush, where Maroons collected, escaped slaves were free to regulate all aspects
of their lives, not only those that occurred between sunset and sunrise. Furthermore, a
group of Coromantees, having managed to escape, might be much more isolated from
other Africans and Creoles than they were on the plantation, and thus could more
readily develop their own distinctive culture. But even among Maroons, African ethnic
groups were more fluid than their rural counterparts in Africa: there was still the diverse
origin of the members and the frequent absorption of new adult members. If they had
not been fluid and willing to accept a changing membership, they might not have been
able to sustain their existence at all, because it seems they were not naturally producing
populations (see below).
This adaptive fluidity must have been characteristic of all African ethnic groups in
the New World, and of many ethnic groups that were based not on African ethnic iden-
tity, such as groups of Creole slaves on plantations. We suggest that this fluidity, and
other factors that made possible the formation and continuation of African ethnic
groups in the New World-the flexible sense of common heritage, the redefinition of
ethnic identity, the creation of a common culture out of disparate materials-that these
factors also allowed a further ir:rouping they allowed Jamaican Maroons to overcome
the cultural differences that various local communities had developed, and to integrate
their societies around a more generalized Maroon ethnicity.
Ethnic Diversity among the Jamaican Maroons
In 1739, the English in Jamaica signed treaties with two groups of Maroons who had
been collecting in the interior of the island since the Spaniards gave it over to the English
in 1660. Initially there were a number of separate communities of varying size in the
bush; they were continuously forming, growing, fighting, and rearranging themselves
according to their various affinities; by the early 18th century, they had coalesced into
two large polities: the Windward Maroons in the eastern mountains and the Leeward
Maroons in and around the Cockpit Country of the western interior, and each polity
contained at least two settlements.9
A number of populations were represented among these 18th century Maroons. One
cannot always tell what degree of ethnic solidarity the people from each population had,
or the amount of ethnic rivalry among different local groups drawn from the same
ethnic pool, but we can at least catalogue the populations from which the Maroons were
drawn, and in some cases we can say something about the local groups of Maroons
drawn from them. By far the overwhelming majority of Maroons were West and
Central Africans brought to Jamaica for use on the English plantations, and their de-
scendants, but there were several other minor sources of Maroons that we may mention.
First, there may have been some Amerindians among the Maroons. There is a possi-
bility that some of the native Arawak Indians, most of whom had died out by the 17th
century, remained in the interior to mix with later escapees from Spanish and, later,
British rule in the island. There is no evidence to support the claim advanced by some
writers and some present-day Maroons (other Maroons strongly deny it) that Maroons
are descended from Arawaks.10 We know that as late as 1601, there were some Arawaks
living in the Blue Mountains independent of Spanish control, but there is no clue as to
whether or not they survived to mix with later Maroons.1 Obviously, such Indians
constituted an ethnic group, and would have continued to do so within later Maroon
societies, if they survived to join them.
Apart from Jamaican Arawaks, there were other Amerindians who might have joined
Maroon communities in the 17th and 18th centuries. Mesquito Indians were imported
to hunt down Maroons, and there are other references to "free Indians" of unknown
origin in the island.12 If any such Indians joined the Maroons they would have been very
few in number, and almost certainly would not have constituted ethnic groups. The
entire Amerindian contribution to the Maroon stock was doubtless very small, and their
cultural contribution appears at present to have been negligible, even if some did survive
to impart their bush skills to Maroons.
A second and more important small population that contributed to the Maroons was
said to have come from Madagascar, whose people are more closely related to Malaysia
than to the rest of Africa. In the early 18th century, Madagascar slaves, recent arrivals in
.amaica, escaped f;om several plantations in St. Elizabeth parish and fled into the west-
ern interior. Their leader was a Madagascar who led the escape from Down's plantation
in 1718.13They were distinctive in appearance and language. Dallas describes them as
". another tribe of negroes, distinct in every respect; their figure, character,
language, and country, being different from those of any other blacks. Their skin
is of a deeper jet than that of any other negroes; their features resemble those of
Europeans; their hair is of a loose and soft texture and like a Mulatto's or Quad-
roon's; their form is more delicate, and their stature rather lower than those of the
people they joined;.. ." 14
These Madagascar Maroons, and others who had joined them, were engaged in some-
thing of a feud with the group of Maroons, mainly Coromantees and their descendants,
who came to dominate the Leeward interior. The Madagascars and the Coromantees
"... after many disputes, and bloody battles wherein a great Number were slain
on both Sides and among others the Madagascar Captain, joined and incorporated
themselves. Hence arose that great Body of Negro's. . now under the command
of Captn. Cudjo. ." 15
The Madagascars were eventually integrated into the Leeward polity, adjusted to and
learned the dominant culture, but remained a distinct ethnic group for many years,
using their own language at home, and presumably practising their own customs in priv-
ate. Dallas, writing some eighty years after the merger, could still identify remnants of
the former group.
Some of the old people remember that their parents spoke, in their own families,
a language entirely different from that spoken by the rest of the negroes with
whom they had incorporated. They recollected many of the words for things in
common use, and declared that in their early years they spoke their mother-tongue.
The Coromantee Language, however, superseded the others, and became in time
the general one in use.16
Another group of Madagascar slaves was shipwrecked on the eastern end of the island
some time round 1670 and was said to have joined with other runaway groups in the
east. We have no record of the process of that merger, and apparently they had no con-
tact with the Leeward Madagascars.17
A third small population contributing to the Maroons were ex-slaves the Spaniards
had left behind when they gave up the island to the English in 1660. These Spanish
Blacks had harassed the English settlers until one of their settlements was discovered,
and the inhabitants agreed to help the English in hunting down the others and in chasing
the last Spaniards from the island. The remaining hundred or so ex-slaves, called Varma-
haly Negroes, alternately signed treaties and fought with the English, who never succeed-
ed in routing them. They retreated to the mountains and were discovered in time by
escapees from the new English plantations. 18
These particular Spanish Maroons may not have formed a distinct reference group (or
groups) when the Spanish were in control of the island, but after 1660 they certainly
did.19 Futhermore, their common experiences as slaves in Spanish Jamaica and their
common Spanish language set them apart from escapees from the English plantations.
They became a cohesive and exclusive ethnic group and did not, at first, welcome the
others into their midst. As an 18th century author reports, the Spanish Maroons
"... grew familiar, and held a Correspondence with the English Negro's; how-
ever, they did not encourage them to desert, and those that did were treated
with great severity, obliged to do all Servile Offices, they put them to, which
prevented many others from joining them." 20
Eventually they did join with some escapees from the English plantations, prompted in
part by a shortage of women, but the process of adjustment was a slow one, involving
cultural change. The Spanish Maroons
". associated themselves with some of those small Bodies (of new escapees],
followed the same Customs, and abated of their Severity to those, who deserted
and came to join them. . 21
The descendants of the Spanish Maroons thus became the nucleus of the Windward
Maroons that drew together into a loose federation in the eastern mountains some time
before 1730. They
". .were joined by divers small Bodies, and after many disputes and Battles with
some other Gangs, incorporated and settled together in the Mountains near Port
Antonio, where They made a considerable Settlement, which they called Nanny
We do not know the African provenience of the original Spanish Maroons, nor what
proportion of them were African, as opposed to Creole. Morales Padron says that the
majority of Spanish slaves in Jamaica came from the Gold Coast, so it is possible that
some of the Spanish Maroons recognized in Coromantee escapees from the English
plantations a common African heritage.23 Their ethnic identity as Spanish Maroons was
evidently strong enough initially to prevent association with other Maroons, although
when they did decide to join with others, the common African heritage may have made
the eventual amalgamation easier, and helped to provide a basis for their broader Maroon
A fourth population, and the one that made the greatest contribution to the Maroons,
were the Coromantees, or slaves from the Gold Coast. Gold Coast slaves played by far
the greatest role in rebellions throughout the slave period in Jamaica.24 They were con-
sidered so dangerous that the Jamaican government considered a bill to impose an extra
duty on them to discourage their importation?5 The reports of rebellions and escapes
that specify the background of the slaves involved almost always name them as Coro-
mantees. For the other uprisings, we must rely on Long's general report that Coroman-
tees were responsible for most of the rebellions.26 Furthermore, we can see the Akan
presence in the names of the 18th century Maroon leaders: Cudjoe, Accompong,
Quaco, Cuffee in the west; Quao and Cuffee in the east; and even the present-day lan-
guage and culture of the Jamaican Maroons show an Akan influence.27
But let us again stress that the common Coromantee background of local Maroon
communities did not preclude rivalry. Within the ethnic pool of Coromantees any
number of local groups formed, plotted and carried out rebellions and escapes from the
plantations, and many continued for a time as separate bands in the bush. Each such
community would have had its own ethnic identity and would have constituted an eth-
nic reference group, which might or might not be extended to include other Coroman-
tee groups. Given the amount of rivalry and hostility reported among various Maroon
bands, and given the preponderance of Coromantees in slave rebellions and escapes, it is
clear that some of the inter-group rivalry was between different groups of Coromantees.
And merger, even with ethnically similar groups, did not mean that all distinctions were
erased. In the 1730's, a group of Windward Maroons, called Cottawoods, marched across
the island to join the western Maroons, under Cudjoe. We know that Cudjoe's Maroons
were largely Coromantees and the descendants of Coromantees, and it is likely that the
Coromantees were too; but in spite of the common culture that in time developed
among them, separate reference groups continued to exist some sixty years later. Dallas,
in 1803, reported that
". though consolidated into one body... the distinction of their origin was
always kept up. The name of Cottawood was preserved among the descendants of
that tribe, and the original body of Negroes under Cudjoe were distinguished
the appellation of Kenkuffees, in which line the succession of chiefs continued."
In this enumeration of the various ethnic pools, fifth are the non-Coromantee Afri-
cans; here we have a number of different ethnic pools: "Congos," "Eboes," "Mundingos,"
"Pawpaws" (Slave Coast), "Nagos" (Yoruba), and so forth. While our information is
very meagre on African Maroons other than Coromantees, there may well have been
some Maroon groups that were composed mainly of "Congo" or "Eboe" slaves, or other
African groups. As early as 1686, White discovered three "provision-Plantations" in St.
George's parish, each belonging to Maroons of a different "country" 29 After the
Maroons had signed their treaties, several runaway settlements of "Congos" were dis-
covered, one in 1780, containing some 60 persons, and another in 1795, of about 35
inhabitants. The latter settlement, deep in the western woods, was estimated to have
been in existence some twenty years.3Perhaps our best clue to the existence of Maroon
communities of diverse African ethnic identity before 1739 is a general account in an
18th century Jamaican manuscript on the Maroons. Of the small early Maroon commi-
ties that existed prior to their merger into two large polities, it says
"... these small bodies were composed of negroes of different country & of dif-
ferent manners and customs in Guinea and often very opposite and at great vari-
ance with one another and when in time afterwards they became numerous (for
all of these companies endeavoured to corrupt and enveigle from the plantations
and were ready to receive their respective countrymen) they had many bloody
battles with one another."31
In the interior, far from the oppressive rule of the colonial society, Africans had a free-
dom to express their ethnic hostility denied them on the plantations, but the antagon-
isms were none the less present there. Leslie, writing in 1740, said
"The Slaves are brought from several Places in Guiney, which are different from
one another in Language, and consequently they can't converse freely; or, if they
could, they hate one another so mortally, that some of them would rather die by
the Hands of the English, than join with other Africans in an Attempt to shake off
their Yoke." 32
As we have seen, the Maroons did manage to subdue these rivalries enough to draw
together into larger units, but how they managed to hold their new societies together,
given the ethnic differences, is another matter.
Finally, in speaking of the ethnic pools that contributed to the Maroons, we must
mention two types of Creoles, those plantation Creoles who escaped to become Maroons
and those Maroons who were born in the woods. As to the first, we know of no exclus-
ive groups of Jamaican plantation Creoles who carried out major rebellions and escaped
to become Maroon communities in the interior. Doubtless there were many who parti-
cipated in rebellions, and there were individuals and small groups of plantation Creoles
who escaped into the interior, but those who escaped were as likely to become urban
Maroons as bush Maroons; their highly developed skills for getting along in the planta-
tion society could provide them with enough cover in the cities We know that antagon-
isms between Creoles and Africans on the plantations were high, and plantation Creoles
often had an ethnic solidarity of their own; both the antagonisms and the solidarity
may have extended into the Maroon societies.34
Creole Maroons, that is, those born as Maroons, were quite another matter. They had
never been slaves and knew nothing of the plantation society except what they were
told by others, or saw during raids. Having been born and bred among the Maroons,
they could not scorn Africans as being too "bush" and ignorant in the ways of the
colonial society, as the plantation Creoles did. Nonetheless, among Maroons also, there
was an important distinction, accompanied by antagonism and factional cleavage, be-
tween African and Creole Maroons. This was illustrated in a dramatic fashion shortly
after the treaties of 1739 froze the membership of the Maroon communities and closed
them forever to new escapees. A group of Coromantees among the Leeward Maroons,
apparently dissatisfied with the terms of their treaty, conspired with Coromantee slaves
on nearby plantations "to cast off all those that were born in the woods, or came from
other countries," and establish their own Coromantee society in the interior.35 The
Creole Maroons and other non-Coromantee Maroons, led by Cudjoe, who was a Creole,
suppressed the rebellion, and its leaders were executed or sent off the island. These
Coromantees were obviously more identified with other Coromantees than with other
Maroons. Their primary reference group was a group of local Coromantees, including
Coromantee Maroons and Coromantee plantation slaves. But Cudjoe, a Creole Maroon
who had a Coromantee father, bore a Coromantee name, most likely spoke a Coroman-
tee language (in addition to Creole English) and shared with other Leeward Maroons a
culture that was largely Coromantee-derived-Cudjoe was himself first and foremost a
Maroon, not a Coromantee.36 So, we suggest, were the other Creole Maroons in both
ends of the island.
It was these Creole Maroons, with no competing or cross-cutting loyalties, who help-
ed to anchor the new ethnic identity of the Maroons; they provided a solid and un-
questionable core to which it attached. Whether their ancestors were Coromantees or
Madagascars or Spanish Maroons, their common experience could outweigh the differ-
ences in their lands of origin far more easily than it could for the Africans who had lived
in those lands. For Creole Maroons, those far lands were mythical. Furthermore, since
Maroons born in the same societies had grown up together, there was little strain of ad-
justment. While they might have spoken the various African and European languages of
their parents at home, and practised some of their traditions in private, they also learned,
from childhood, the Creole English and the common culture of their Maroon society. It
was their primary reference group and had no serious competitors for their loyalties.
The Building of Maroon Societies and the Growth of Maroon Ethnicity
The enumeration of ethnic pools that contributed to the Maroon population and the
focus on local ethnic groups that arose within these pools may have given a misleading
impression of the formation of local Maroon groups and their growth and coalescence
into two larger polities; it may have suggested that it was all simply a matter of small
cohesive ethnic groups escaping and drawing together, by mutual design or by conquest,
to form larger units. Certainly something like that was happening when the Madagascars
and the Coromantees merged in the west, or when the descendants of the Spanish
Maroons joined with other groups in the east, but the processes that went into these and
other types of Maroon growth were actually more complex and diverse. We should like
to call attention to several of these processes, and the implications they had for the de-
veloping Maroon ethnicity.
First, let us look at the composition of groups of slaves that escaped during rebellions.
Ethnic rebellions did not always yield Maroons who were exclusively of one New World
African group or another; in fact, they probably rarely if ever did. Our earlier discussion
mentioned that African ethnic groups on the plantations could not be exclusive groups
for most purposes; they had flexible boundaries, changing membership, and their mem-
bers had close connections with other slaves. Many of the Jamaican reports of African
ethnic uprisings state that most of the slaves in the rebellion were Coromantees; the
group that rebelled also included others who were not Coromantee, but who shared
with them the common culture of their plantation. Thus, groups of newly escaping
slaves, even when the product of ethnic rebellions, had already begun to integrate into
their numbers others who did not share the same African background, and this integra-
tion would continue in the bush. Rebelling slaves who were not predominantly of one
particular African tradition had to have other bases for integration from the start, and
here plantation identity might well serve. Syntheses of all types abounded. The mem-
bers of an African ethnic group on a plantation already represented a synthesis of tradi-
tions, and the group of escaping slaves in an ethnic rebellion developed another synthesis.
Slaves escaping in non-ethnic rebellions represented yet another type of integration.
New reference groups were formed as changing social contexts thrust together different
collections of people. Culture-bearing groups formed and re-formed, and their develop-
ing cultures adjusted accordingly. There was a continual process of expanding and re-
defining ethnic identity. It was not such a far step then, nor a new one, to attempt yet
another synthesis and to create a new ethnic identity with other Maroons in the bush.
The second process deals with the incorporation of new adult members by communi-
ties already existing in the bush. There was a steady supply of new Maroons who were
not part of an escaping community: one or two runaways, a handful of slaves the
Maroons had carried off in a plantation raid, some Blacks enticed away from parties sent
to fight the Maroons, and so on. New members absorbed in any great numbers would, of
course, present a challenge to the unity and cohesiveness of the group. Yet we suggest
that considerable numbers of new members had to be incorporated by virtually all Ja-
maican Maroon communities; it was the only way they could sustain themselves, for it is
almost certain that they were not naturally reproducing populations.
The idea that Jamaican Maroons were not naturally reproducing before 1739 is sup-
ported by census figures from the early post-treaty period. There was a rapid decline in
their populations once no new members were allowed to join them. At the time of the
treaties, the Windward Maroons, counted "by notches on a stick," numbered 490.37Ten
years later their numbers had fallen to 303! Some of this decrease was due to a special
clause added to their treaty requiring any runaway not out above three years to return
to his master; but the Leeward Maroons, who had no such requirement, and who were
reported in 1739 to have had "about the same number" as the Windward Maroons, had
fallen in ten years to 361.39 Furthermore, the age and sex structure of the Maroon
population was not that of a naturally reproducing one. A shortage of women was a
chronic problem for the Maroons, and though we have no data on the sex ratio for 1739,
the figures of 1749 still show the shortage.4 They also show an abnormally low propor-
tion of children, and this is not accounted for by the shortage of women, for even
relative to the number of women, the number of children is low.1 The figures argue
strongly that the Maroons were not reproducing themselves in pre-treaty times. The
sexual imbalance of their population worked against this; so, evidently, did the hard-
ships of their lives in the bush, pursued as they were by the English. They were able to
keep up their numbers only by incorporating new escapees. This, in turn, had important
implications for their developing societies.
In order to incorporate large numbers of new adults into their communities, and to
take them in as full members, not as lifetime outsiders, Maroons needed a flexible sense
of ethnic identity and also some way of insuring that the newcomers did not "swamp"
them and undermine their unity. There are several examples of incorporation proced-
ures followed by different groups of Jamaican Maroons. We have already quoted that of
the Spanish Maroons, who relegated newcomers to a servile position. Cudjoe's Maroons
imposed a rather harsh method of apprenticeship.
". .when any Negro man deserted from the Plantations and went among them,
They would not Confide in them, until They had served a time prefix'd for their
Probation; which made some of Them return to their Masters not liking the usage
or treatment they met with..." 42
The Windward Maroons were anxious for new recruits, and bound them at once with a
"They give encouragement for all sorts of negroes to join them, and oblige the
men to be true to them by an oath which is held very sacred among the negroes,
and those who refuse to take that oath, whether they go to them of their own
accord or are made prisoners, are instantly shot to death..."43
This practice of the Windward Maroons may have been an alternative procedure of in-
corporation, but since extended periods of apprenticeship seem to have been common
in Maroon communities throughout the hemisphere, it is equally possible that this report
tells us of only one stage in the incorporation process, and that it was followed by a
period of probation as well.44
In fact, we suspect that incorporation into Maroon communities everywhere was at
least a two-stage process, the first involving initial ritual acceptance, the second, a long
period of sociological and psychological adjustment, analogous to boot-camp training.
The first stage, as described in the oath-taking ritual among the Windward Maroons,
attached the new recruit to the group, and made him subject to the same supernatural
sanctions facing other group members if he broke the sacred oath. Outsiders who would
not so bind themselves were put to death. By this ritual, the outsider made himself part
of the spiritual unity of the group, though he had an inferior social position in it.
Sociological incorporation was a longer, more difficult process. This second step, as de-
scribed in the probationary period served by new Maroons in Cudjoe's group, was a
training period for the newcomer, allowing him to learn the group's culture. By relegat-
ing him to an inferior position, the others prevented him from unduly influencing the
political and social organization of the group, while he learned to conform to its norms.
Thus a unity and continuity of culture could be maintained in spite of the frequent in-
corporation of adults. Incorporation may have been handled differently for women,
who were a scarce resource.45 If this two-stage scheme is correct for Maroon societies in
general, then we would also expect, as a final marker in the incorporation process, an-
other ritual marking the transition from apprenticeship to full membership, but we have
no examples of this from Jamaica.
A third process that should be considered in this discussion of the building of
Maroon societies is the merger of existing communities in the interior, whether by will
or by conquest. Incorporation by means of a period of low-status apprenticeship could
be used to deal with considerable numbers of newcomers, but only if they came in a
trickle, a few at a time, over a period of years. When two groups of relatively equal
numbers merged, it was not politically feasible to keep one group in a servile position,
even if it had been conquered. That would have required far too many resources from
societies at war with colonial Jamaica. The most that could be expected was political
control by the dominant group, and this Cudjoe achieved.46 And yet the ethnic differ-
ences of the various groups that comprised the large Maroon polities must have present-
ed serious problems of integration. Before they had come together into two polities,
there was much warring among them. How were these groups of different countryy" to
live together peacefully?
Superficial integration was relatively simple. The solution generally practised seems
to have been some sort of federated structure in which each group maintained its separ-
ate identity, either in its own quarter of a single village or in several villages. This type of
organization was reported explicitly for a runaway slave village in 1792, some 50 years
after the Jamaican Maroons had won their treaties. The settlement was said to contain
"... a great many People both Mulattoes and Negroes, all Countries and each
Country had a Division of the Town, and built Houses for the reception of New
This report may be over-schematized, for we have only second- and third-hand accounts
of it from slaves who had never been there, but it is revealing as a model of an ideal
Maroon community as a place in which diverse African ethnic identities could be pre-
served in a state-of freedom. Some structure such as this must have emerged after the
Coromantees and Madagascars joined in the west, or after the Spanish Maroons joined
with other small groups in the east. This structure did not, however, solve the problems
of a deeper cultural integration. How were the Maroons to keep these heterogeneous
societies from splitting along ethnic lines in times of strain?
Cudjoe himself was aware of the political problems of even superficial integration of
two groups of Maroons relatively equal in size. He refused to allow a large group from
the east to join him for he claimed they would answer to their own leaders rather than
to him, and he insisted on maintaining control over all Maroon operations in his terri-
tory48 Within his own polity, he turned himself to the problems of cultural integration.
He had a self-conscious policy of minimizing ethnic differences by restricting the use of
"... having experienced that the Divisions and Quarrells which had hapned
amongst Themselves, were owing to their different Countries and Customs, which
created Jealousies and uneasiness; He prohibited any other language being spoken
among Them, but English. .49
Among the Windward Maroons Creole English was also used, so that even those born in
the woods spoke it, but we cannot tell whether it was enforced as a policy or simply
adopted because it was the only way Maroons of diverse backgrounds could communi-
cate with one another.50 There may have been other techniques of integration adopted
by Cudjoe 2nd other Maroons, but this is the only one of which we have a record.
While the use of English and the gradual development of a common culture allowed
Maroons of different backgrounds to communicate and live together, they did not pre-
vent ethnic factionalism entirely. Coromantees among the Leeward Maroons plotted a
rebellion shortly after the treaties were signed. Among the Windward Maroons there was
considerable factionalism, splitting and re-grouping both before and after 1739, and
while this is not reported specifically as ethnic factionalism, it would seem more than
likely that some splits followed ethnic lines in times of stress, no matter the cause of the
Thus, neither Maroon polity was wholly successful in holding together its diverse
elements before the treaties of 1739, but they were able to make a good beginning and
to overcome the constant and destructive rivalries of earlier days. They could and did
form a common polity in each end of the island. Each polity had a language by which
its members could communicate with all other Maroons, a common ethnic identity, and
a developing shared culture. What they had not yet managed to do, by the time of the
treaties, was to make the Maroon ethnic identity and culture claim the primary allegiance
of all their members. And they were unlikely to be entirely successful in this as long as
new groups of escapees, especially new Africans, were constantly forming in the interior,
for the problems of complete incorporation of such groups were formidable. The flex-
ible sense of ethnicity, the fluidity of groups, and the cultural creativity of those who
became Maroons allowed the formation of new societies with their own ethnic identities
and their own cultures, but these had not become, by 1739, the primary foci for all Ma-
roons. Disparate segments were held together by a fairly firm matrix, but they occasion-
ally broke loose from it. It was only the Creole Maroons, born free in the bush, who
were indistinguishable from the matrix, and they had not melted into it, but had arisen
out of it. As these Creole Maroons constituted a greater and greater proportion of the
Maroon population, their societies became more unified. Creole Maroons might still
maintain their differences of origin, and the language and some of the customs of the
separate groups to which their parents belonged, but they did not pose the threat to the
unity of the Maroon polities that the various groups of Africans did. Their primary eth-
nic identity and culture was that of Maroons.
In the development of Maroon culture and ethnicity, the treaties of 1739 were a
critical turning point. They provided a secure environment in which the Maroons could
become, perhaps for the first time, naturally reproducing populations. They also closed
the membership of the Maroon societies, thus insuring that in time they would become
entirely Creole. In addition to this, they created a niche for Maroons in Jamaica, a
special position that, by making them unique, further enhanced their developing ethni-
city. Thus, time and the treaties completed the unification and ethnic identification that
Cudjoe and perhaps other Maroons like him had struggled to encourage among their
In these processes we have described, it was inevitable, even necessary, that the
strength of the African ethnic identifications and the cultural and linguistic differences
of the Africans wane and be replaced, for their descendants, by custom and ethnicity
more in tune with the social realities that surrounded them. This meant, of course, the
loss of many specific elements of the Maroons' African heritage. In the renewed interest
in the African past of Afro-Americans, some would now regret this loss, but had their
African heritage been preserved in all its specific diversity, it would have been an insur-
mountable barrier to the integration of the Maroon societies. Specific African ethnic
identities would have competed with a more generalized Maroon identity; particular
traditions would have limited the scope of a Maroon common culture; the disparate
groups that comprised the Maroon societies would have kept apart, and those "Jealousies
and uneasiness" that Cudjoe worked to overcome would have continued. That did not
happen, and what arose to replace those divisive elements was different from any specific
African tradition, though clearly owing much to some of them. It was itself a new Afro-
American creation, a new culture, and a new ethnic identity.
In a sense, the entire Afro-American population of Jamaica can be said to have gone
through a similar process, though in very different circumstances; the fact that it had to
occur largely on the slave plantations put severe constraints on it not present among the
Maroons. The process of developing an Afro-American culture in Jamaica began as soon
as the Africans began arriving with the first English settlement, but cultural differences
and ethnic rivalry among African groups and between Africans and Creoles developed
also. The loss of those specific traditions and identities as the population of the island
became progressively, and then entirely, Creole was also a loss of divisive elements, and
it may be seen positively as a broadening and redefinition of ethnic identity and the
creation of a new Afro-Jamaican culture. Behind, or beneath, or besides their specific
traditions and regional characteristics, all the Africans in Jamaica can be said to have
comprised an ethnic pool when contrasted with Europeans or East Indians. Besides
their obvious physical similarities, they shared certain very broad cultural themes that
are present throughout sub-Saharan Africa: similarities in conceptions of the nature of
social relations, the uses of ritual, the arts, cosmology, personal style, and so forth. The
presence of such cultural themes means that communication and cultural merger is al-
ways likely to be easier among Africans than between, say, Africans and Indians. In 18th
century Jamaica, specific traditions stood in the way of a more general integration of
Africans in Jamaica, as they often do in African states today. In Jamaica as a whole, as
among the Maroons, it was the waning of specific African traditions that allowed the in-
tegration of the Afro-American population. Had the specific cultures and languages of
the ethnic groups survived, had the groups themselves survived, the ethnic rivalries and
hostilities would have survived also. The problems that some Caribbean countries now
face in integrating large Afro-American and East Indian populations would have been
multiplied many times and we would see among Afro-Americans the kind of ethnic ten-
sions that lie just beneath the surface in virtually all the states of Black Africa. Instead
of that, in the Caribbean, what has been retained among Afro-Americans is a melding of
all the African heritages and of others as well, into a blend that does not contain the
divisiveness that strong African ethnicity can imply, and once di'd for the Jamaican
The research on which this article was based was made possible in part by a Predoctoral Research
Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. No. 12282-01.
1. The obvious exception that springs to mind is the Ras Tafari cult of Jamaica. See Smith, M.G.,
Roy Augier and Rex Nettleford, The Ras Tafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica, Institute of
Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies, Mona, 1960.
2. See Schuler, Monica, "Ethnic Slave Rebellions in the Caribbean and the Guianas." Journal of
Social History 1970: 3:374-385; Patterson, Orlando, The Sociology of Slavery, Fairleigh Dicken-
son University Press, Rutherford, New Jersey, 1969 (1st ed. 1967), pp. 152, 265-273; for an
introduction to Maroon societies throughout the New World, see Price, Richard, Maroon Socie-
ties, Doubleday Anchor, Garden City, N.Y., 1973.
3. For an introduction to reference groups, see Hyman, Herbert H., "Reference Groups," in Inter-
national Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Macmillan, New York, 1968.
4. For an introduction to this approach to culture and to ethnic groups as defined in this article, see
Barth, Frederik, "Introduction, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, Allen & Unwin, London, 1969.
For a stimulating discussion of the uses of this concept of culture in re-creating Afro-American
history, see Mintz, Sidney W. and Richard Price, "An Anthropological Approach to Afro-American
History, Paper given at a conference on Creole Societies at the Johns Hopkins University,
Spring, 1973. The approach used in this article owes much to the latter paper.
5. See, for example, Cohen, Abner, ed., Urban Ethnicity, Association of Social Anthropologists
Monograph No. 12, Tavistock, London, 1974; Wallerstein, Immanuel, "Ethnicity and National
Integration in West Africa," Cahiers D'Etudes Africaines 1960: 1:129-139. The processes discuss-
ed here occur not only in urban settings, but are very widespread in Africa; however, the re-
structuring of ethnicity following migration to urban settings is most analogous to what we find
among Africans in the New World.
6. Long, Edward, The History of Jamaica, 3 Vols. T. Lowndes, London, 1774, Vol. 2. p. 472.
7. Mintz and Price, op. cit.
8. The "Eboes" on Matthew Lewis' plantation lived in their own quarter of the village, and on
several occasions came to Lewis in a body with their complaints. Lewis, Matthew Glegory, Jour-
nal of a West Indian Proprietor, John Murray, London, 1834, pp. 188-194.
9. For a discussion of the formation of the two Maroon polities, see Kopytoff, Barbara Klamon,
The Maroons of Jamaica..., Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1973.
10. Herbert T. Thomas, The Story of a West Indian Policeman..., The Gleaner Co., Kingston, 1927;
Joseph John Williams, The Maroons of Jamaica, Boston College Press, Chestnut Hill, Mass., 1938.
Some Maroons now assert that they are "pure Ashanti."
11. Francisco Morales Padron, Jamaica Espagnola, Escuela de Estudios Hispano-americanos de Sevilla,
Seville, 1952, p. 267.
12. See Long, op. cit., Vol. 2, pp. 343-344; Philip Wright, "War and Peace with the Maroons, 1730-
1739," Caribbean Quarterly 1970: 16:20; Frank C. Cundall, The Governors of Jamaica in the
First Half of the Eighteenth Century, The West India Committee, London, 1937, p. 146.
13. Robert C. Dallas, The History of the Maroons, 2 Vols., T. N. Longman and 0. Rees, London,
1803, Vol. 1, pp. 31-33; James Knight, The Natural, Moral, and Political History of Jamaica...
to the Year 1742, British Library, Add. MS. 12, 419, p. 93.
14. Dallas, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 31-32. Dallas is confused by the appellation "Madagascar" as he knew
of no slaves from that island having been landed in Jamaica, but slaves were being shipped from
the Madagascar channel during that period. See Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A
Census, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisc., 1969, pp. 125, 144. There remains the
question of whether the slaves in this case would have been the Bantus or Nilotics from East
Africa, or true Malagasys, or even, possibly, Dravidians from Ceylon or India, trans-shipped in
Madagascar. The description virtually rules out the Africans, favours Malagasys except for the
"deeper jet" colour, and would fit Dravidians.
15. Knight, op. cit., p. 93.
16. Dallas, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 32-33.
17. Orlando Patterson, "Slavery and Slave Revolts, A Socio-Historical Analysis of the First Maroon
War, Jamaica 1655-1740," Social and Economic Studies, 1970: 19:289-325, p. 299; George
Bridges, The Annals of Jamaica, 2 Vols., John Murray, London 1828, Vol. 1, p. 407. Bridges
mentions that the survivors of a shipwreck of a Madagascar vessel became Maroons, but does not
say when or where the wreck took place. The documents cited by Patterson tell of the wreck on
the easternmost part of the island, the approximate date, and the fact that the survivors became
Maroons, but do not mention their ethnic background. Presumably they refer to the same
18. The number is my own calculation, and the reasoning behind it appears in Barbara Klamon
Kopytoff, The Maroons of Jamaica.. ., Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsyl-
vania, 1973, pp. 9-10.
19. There were clearly several groups of Spanish Maroons before 1670; what is less clear is whether
they joined again at some later time. Knight (op. cit., pp. 92, 93) says that Spanish Maroons were
in both ends of the island, but all became part of the later Windward Maroons. Most later sources
also claim that they became part of the Windward Maroons only. See, for example, Dallas, op.
cit., Vol. 1, p. 26.
20. Knight, op. cit., p.93.
21. Ibid., p. 94.
23. Morales, Padron, op. cit., p. 273.
24. See Schuler, op. cit.; Patterson, "Slavery and Slave Revolts. .", op. cit.
25. Long, op. cit., Vol.2, pp. 445, 470.
26. Ibid., pp. 445, ff.
27. See, for example, David Dalby, "Ashanti Survivals in the Language and Traditions of the Wind-
ward Maroons of Jamaica," African Language Studies 1971: 12:31-51; Williams, op. cit.
28. Dallas, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 31. There is a suggestion of a lineage organisation here, but we have no
real evidence of corporate lineages among the Jamaican Maroons as we have for Guiana Maroons
(see, for example, A. J. F. Kobben, "Unity and Disunity: Cottica Djuka Society as a Kinship
System," reprinted in Price, op. cit., pp. 320-369). Certainly there is nothing like that among
present-day Maroons, and Katherine Dunham's report of "clans" among the Accompong Maroons
sounds like family name lines with no corporate status. Katherine Dunham, Journey to Accom-
pong, Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1946.
29. Molesworth to Blathwayt, 2 November 1686, Colonial Office (hereafter C.O.) 138/5, Public
Records Office, London.
30. Joseph John Williams, Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica, The Dial Press, New York, 1934, p. 114;
Dallas, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 101; "Examination of a Negro Man named Jumbo," encl. in Balcarres
to Portland, 31 December, 1795, C.O. 137/96.
31. Anon., "History of the Revolted Negroes in Jamaica," C. E. Long Papers, British Library Add
32. Charles Leslie, A New and Exact Account of Jamaica, (R. Fleming), Edinburgh: 1740, p. 327.
33. See Price, op. cit., p. 24.
34. See Patterson, The Sociology of Slavery, op. cit., pp. 145-147, 152.
35. Journal of the Assembly of Jamaica, Vol. 3, p. 594.
36. Cudjoe's father led the rebellion of Coromantees at Sutton's plantation in 1690. Since Cudjoe
was a vigorous leader 50 years later, we assume that he was born some time after 1690, which
would mean he was a Creole Maroon. Anon.. "History... ", op. cit.
37. Trelawny to Newcastle, 30 June, 1739, C.O. 137/56.
38. Long, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 350.
39. Trelawny to Newcastle, 30 June, 1739, C.O. 137/56.
40. Long, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 350. The Maroons were reported to be "Industrious in finding out
Negro Women and Girls to carry with Them" when they raided the plantations. Knight, op. cit.,
41. Long, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 350. Once the peace had been established and the sexual imbalance of
the population had had a chance to right itself, the figures show a healthy and vigorous upswing.
The proportion of children climbed from 27% in 1749 to 37% in 1773 and 47% in 1793. The
ratios of children to women (no ages given) showed a similar rise from -58 to 1-06 to 1-64. By
1773 the population as a whole had nearly recovered its losses from 1739, and during the next
twenty years, 1773-93, the Maroons showed a very vigorous annual growth rate of over 2% a year.
In 1749, women number between 42% and 44% of the adult population in each of four Maroon
communities. In 1773 and 1793 they number between 54% and 56%. The percentages in these
cases may be elevated by the fact that women are sometimes counted as adults at an earlier age
42. Knight, op. cit., p. 96.
43. "Further Examination of Sarra .. enclosed in Hunter to Board of Trade, 13 October, 1733,
Calendar of State Papers (Colonial), America and the West Indies, Vol. 40, pp. 215-216.
44. See Price, op. cit., p. 17. Price relates the long probationary period to the need for strict security
in societies at war. Indeed, the external threat increases the dangers of having many newly incor-
porated members in a society, and calls for more thorough enculturation procedures to insure
loyalty than would be necessary for societies not in a state of war.
45. The death penalty for crimes was evidently applied normally only to men among the Windward
Maroons; this may have been the case with the initial oath of membership too. "Further Exam-
ination of Sarra .. .", op. cit.
46. See Kopytoff, "The Political Organization of Jamaican Maroons .", op. cit.
47. "Minutes of the Examination of a Negro man named Glamorgan . ." Taken January 5, 1792,
48. See Kopytoff, "The Political Organization of Jamaican Maroons .. .", op. cit.
49. Knight, op. cit., p. 95. It is likely that Cudjoe allowed Coromantee to be spoken too; Dallas
reported that Coromantee became the language in general use among the Leeward Maroons.
Presumably, he meant in addition to English. Dallas, ',. cit., Vol. 1, p. 33.
50. Hunter to Board of Trade, 20 September, 1732, C.O. 137/20; Lamb's Journal, enclosed in Draper
to Hunter, 25 June, 1733, C.O. 137/54; Philip Thickness, Memoirs and Anecdotes .., 3 vols.
Printed for the Author, London, 1788-91, Vol. 1, p. 121.
51. See Kopytoff, "The Political Organization of Jamaican Maroons .. .", op. cit.
52. We are not trying to argue that, given the structure of the plantation society, there was any way
that African ethnic groups could have been preserved in Jamaica, but only to indicate what it
might have been like, had it been possible. It may be argued that class and colour groups have
become the new ethnic groups of Jamaica, but these are far less cohesive than African ethnic
groups were in the island. Their boundaries are far more fluid, and it may be the social scientists'
categories as much as the people's self-perceptions that hold these together and separate them as
discrete units. See Adam Kuper, Changing Jamaica, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1976.
THE END OF THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE TO CUBA
For 350 years, the Atlantic slave trade provided the Spanish colony of Cuba with a
continuing supply of young African bondsmen whose numbers disease, malnutrition and
toil decimated. Although Great Britain profited from this commerce during the 18th
century, by the early years of the Napoleonic Wars British attitudes stiffened into op-
position to the human traffic to Cuba and elsewhere in the New World. Parliament pro-
hibited further slave trading with British possessions in the West Indies in 1807, and
thereafter the Foreign Office exhorted, pressured, bribed and coerced various powers,
principally Spain and the United States, to end their sanction or succour of the trade.
British delegates squeezed Spain's signature on a European declaration at the Congress
of Vienna, then used debt remission, indemnities for slave ships, and a 400,000 loan
to secure Spanish agreement in 1817 to end the trade to Cuba within three years. Neith-
er instrument proved effective, nor did a subsequent pact concluded in 1835. In the
Spanish view, the sugar economy of Cuba depended on continual replenishment of the
slave labour force, and colonial prosperity inevitably outbid the moral approbation of
the English. Although the 1835 treaty allowed the Royal Navy to stop and search sus-
pected slave ships flying the Spanish flag, Madrid restrained her governors in Cuba from
halting disembarkations of captured Africans. Deprived in the 1830's by several treaties
of the use of European flags, during the following decade most slavers hoisted the Stars
As anticipated by the Constitutional Convention, Congress in 1807 enjoined further
importations of slaves into the United States, and eight years later during the negotiations
at Ghent American delegates agreed to join with Great Britain "to use their best en-
deavors" to achieve "the entire abolition of the slave trade." In 1820, Congress defined
slave trading as piracy, but Southerners blocked ratification four years thereafter of a
treaty concluded with Britain by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams which extend-
ed this concept to international law. In addition to bowing before the affinity of South-
ern leaders for the needs of slave-owning Cubans, the American government represented
a broader base of public sentiment when it refused to permit British naval vessels to stop
or search any ship flying the flag of the United States. In 1812, Americans had declared
war against Britain to protect their rights to freedom of the seas against British insistence
on their right to search to recover deserting sailors, but in the context of susbequent
decades both postures became increasingly irrelevant to national interests yet remained
as impediments to effective collaboration in suppressing the slave trade. In 1841, Wash-
ington admonished the British Foreign Office that "the United States ... can never con-
sent ... to any foreign vessels the right of entering those of the United States or violat-
ing the freedom of her flag."2 Nonetheless, the U.S. Navy ordered a squadron to patrol
the African coastline, but its effectiveness was spotty, and British naval officers in
search of slavers often foreswore official,policy and stopped ships flying the American
flag. The mounting sum of these instances rankled, and in 1857 Secretary of State Lewis
Cass forcefully demanded a cessation which the Admiralty reluctantly ordered. Thus,
despite a half-century of diplomatic and naval effort, the British had failed to stem the
flow of bondsmen from Africa to the Antilles, and a Member of Parliament declared
with some accuracy in 1861 that "the means employed for the suppression of the Afri-
can slave trade have failed."
Within a month of this resolution, the American Civil War ensued as Abraham Lin-
coln ascended to the Presidency and William Henry Seward, an anti-slavery Republican
from New York, became Secretary of State. Seward's foreign policy aimed principally at
preventing European, particularly British, recognition of the Confederate States, and to
this endhe sought to enlist public opinion in England by highlighting the moral superior-
ity of the Union cause. In the spring of 1861, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles with-
drew the U.S. Navy's African Squadron from its patrol to bolster the blockade of the
Confederacy. To counter the adverse reaction to Welles' decision among British anti-
slavery groups, Seward in May, 1861, proposed to Lord Lyons, the British Minister in
Washington, an agreement compensating for the loss of the American ships on the Afri-
can coastal patrol. Seward confided that he and Lincoln had "none of the squeamish-
ness about allowing American vessels to be boarded and searched which had characterized
their predecessors."4 Neither Lyons nor the Foreign Secretary, Lord John Russell, pur-
sued the matter. However, John Jay, Seward's political ally from New York, disinterred
the idea for an agreement, even a treaty, in a letter to the Secretary of State in late 1861.
Jay suggested that Seward propose an anti-slave-trade convention with Britain and
France stipulating the mutual right of search. Once ratified, Jay contended, the pact
would enhance Union prestige and prove an impediment to European recognition of the
Confederacy.5 Prompted by Jay's proposal, Seward signed a secret memorandum in
November sanctioning British action against American flag slavers. Although the Royal
Navy resumed the old practice of searching such vessels, Russell believed Seward's ap-
proval to be "worth little or nothing" in the event of public incident.6
To solidify this secret accord, Russell printed a draft treaty allowing the mutual right
of search and forwarded it to Washington in early 1862. Being secret, the accord lacked
the publicity Jay had cited as a central justification for the abrogation of American
maritime rights. Seward worried that Russell's treaty might raise old Anglophobic
hackles, and he advised Lyons that "the proposal should have the air of coming original-
ly from the United States." 7 Lyons consented, and the two diplomats penned several
letters to one another in which Seward suggested an anti-slave-trade treaty, then won
British concession to a ten-year limitation on its life. Lyons, who was "very desirous to
do anything which may strengthen his hands in carrying the Treaty through the Senate,"
co-operated fulsomely with the subterfuge.8 Seward and Lyons signed the instrument
on April 7, the Senate in executive session ratified it shortly thereafter with no recorded
opposition, and after ratification in London in May both Congress and Parliament passed
enabling legislation and appropriated funds for the mixed commissions with little dissent?
The twisting path or negotiation and deception misled not only Seward's country-
men as to the origins of the Treaty, but historians of the slave trade as well. In 1929,
William Law Mathieson concluded that "Seward on March 28 proposed that an agree-
ment should be negotiated," and other scholars from W. E. B. DuBois to John R. Spears
have concurred.10 In 1933, A. Taylor Milne published the secret 1861 accord and the
correspondence disclosing the charade of the March 1862 negotiations, but he failed to
discover Jay's earlier suggestion which sparked the whole process. Warren S. Howard's
recent study of the slave trade contended that "Seward had no more intention of letting
the British police American shipping than had their Whig and Democratic predecessors."
Howard noted that Seward had "cannily refused" Lyons' argument over the duration of
the treaty, and added that "to their honor," the British "capitulated." He concluded
that Lincoln and Seward "had not signed the treaty willingly; they had done their best
to avoid it by attempting to uphold the traditional policy of the United States that
American vessels be immune from foreign control." 1
More importantly, Seward's boast that the 1862 Treaty was the "greatest act of the
administration" and his reflective comment to the American Minister Charles Francis
Adams that "had such a treaty been made in 1808 there would have been no sedition
here," subsequently confused both contemporaries and historians as to the actual impact
of the agreement on the Cuban slave trade.12Lord Brougham, leader of the Anti-Slavery
Society in London, believed the Seward-Lyons Treaty to be the conclusive event in his
sixty-year campaign to suppress the trade. Mathieson suggested that it "served rather to
signalize than to complete the collapse of a system which was everywhere crumbling
into ruin," whereas DuBois noted of the treaty and the accompanying enabling acts that
"by these measures the trade was soon checked'13 Milne argued that the treaty warned
Spain that the United States would no longer tolerate the slave trade, "the strongest
evidence of all," he found, "that the Seward-Lyons Treaty achieved its object."'4Both
John R. Spears, and more recently Arthur Corwin, concurred that the "new agreement
was the death blow to the African slave trade." 15
If the new treaty dealt a "death blow" to the traffic in bondsmen, observers in Cuba
failed to notice it. The British Consul-General, J. T. Crawford, wrote to Lord Russell in
Mardh, 1862, that in spite of the first execution of a slave trade in the United States,
"there seems to be a revival of interest in expeditions to the slave-coast of Africa," and
Spanish records indicate that almost 24,000 Africans landed in Cuba in the year after
the treaty was signed.16 The Seward-Lyons Treaty did provide the Royal Navy with a
weapon vital in curbing the traffic, but the small Squadron could not hope to cover the
length of the "slave coast" of Africa effectively. Additionally, good sugar harvests in
Cuba coincided with the Union blockade of the Confederacy which reduced competi-
tion on the world market from Louisiana sugar.-Slave expeditions continued for the
next two years, for, as Crawford discouragingly advised Russell in August, 1863, "the
slave trader can effect anything by means of gold."17 Only additional measures by the
American Secretary of State and active prosecution of slave traders by Spanish officials
in Cuba could check the continuing traffic in human lives.
In his Annual Message to Congress in January, 1863, President Lincoln claimed that
"so far as American ports and American citizens are concerned, that inhuman and
odious traffic has been brought to an end," but the failure of the Seward-Lyons Treaty
to effectively suppress the Cuban slave trade was thereafter highlighted by Lord Russell's
proposal to Seward in October that Washington join the British Foreign Office in a
"joint representation" to the Spanish government on the issue.8 The Secretary of State
concurred, but the note delivered by the American Minister to Spain, Gustave Koerner,
first announced the "purest motives" of the United States, then gently suggested
"revision of the existing laws and regulations" in Cuba "as will best accomplish the
object" of ending slave importations. Russell was more familiar with the delaying thrust
of Spanish diplomacy and he dictated a less delicate missive, citing provisions of the
Cuban Penal Code of 1845 which were "admitted by the Spanish authorities to be in-
sufficient" and pointing to other sections which "served as a protection to the slave
dealers." Russell demanded "an end to the slave trade in Cuba" and an order "declaring
the slave trade to be piracy." This latter point was especially potent, for conviction
under Spanish law for piracy brought the death penalty which in Cuba was effected by
slow strangulation with the garrotte.19
The British note reiterated familiar themes, but Seward's concern at least awakened
the Spanish throne to American attitudes and perhaps kindled apprehensions of the
ambitions of an increasingly successful anti-slavery administration in Washington. None-
theless, the notes coincided with the resolution of a bizarre incident coalescing the dis-
parate forces which theretofore had been unable or unwilling to suppress the Cuban
British observers had long recognized that strong enforcement of the Penal Code
would be a prerequisite to effective suppression of the slave trade, but despaired of this
hope given the low quality of Spanish officialdom in Cuba. The American authors of the
Ostend Manifesto of 1854, a proposal that the United States annex Cuba using diplomacy
or force, characterized Spanish rule in Cuba as "absolute despotism, delegated by a dis-
tant power to irresponsible agents, who are changed at short intervals, and who are
tempted to improve the brief opportunity thus afforded to accumulate fortunes."20 Brit-
ish pressure had previously forced Spain to add the provision of the Penal Code prohibit-
ing involvement in the slave trade to Cuba, but in 1863 Consul-General Crampton
depicted the mechanism of enforcement as a "judicial farce."21 One Spanish administra-
tion after another promised vigorous measures, but retreated in their interests to duplic-
ity and delay. Although the Spanish Governors-General could invoke extra-legal author-
ity to punish complicity in the trade, most never tried and Madrid reprimanded those
who did. Francisco Serrano became Governor-General in 1859 and pledged "to observe
the strictest vigilance" to end the slave importations. Shortly, two subordinate provincial
governors tested his sincerity by openly assisting in the landing and sale of three ship-
loads of Africans on Cuban shores. Serrano suspended both until a delegation headed by
Julian Zulueta, the island's wealthiest planter, persuaded him to reverse the decision,
then handsomely rewarded all concerned. This fundamental block to effective sup-
pression of the slave trade persisted, and two years after the ratification of the Seward-
Lyons Treaty the British Foreign Secretary bluntly told the Spanish that "no faith can
now be placed in the integrity of those who have to administer the laws in Cuba."22
In 1862, Madrid relieved Serrano and selected Domingo Dulce as the succeeding Cap-
tain-General of Cuba. Dulce in turn named Colonel Jose Augustin Arguelles to the Lieu-
tenant-Governorship of the Province of Guantanamo. An officer in the prestigious
Spanish cavalry, Arguelles had served in combat with distinction, receiving decorations
from his own monarch and from the King of Denmark, and had allied himself politically
with Domingo Dulce when both men sat as Deputies in the Spanish Cortes in the early
1850's. Arguelles joined the short-lived Spanish intervention in Mexico in 1861, serving
under General Prim y Prado, but Prim accused Arguelles of irregularities in his accounts
and, after publishing charges of "falsehoods and disloyalty" against his commander, he
left Mexico for the Antilles.
In Havana, Arguelles inveigled Serrano into naming him to an administrative post in
the Cuban government which dealt with bankruptcies. When one of the officers of a
firm of merchants whose assets Arguelles held in trust complained of fraud, Arguelles
had him jailed. Serrano maintained close ties with the Havana merchants and he learned
of the incident quickly, released the protesting businessman, and summarily dismissed
Colonel Arguelles. Returning to favour when his old associate Dulce arrived in Cuba,
Arguelles apparently performed adequately as Governor of Guantanamo and was pro-
moted in October, 1863, to the Province of Colon, the site of most of Julian Zulueta's
plantations and a centre for slave trading. Zulueta promptly approached Arguelles and
proposed a bargain: Arguelles would allow Zulueta to land three shiploads of Africans
to be sold to local planters and in return Zulueta promised a bribe of $300,000 to the
new governor and his officers. Arguelles feigned agreement with the offer, but reported
it to Captain-General Dulce in Havana, also advising Dulce that he intended instead to
capture the slaving expeditions.
Meanwhile the Ciceron, a British-built steamer, left Liverpool for Cadiz, where she
was fitted out to transport slaves across the Atlantic. She rendezvoused with traders on
the slave coast of Africa near the British island of Fernando Po, and, in spite of surveill-
ance by the Royal Navy's African Squadron, loaded a cargo of 1200 Africans and set
sail across the Atlantic for the Caribbean. The Ciceron arrived off the coast of Colon on
the night of November 6, 1863. Zulueta's managers paid her captain and crew, then dis-
embarked the party of slaves and began herding them off to a nearby plantation for sale.
On the road, they were intercepted by Arguelles and a party from his garrison. He ar-
rested the agents, impounded the Africans, and wired Dulce in Havana of his success.
Intrigue and politics thenceforth shrouded the sequence of events. Arguelles later
claimed that Dulce replied to his report with an order to release Zulueta's managers,
award five slaves to each of the officers who had assisted in the capture, and turn the
whole issue over to the courts in Havana which Zulueta and his fellow planters controlled.
Arguelles also contended that Zulueta awarded him $15,000, a sum equivalent to the
bounty for a legally disposable prize, and that the Captain-General had appointed Zulu-
eta and his two associates as his representatives to investigate the capture and recom-
mend the proper disposition of the slaves. Contradictory evidence notwithstanding,
Dulce did reward Arguelles, and granted him thirty days' leave which Arguelles had re-
quested to go to New York to invest his prize money. Arguelles left Cuba on the Eagle,
bound for the United States, but two days later Dulce issued a warrant fbr his arrest.
Since his nomination as Captain-General, Dulce had earned a good reputation among
British and American consuls and newspaper correspondents in Cuba for his attempts to
combat the slave trade, despite his occasional reluctance to co-operate and his appoint-
ment in January, 1864, of Julian Zulueta as the Alcalde of Havana. In late March, Dulce
called the American Vice-Consul, Thomas Savage, to his offices, and reviewed the find-
ings of the government's investigation of the landings in Colon in November. Failing to
mention the arrangements made with Arguelles prior to the capture, Dulce accused the
Colonel of sorting out 141 of the 1200 Africans landed, bribing the curate of Colon to
alter the parish records to list their deaths from tropical disease, then selling them to
local plantations as slaves. Dulce admitted that he had granted Arguelles twenty days'
leave to go to New York, but now denounced him as a "scoundrel, worse than a thief,"
and asked Savage to request Arguelles' detention and return from the United States to
Cuba. Savage advised Dulce that, "in the absence of an extradition treaty between the
two governments," the State Department "could not grant the request," but the Vice-
Consul "promised to lay the matter in a confidential way" before Secretary Seward and
report back to the Captain-General.23
Both the New York Herald and the Times carried similar versions of Dulce's charges
in early April, which Arguelles answered in letters to the newspapers' editors and in a
pamphlet published by a Spanish-language press in New York City, La Chronica. In
"Captain-General Dulce and the Slave Traders of Cuba," Arguelles accused Dulce of
complicity with Julian Zulueta and other slave-trading planters, proclaimed his own in-
nocence, and denounced the traffic in forceful terms. Crawford, who apparently doubt-
ed the accusations against Dulce, nonetheless advised Lord Russell that "Arguelles it
appears is giving the world an insight of the machinations of the Slave Trade, which, but
for the rupture that has taken place, would in all probability never have been made
Savage also evidently believed Dulce's account over Arguelles' protestations, and his
letter to Seward was framed such that American action clearly seemed to be necessary
to assist the Captain-General in his fight to eradicate the slavers. Still, the lack of an
extradition treaty between the United States and the Spanish Empire put the Secretary
of State in a difficult position. Arguelles had developed some vocal support in the excit-
able New York press, which had always been critical of Seward for enforcing some of
the less liberal measures of the Lincoln administration. Legally, Arguelles had no absol-
ute right to asylum in the United States unless the Federal government granted it. More-
over, Vice-Consul Savage's note had been followed by a request for Arguelles' return to
Cuba from the Spanish Minister in Washington, Gabriel Tassara. Given Seward's person-
al antipathy for the slave trade and his previous attempts to placate the British on this
issue, his decision followed course. With the President's approval, but without discussion
in the Cabinet, the Secretary of State ordered the U.S. Marshal in New York to arrest
Arguelles and asked Tassara to have Dulce send an officer to the United States to escort
Colonel Arguelles back to Cuba.25
Arguelles' arrest and deportation caused a brief storm of protest in New York and
Washington. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles complained that Seward "has commit-
ted one of those freaks which make me constantly apprehensive ... ,expecting probably
to win popular applause by doing an illegal act." Senator Johnson of Maryland de-
nounced the decision and introduced a resolution in Congress asking that the diplomatic
correspondence concerning the deportation be published. Additionally, some New York
newspapers cited the decision as but another arbitrary and unconstitutional act of the
wartime government, but neither Lincoln nor Seward paid any attention to their critics,
and the furore quickly died.26
On the return voyage to Cuba, Arguelles penned a pathetic apology to Captain-
General Dulce, with little effect. Chained in a dungeon under the battery at Moro Castle,
Arguelles naturally confessed, identified his co-conspirators, and disclosed the where-
abouts of the Africans he had sold. When Dulce shortly thereafter sentenced Arguelles
to life service in the galleys, Crawford commented that "his will probably not be a very
On the slave market, the cargo of over 1200 Africans which Arguelles had intercept-
ed was worth over $1,000,000 to Zulueta and his associates. In the year following the
conclusion of the Seward-Lyons Treaty, over 20,000 Africans had entered bondage as
labourers on Cuban plantations, yet by mid-1864 that flow had rapidly dwindled.28 Ar-
guelles' disclosures had put the sincerity of Dulce's intentions on trial, and the Captain-
General began to move more vigorously against the human traffic after the incident than
he had before. Arguelles' ignominious fate surely served as precedental warning to other
subordinate officials contemplating collaboration with Zulueta and the slave traders.
Additionally, Spanish policy toward the commerce in African lives palpably stiffened
after the joint Anglo-American notes. The Ministry's press organ in Madrid supported
Dulce's handling of the Arguelles' affair, and the government refused to intercede on
behalf of others implicated in the slave importations. Seward's decision to deport Ar-
guelles in the face of domestic political pressures and in the absence of a formal treaty
of extradition signalled the firmness of the United States government, then formally
committed not only to ending the slave trade but also to emancipation, and Spanish
officials both in Madrid and in Cuba realized that the Atlantic Slave Trade, always
barbarously inhumane, had become an anachronism in the cosmopolitan world of the
ROBERT WM. LOVE, JR.
1. Treaty of Ghent in Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States
(Washington, D.C., 1942), Vol. III, pp. 574-584.
2. Stephanson to Palmerston, 16 April 1841, Calendar of British Foreign and State Papers (London,
1842), Vol. XXX, pp. 1141-1144.
3. Resolution by Mr. Cave, 26 February 1861, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates Vol. CLXI (Third
Series), p. 950.
4. Lyons to Russell, 10 May 1861, in A Taylor Milne, ed., "Documents: The Lyons-Seward Treaty
of 1862," American Historical Review, Vol. XXXVIII (1932-33), pp. 511-525.
5. Jay to Seward, 17 October 1861, cited in Frederic Bancroft, The Life of William H. Seward
(Reprint; Gloucester, Mass., 1967), Vol. II, p. 343.
6. Russell to Lyons, 11 November 1861, in Milne, ed., "Lyons-Seward Treaty," AHR, p. 512.
7. Lyons to Russell, 21 March 1862, in Ibid., p. 513.
8. Lyons to Russell, 28 March 1862, in Ibid., p. 522.
9. U.S. Congress, Senate,... the Treaty ... for the Suppression of the African Slave Trade, 37th
Cong., 2nd Sess., Exec. Doc. No. 57; and Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 2nd Sess., IV, pp. 29-4L
10.William Law Mathieson, Great Britain and the Slave Trade (London, 1929), p. 175; W. E. B.
DuBois, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America (Cambridge,
Mass., 1896), pp. 191-192; and John R. Spears, The African Slave Trade (New York, 1961),
11.Warren S. Howard, American Slavers and the Federal Law (Berkeley, Calif., 1963), p. 64.
12.U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: 1862-1863 (Washington, D.C.,
1864), pp. 64-65.
13.Mathieson, Britain and the Slave Trade, p. 175; DuBois, Slave Trade, p. 192.
14. Milne, ed., "Lyons-Seward Treaty", AHR, p. 517.
15.Spears, African Slave Trade, p. 217; Arthur Corwin, Spain and the Abolition of Slavery in Cuba:
1817-1886 (Austin, Texas, 1967), p. 147.
16.Corwin, Spain and Slavery, p. 143.
17.Crawford to Russell, 21 August 1863, "Slave Trade," British Parliamentary Papers (Irish Univers-
ity Press Edition, Dublin, 1963), Vol. XLIX, p. 163.
18.Lyons to Seward, 15 October 1863, FRUS: 1863, p. 65.
19.Koener to Arrazola, 27 February 1864, FRUS: 1864, Vol. II, pp. 67-68; and Crampton to Mira-
flores, in Lyons to Seward, 4 February 1864, Ibid., pp.64-65.
20.Ostend Manifesto in Ruhl Bartlett, ed., The Record of American Diplomacy (New York, 1954),
21.Crawford to Russell, 20 August 1863, Parl. Pprs., Vol. XLIX, p. 163.
22.Russell to Crampton, 15 April 1864, Parl. Pprs., Vol. XLIX, p. 185.
23.New York Times, 15 May-26 June 1864; Savage to Seward, 27 March 1864, FRUS:1864, Vol. II,
24.Crawford to Russell, 6 June 1864, Parl. Pprs., Vol. LVI, p. 256 and pf.
25.Tassara to Seward, 5 April 1864, FRUS: 1864, Vol. II, pp. 70-71;Glyndon Van Deusen, William
H. Seward (New York, 1967), pp. 342-348.
26.Gideon Welles, Diary (New York, 1911), Vol. II, p. 36; and New York Times, 6 May 1864, p. 4.
27.Crawford to Russell, 6 June 1864, Parl. Pprs., Vol. LVI, p. 256.
28.W. E. F. Ward, The Royal Navy and the Slavers (New York, 1969), p. 226.
Summary, Overview and Questions
BLACKS IN COLONIAL CUBA, 1774-1899
It should be clear from this study that the official colonial censuses of Cuba consti-
tute a far more accurate portrayal of Cuba's black population than the estimates which
contradict them. However, the censuses are not without serious flaws, particularly those
of omission and contradiction. Cuban slaves were viewed as assets to the country as a
whole, while the free coloureds were considered liabilities. Therefore, as a general rule,
the slave portion of the population was more carefully enumerated than the free col-
oureds, whose numbers were probably consistently understated.
The most dramatic example of contradiction can be found in the census of 1841,
which blatantly overstates the size of the slave population. The other less dramatic but
no less important example is the census of 1877, taken under such adverse circumstances
as to render it extremely suspect as far as the black population is concerned.
With these two omissions justified, a graph of Cuba's black population can be con-
structed (see Figure 1) by employing the remaining official colonial censuses and the
slave registration data of 1855. The resulting picture poses more questions than it an-
swers, while the questions in turn eloquently demonstrate the need for a demographic
approach to the history of nineteenth-century Cuba. Some examples follow.
CUBA'S BLACK POPULATION 1774-1899
(1) The coloured population of the island increased sharply during the last decade of
the nineteenth century, presumably in response to both the 1789 free slave trade decree,
and the 1791 slave revolution in St. Domingue which cleared the way for Cuba to be-
come a major sugar producer. However, despite the accelerating number of slave imports,
both the slave and free coloured portions of the black population grew at a fairly similar
rate. This suggests strongly that an increased demand for labour notwithstanding, slave
manumissions were keeping pace with the growing population.
Perhaps this can be construed as evidence of the reputed mildness of Spanish slavery.
It may show the influence of the Church at work in encouraging manumission and, in
addition, a vigorous programme of slave self-purchase. It may also indicate that the
ranks of the free coloureds were swelling because of a fairly comfortable level of living
which stimulated in turn a high level of natality. Cuba may in fact have been the eight-
eenth-century heaven for free blacks which many have urged that it was.
(2) The burgeoning sugar revolution of the tirst decades of the nineteenth century
brought about a rapid expansion of Cuba's slave population, in spite of the first Anglo-
Spanish anti-slave-trade treaty of 1817 which put an end to Cuba's legal slave trade. Yet
the ensuing illegal traffic raised the cost of new imports significantly. Was this factor in
turn responsible for the concomitant shrinking of the free coloured population? Did the
anti-slave-trade treaty have the ironic effect of curtailing manumission? And, if so, was
the cause simply the increased value of labour or was it that Cuba's large number of un-
acculturated and unassimilated bozales brought with them large problems of social con-
trol-problems which militated against further manumission? In any event, the census
data point to a deterioration in the importance of the free coloured population, both re-
latively and absolutely, for a few short years-a phenomenal deterioration which has re-
ceived surprisingly little attention from scholars.
(3) It has been alleged repeatedly that the Anglo-Spanish anti-slave-trade treaties
were miserably ineffective in stopping the flow of Africans to Cuba-a flow that contin-
ued until the North American Civil War. The victory of the North, it is claimed, brought
an end to Yankee participation in Cuba's contraband slave trade, on the one hand, and,
on the other, signalled the beginning of the end of slavery generally in the hemisphere.
Yet Figure 1, by revealing a decline in the growth rate of Cuba's slave population after
the 1830's, indicates, at least superficially, that the second treaty (that of 1835) was
somewhat effective. Moreover it indicates that the growth of Cuba's slave population
had ceased completely by the middle 1850's instead of the middle 1860's as has been so
often urged. This suggests that the Cuban slave trade and slavery in Cuba generally may
have been dying for internal reasons that had little to do with the War Between the
States to the north.
Yet it could also be argued that the cause of the declining growth rate of Cuba's slave
population from the decade of the 1830's was the result not of decreasing migration but
rather of increasing mortality. The fact of the matter is that the severity of the often
mentioned but never studied cholera epidemics which struck the island during the
decades of the 1830's and the 1850's has never been ascertained.
Or perhaps the responsibility for increased slave mortality should be credited to the
Cuban planters who found themselves assailed with annexation pressures from the
United States in one quarter and abolitionist pressures from Great Britain in another. Is
it possible that their response to these pressures was to avoid a long-run attitude toward
their agricultural endeavours and settle for maximizing short-run profits-an attitude
which entailed excessive wear and tear on the slave population?
(4) The decade of the 1850's witnessed a renewed growth of the free coloured portion
of Cuba's black population at a time when, paradoxically, the demand for slaves on the
island was supposedly quite brisk. It appears in fact to be a phenomenon very similar to
the one which occurred at the beginning of the century. The contention has been made
that much of the growth was the result of the device of coartacion, whereby slaves were
permitted to purchase their own freedom. It has been asserted that coartacion was a
perpetual Cuban practice, yet peculiarly self-purchase did not become a matter of public
record until the early 1850's. Does the dramatic increase in the number of free coloureds
during the decade indicate that far from being a perpetual practice, self-purchase only
became an accepted (or officially sanctioned) custom in the autumn years of Cuban
slavery? Or could it be instead that the ranks of the slave elders had swelled to imposs-
ible proportions as those vast numbers of young blacks imported during the 1800-30
period advanced in age? Did planters, confronted with the spectre of assets turning to
liabilities, discover in manumission a method to avoid the expense of caring for slaves
too aged or infirm to give a good day's work in return for that care?
(5) Cuba's Negro population reached its peak during the early 1860's, fell sharply
from that period to 1887, and continued to fall between 1887 and 1899. The cessation
of the slave trade by the 1860's was an important factor in the decline of the blacks be-
tween the censuses of 1861 and 1887, while a second factor certainly was the increased
level of mortality and general social and economic disruption precipitated by the Ten
Years War. Could a third factor be desperate slave owners reacting to the impending end
of slavery by overworking their slaves? Finally, the decline of the coloured population
between the years 1887 and 1899 raises innumerable questions about the island's War
for Independence. Some of these have already been touched upon, but others remain.
Did the unhappy results of Spain's policy of reconcentration fall most heavily on the
blacks? Was the war itself more of a racial war than has been portrayed, with black
pitted, for the most part, against white? Did the blacks in fact bear the brunt of the
These questions, it is hoped, illustrate how little we know about Cuban slavery and
Cuba's nineteenth-century black population despite the number of recent studies con-
cerned with the subject. Crucial questions remain unanswered because they have not
been asked. They have not been asked because those who have undertaken the studies
have tended to ignore Cuban population data or have permitted themselves to be misled
by erroneous estimates and contradictory censuses. Nor have these methodological sins
of commission and omission been lavished on the study of Cuba alone. Population data
have been either ignored or bunglingly employed in most studies of slave societies in the
Americas. As a result, our woeful ignorance of Cuban slavery is closely parallelled by
our ignorance of American slave societies generally.
A few recent contributions suggest that this may no longer be the case for the study of U.S.
slavery. Among them Reynolds Farley, "Demographic Rates and Social Institutions"; Melvin Zelnick,
"Fertility of the American Negro"; Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the
Cross; and Jack E. Eblen, "Growth of the Black Population" and "New Estimates." Eblen has also
turned his attention to Cuba, in his recently published article, "On the Natural Increase of Slave
Populations," which I did not have the opportunity to see before this study was completed.
The history of the West Indies in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
furnishes many examples of free coloured women as governors' consorts. Governors
were not expected to be, nor indeed were, paragons of virtue in the loose moral climate
of plantation America. Indeed it is possible to argue that their effectiveness as leaders in
a given settler community would have been facilitated by such an obvious demonstra-
tion of their subscription to that community's norms. The absence of large numbers of
European women would have further facilitated this kind of sexual association, parti-
cularly where a governor was either unmarried or for one reason or another had left his
wife at home. Free women of colour for their part saw no disadvantage in such associa-
tions. Their status was subjectively enhanced by the role as first lady, however marginal-
ly or informally, of the particular colony.
Lady Nugent hinted broadly that Lord Balcarres who governed Jamaica in the late
1790's had such an arrangement.1 George Poyntz Ricketts who governed Barbados at
about the same time was hardly ever without his Betsy Goodwin. She performed all the
functions of official hostess, except that she never publicly presided at the governor's
table, and was widely reputed to exercise what influence she had on behalf of the free
people of colour in Barbados.2 In St. Croix, in the early decades of the nineteenth
century. Governor Adrian Bentzon who had married into the Astor fortune was not de-
terred by this fact from developing a 'second family' with a free woman of colour Hen-
rietta Francisca Coppy, for whom he appears to have developed a deep and enduring
In terms of longevity and generalised effect, none of the above relationships is as
significant as that between Anna Heegaard and Peter von Scholten, the last governor-
general of the Danish West Indies, an association that endured for a period of 20 years.
This in many ways remarkable woman has left no personal records of herself: no diaries,
journals, letters or private papers. Her inner life is as inscrutable as her countenance is
ambivalent, but the circumstantial evidence certainly points to a person of granite fibre,
particularly in her later years. Nor could she have been all stone, for even the most un-
generous reconstruction would be forced to concede that she was a person who inspired
not only respect but affection and devotion. Above all the association with Peter von
Scholten. coinciding with the achievement of free coloured equality, the ameliorative
slave reforms of the 1830 s and 1840's and emancipation finally in 1848, offers strong
presumptive evidence of her catalytic influence on the course of Danish Virgin Island
history in this period of the nineteenth century.
Very little is known of this enigmatic woman's paternal antecedents. So far as the
available records indicate, the European Heegaards-were neither important office-holders
nor plantation owners of particular substance. Jacob Heegaard, her father, was a clerk
and customs collector before he died in 1804. The Heegaards do not appear in the estate
censuses of 1792 when the decision was taken to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade
to the Danish islands.4 The returns for 1805 in the East End quarter of St. Croix show
the heirs of Jacob Heegaard- he had three legitimate children-in possession of two es-
tates, Union and Mount Washington. The East End was St. Croix' least developed area,
given over largely to pen-keeping and cotton, and did not support the opulent life styles
which ownership of estates in other quarters permitted. Union and Mount Washington,
bought between 1792 and the death of Jacob Heegaard in 1804, had 135 slaves between
them and were of modest proportions at 75 and 300 acres respectively. Even the latter,
for all its apparent size, had only 120 acres in cane with 45 fallow and 123 uncultivated.5
The Heegaards were latercomers to and very recent members of the St. Croix planto-
cracy. As a family they were not one of the first in the island, neither old nor estab-
lished nor well-to-do at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Anna Heegaard's maternal antecedents are less obscure in the literal and figurative
senses of that word. She represented her family's second generation of freedom; her
mother Susanna Uytendahl was free coloured whose putative father, Johannes de Bret-
ton, was the eldest son of Baron Lucas de Bretton, a resident planter of considerable
substance.6 Anna Heegaard's grandmother, Charlotte Amalia Bernard, was not manu-
mitted until sometime between 1788 and 1793, at about the same time that her grand-
daughter was born. Charlotte Bernard lived to the ripe old age of 103 and died in 18568
with the satisfaction of witnessing emancipation. More importantly, however, she had
spent her childhood, adolescence and early womanhood in enslavement. Those years
would have coincided with the most vigorous period of St. Croix' exploitation as a plant-
ation colony after its purchase from the French; a period when the rigour of the plant-
ation regimen had been mollified neither by the self-interest which prevailed after aboli-
tion of the trade in 1802 nor the specific reforms of the 1830's and 40's. She represent-
ed therefore a direct family connection with slavery at its harshest. Through this con-
nection Anna Heegaard, already one generation removed from slavery, could acquire
first-hand information about and acquaintance with the institution. It would be by no
means fanciful to conclude that Charlotte Bernard represented an important formative
influence on Anna Heegaard's attitude to slavery and the condition of the free people of
Certainly in St. Croix at the close of the eighteenth and in the early years of the nine-
teenth century, the free people of colour, black and brown, were growing spectacularly
not only in numbers but in self-awareness. A matriculation return for 1797 indicates
that the 1,164 free coloureds of St. Croix represented a total of slightly more than half
that of the white population at 2,223. The overall proportion of free coloureds to
whites, when St. Thomas and St. Jan were included, presented a roughly similar picture:
1,418 as against 3.062.9 By 1835, however, the free coloured population of the Danish
Virgin Islands had increased almost ten-fold to 13,000 while the white population had
risen to only 3,723.10
Despite their numerical significance, the free coloureds, Anna Heegaard among them,
laboured under several, sometimes severe, disabilities. They were prohibited from plant-
ing cotton unless they owned land; were required to wear a distinguishing cockade;
observe a curfew; live in houses of specified dimensions in a particular area of Christian-
sted, commonly known as the Free Gut; could not hold liquor licences; could hold
dances only with specific permission; were required to carry certificates, attesting their
freedom, to be produced on demand; wear clothing of no more than a prescribed value;
and were liable to the indignity of corporal punishment for public order offences. This
catalogue of disabilities is by no means exhaustive. Some of them, such as the residential
stipulation, had been modified by convention in the half-century or so before 1815.12 But
their continuing de jure existence nevertheless rankled, and occasioned a petition to the
crown, signed by 331 free coloureds, and taken in person to Copenhagen by two of
their representatives, William Windt and William Purcell. The burden of the petition was
that the onerous limitations on their right to citizenship and equality before the law
should be lifted.13 Far from receiving any satisfaction, the petitioners were sharply re-
proved for having left St. Croix without the permission of the local administration.14
In 1816 Ann Heegaard would have been a fully grown woman of at least 26, mature
enough to contribute to the struggle for equality of status which had just begun. Her
name, however, is conspicuously absent from the list of signatories to the petition of
1816. In the absence of any memoirs, a shrewd guess would be that these were years in
which she was consolidating her material situation by judicious alliances with men who
sought her favours.
Certainly between 1809 and 1810 she lived with C. Hansen, probably the attorney
Christopher Hansen who was then trustee for her mother's estate,15 which consisted of
three properties in Christiansted, the result of thrift, application and the knitting and
sale of crochet work.16Anna Heegaard's choice of companion at that particular juncture
of her life, if not calculated, was not such as to prejudice her interests. In the years im-
mediately preceding and succeeding 1814 she appears to have established a relationship
with an Irish merchant, Paul Twigg. Thereafter and up to 1820 she shared a house with
her mother in Christiansted before becoming the companion of Captain H. C. Knudsen.
a colonial adjutant. Although of inconsequential military rank. Knudsen had been for a
long time attorney for one of the largest estates in St. Croix, La Grande Princesse,
owned by Count Schimmelmann. Knudsen himself was a planter, owner of plantation
Belvedere on the island's north side.17
Anna Heegaard manifestly prospered by these alliances, each apparently more success-
ful than the last. Reproductions of her which have survived indicate that. her inscrut-
ability apart, she was if not beautiful by no means plain. Physical assets married to a re-
solution to prosper constituted a winning formula for material success. Already in 1809
Hansen conveyanced to her two slaves, Mathilde and a boy "sambo" Charles. By 1821
when she was installed in the Knudsen household her slaves numbered 15.18An affidavit
by Knudsen in 1824 indicated that her personal contribution to the furnishings of Bel-
vedere plantation great-house consisted of the following: 2 Mahogany Bedsteads. 5
Mattresses, 2 large Mahogany Clothes Chests, a Mahogany Dining Table. 2 Sofas. 2 large
Mirrors in Mahogany frames, a Mahogany Sideboard and 2 Mahogany Chests of Drawers.
In addition all the silver, porcelain, glassware, table linen and kitchen utensils at Belve-
dere were hers and were acquired before she took up residence there.19 By contemporary
American standards Anna Heegaard was an extremely wealthy woman, so wealthy in
fact that by 1829 she was able to buy a house in Christiansted for the considerable sum
of 6,250 Rigsdaler.20
Her spectacular material success was unequally yoked with the social ostracism and
legal disabilities which had been complained of in the petition of 1816. Having achieved
economic security and prominence which, however, conferred no accompanying social
and civic status, she had more than ample personal motivation to make her contribution
to the full emancipation of her own free coloureds. That struggle, in its initial stages the
decade previously, she had had neither the inclination nor the confidence, born of
success, to join.
In this struggle, the work of Peter von Scholten, sadly unsung in English historical
letters, stands as a monument to the best humanitarian instincts. As the last governor-
general of the Danish West Indies, he came to St. Croix to assume office in 1827. By
then he had spent the greater part of his life since 1804 in posts of varying significance
in the Danish Virgin Islands and in the 1820's in addition to being Inspector of Weights
and Measures was Lieutenant governor in St. Thomas. In 1828, within a year of his
arrival, he shared a common establishment with Anna Heegaard, thus beginning an as-
sociation which was to last unbroken until his proclamation of emancipation on 3 July
1848 and his precipitate departure from the West Indies shortly thereafter.
By all accounts von Scholten was a bon vivant. His portraits suggest a certain sensual-
ity and a predisposition to a sybaritic life style. His early years in Copenhagen as a
young army officer and adjutant to Frederick VI were given over to a joyous celebration
of wine, women, horses and the pleasures of the gaming tables.21 His lust for life had
been dimmed neither by the continuous demands of high office, advancing middle years
nor a climate which many of his countrymen found enervating. As late as the early
J 840's when he was well into his fifties, Van Dockum, who knew him well as his adjut-
ant, could remark on his zest for life.22Whether this conviviality and gregariousness was
a characteristic which Anna Heegaard herself displayed is difficult to say. But it is
reasonable to conclude that she found it appealing. In all probability this was a consider-
ation which, in part, explained her association with Twigg, the Irish merchant, whose
bonhomie elicited a contemporary's comment.23
In any case, now that she was financially secure Anna Heegaard could form her associ-
ations on the basis of genuine affection and regard. That would certainly explain the
durability of the liaison with von Scholten for the next two decades m which he was in
Denmark often, for months at a time, and his financial circumstances subject to extreme
pressure from his tendency to extravagance. Indeed it was Anna Heegaard herself from
her own private resources who relieved the governor-general of some of his embarrass-
ment by a substantial loan of $4,000 in the 1840's.24
For von Scholten's part there were many circumstances which predisposed to such a
liaison. The island's prevailing ethos encouraged such an association. Many prominent
government officials,25 priests even,26 had free coloured 'housekeepers'. One of von
Scholten's recent predecessors in office, governor-general Bentzon, whom he resembled
in many respects,27had maintained a free coloured mistress as pointed out earlier. More-
over Mme. von Scholten had not accompanied her husband to the West Indies except
for a few brief years after 1815. His gregariousness made it extremely unlikely that he
would forego for very long sustained female companionship. Further, as Preben Ramliv
has suggested, von Scholten had already met Anna Heegaard in 1805 in St. Thomas
while his father was commandant there.28 von Scholten had arrived the year before, a
young ensign of 21, impressionable and susceptible to his new environment. Anna Hee-
gaard at 15 would have been in the prime of young womanhood, St. Thomas sufficient-
ly small to make their encounter a likelihood. There is no evidence to indicate that there
were subsequent encounters, although these were quite probable given the smallness of
island society and the frequent communications between St. Thomas and St. Croix. In
any event nothing would have been more likely than that on arriving in St. Croix in
1827 he should seek out this young woman's company, assuming that he already knew
The likelihood becomes the greater in view of the relationships that von Scholten had
established with the free coloureds of St. Thomas. During his tour of duty there he gave
ample evidence of his lack of prejudice and his responsiveness to the free coloured thrust
towards equality. In the aftermath of the hurricane of 21 and 22 September 1819 which
hit St. Thomas with particular severity, the free coloured community of that island pre-
sented von Scholten with an address. Its signatories observed inter alia:
.. permit ourselves to assure you of the great value we attach to the advantages
we enjoy .. and in particular of our unfeigned gratitude for the protection,
security and comfort, we have experienced during the time of your Honour being
at the head of this Government. Not to mention the numerous instances of gener-
osity and kindness to ourselves, our friends, relatives and acquaintances, the justice
and impartiality which your Honour has constantly manifested to us, the facility
of access to your person, having gained to you our respectful affection and our
The address was accompanied by a present of a sword. In reply von Scholten declared,
"In my intercourse with you I shall always be flattered to merit your esteem, and pre-
sent or absent, entertain the best wishes of your happiness and prosperity."30 Behind the
formal turn of phrase was an assurance that considerations of race were no restraint on
his openness and urbanity, characteristics of his which had not escaped the free colour-
eds' notice. In all probability, von Scholten had observed in persons of colour, or those
at the confluence of the streams of Europe and Africa, a type, an ideal type even, which
fired his imagination and aroused his curiosity, including the sexual.
Many years later, he identified as an urgent priority the free coloureds' liberation
stedse lige fra Begyndelse af mit mangaarige Ophold her i Colonierne har varet
mit oprigtige og ufortrodne Bestraebelse.
(constantly from the very beginning of my long residence in the colonies has been
the object of my heartfelt and unremitting endeavour).31
"From the beginning", that is to say from 1804, was perhaps a hyperbolic flourish,2but
it was, however, his considered view in 1833 that
det vilde .. .derfor vaere i hoiest Grad uretfardigt om Man paa Grund af Farven,
som aldrig kan vaere noget kjendtegn paa Menneskets Vard, ville at disse i Staten
skulle staae som en underordnet Classe af Indvaanere.
(It would be an injustice of the highest order, if, on grounds of colour, which
never can be a yardstick of human worth, these [free coloureds] were confined to
In 1819-1820 there is evidence of von Scholten's egalitarianism in practice, but he had
no power to give this practice the theoretical sanction of the law. By 1827 that power
was his and there existed in Anna Heegaard the catalytic agent which hastened that pro-
cess by which the status of the free coloureds was revolutionised in another eight years.
In the absence of hard evidence it is easy to dismiss or to adjudge not proven the case
for Anna Heegaard's influence on the issues of free coloured equality, amelioration and
eventual emancipation. But the juxtaposition in time of her alliance with von Scholten
and his initiatives on all three of these issues is strongly suggestive of her influence, how-
ever indirect. One of her former lovers, Capt. Knudsen, was convinced that an important
basis of their relationship was von Scholten's undertaking to act on behalf of the partly
free and the unfree. Writing to the Danish Cabinet secretary, Adler, in 1840, Knudsen,
who claimed he bore von Scholten no ill-will, suggested that the latter "bought" Anna
Heegaard with "extravagant promises"; had only partially fulfilled them in 1840, and
was therefore obliged unwillingly to continue with a mistress, at 50, long past her best.4
The acidity of sour grapes had no doubt eroded Knudsen's judgment, convinced as he
was that his former mistress still cherished his affection.
There was no need for anything so gross and commercial as the quid pro quo which
Knudsen suggested, von Scholten was already disposed by 1820, by his own public ad-
mission, to further the interests and welfare of the free coloured community. Anna Hee-
gaard, his wife in all but name, objectified the anomaly of a free coloured class assigned
second-class status despite the fact that, as von Scholten observed in 1833, the cultural
development of many of them was on par with that of Denmark's middle class.5What
better way to further those interests and advance that welfare than by granting equality
to a class, one of whose members was his consort? If von Scholten moved with decisive-
ness after 1828 to facilitate free coloured equality, it was not because he had struck any
prior bargain; with Anna Heegaard at his side, sharing his bed and preparing his board,
he had no choice but to follow where his best instincts led him. There is no evidence
that she discouraged him.
By January 1830 von Scholten had authored a "Plan for an Improved and more dis-
tinct Organisation for Your Majesty's Free Coloured Subjects in the West India
Colonies"36 The plan proposed inter alia:
Where free persons of colour, of both sexes assimilate in colour to the whites, and
they otherwise, by a cultivated mind and good conduct render themselves deserv-
ing to stand according to their rank and station in life, on an equal footing with
the white inhabitants, all the difference, which the colour now causes ought to
cease. The right of deciding hereon, must be left with the Governor General.37
Anticipating resistance and in particular the jealousy and virulent prejudice directed to-
wards free coloured women by their white counterparts, von Scholten proposed shrewd-
ly to invest himself with wide discretionary powers. By April 1830 this original plan had
had royal approval; in another four years after further discussion and modification, a
royal order superseding the 1830 plan gave unconditional civic rights to all free persons
of colour who, with the order's publication, were in lawful possession of their freedom.
They and their offspring would thenceforth be treated according to the laws applicable
to whites, and the distinctions of yore would no longer apply. Those to be manumitted
in future would serve an "apprenticeship" period of three years before their final incor-
poration into the free citizenry.39
Legislation, however, did not bring social acceptance. Legal equality could not in the
short term eradicate prejudice and snobbery especially on the part of white women.4Van
Dockum, in his reminiscences of his tour of duty as adjutant to von Scholten, points out
that in 1840 the white community in St. Croix was still scandalised at free coloured
appointments to positions of trust and at invitations to them to the governor-general's
dinner parties. The reaction was even more extreme when these free coloured officials
with their families attended official functions. It was equally during this period that
von Scholten first attempted to invite individual free coloured matrons and unmarried
women to Government House balls. Van Dockum reflected his superior's anxiety at the
prospect of the precipitate emptying of the room by European men, who would not
entertain the thought of their women together with those regarded as low-caste. The
free coloureds for their part wished to avoid embarrassment and resisted the temptation
to accept the first invitation. By degrees, however, both prejudice and fear of embarrass-
ment were eroded, and by the time Van Dockum's tour of duty came to an end in 1846,
white women encountered free brown, at least, without any show of distaste:
og da jeg i 1846 forlod St. Croix, kunde de Brune og Hvide mode hinanden, uden
at de blanke Damer vendte Hovedet borte ...
In Van Dockum's view, one of von Scholten's distinguishing characteristics was an
impulsiveness,41 the only exception to which was the sustained nature of his endeavours
on behalf of the free coloureds.42 von Scholten's was not a particularly subtle mind; he
was a man of action whose talents ran to the practical.43 Equally everyone who knew
him well concurred in his endless capacity for enjoyment and his love of show.44 The
manner of his response to the prejudice which lingered after 1834 and the sustained
nature of his war of attrition upon it, are both explained by the facets of his character
indicated above. His hospitality, public and private,became the relentless battering ram
upon the Jerichos of opposition. In that campaign, his palatial private residence of
Biilowsminde where Anna Heegaard was mistress of the house played a role of central
Initially the couple had lived in crown counsel Gjellerup's house in Kogensgade
[King Street] in Christiansted. Thereafter they rented William Newton's estate great
house at "Castle" in Prince's Quarter. Building at BUlowsminde, atop a sugar-loaf pro-
montory 800 feet above the sea with a view of Christiansted, began in 1833, and by
1834 they moved into the house which they would occupy for the next fourteen years.
The house and its outbuildings were of manor-house proportions,45and the continual re-
novations and additions would have cost an enormous fortune, or so thought Knudsen.
The baronial life style was an expression of the governor-general's taste but was beyond
the reach of even his ample private means. Anna Heegaard's own financial resources
were invested in the property. Far from being a kept woman, she was a partner in an
enterprise-Bulowsminde-and its purpose. Indeed von Scholten's biographer has suggest-
ed that by 1838 she was part owner of the property, and by 1845 sole owner.47
Anna Heegaard, the baron's great- rand-daughter, became in a sense the Baronessa of
Biilowsminde where she held court. Assisted by her friend, companion and 'lady-in-
waiting', an elderly free coloured known only as Miss Gordon, she presided at the nine
o'clock luncheon, the first major meal of the day. It was a working meal at which were
present more often than not government officials, military and naval personnel and
planters who had business to discuss. This meal was not only presided over by Anna
Heegaard but was served in her suite. Dinner, the next major meal of the day between
4 and 5 o'clock, was served in von Scholten's suite of rooms; again it was an occasion to
which at least six persons were invited; Anna Heegaard and Miss Gordon were invariably
present and after dinner when the gentlemen withdrew to their cigars, billiards or the
card tables, those who knew Misses Heegaard and Gordon well enough made a point of
calling on them in Miss Heegaard's suite 49
Biilowsminde with its free coloured hostess hummed daily with activity at the lunch
and dinner table. But this was not the only basis on which it became a centre of island
society or imposed its social cachet. Routine dinners such as Dahlerup describes were
superseded from time to time by gala occasions on which the silver service, crystal
and fine china complemented the vintage wines and elaborate menus. Monday, appar-
ently, were set aside for these special festive occasions when the guest list was as large as
the hospitality was lavish. Those evenings tended to end as animated soirees dansantes.50
Neither the irregularity of Miss Heegaard's position nor her colour made any difference
to these occasions as sought-after affairs. The local clergy for its part appeared to turn a
blind eye, and even a visiting French bishop was among the guests whom Dahlerup en-
countered, enjoying von Scholten's good food and fine wine.51
The social barriers, then, against free coloured acceptance, had begun to collapse by
the 1840's. For Van Dockum the seismic therapy had had a major effect by 1846. Dah-
lerup who was his brother-in-law traces the development with greater differentiation.
Writing for the service journal Nyt Archiv for Svvaesnet in 1842, Admiral-as he sub-
sequently became Dahlerup contrasted the situation in 1841 with an earlier visit at the
end of the 1820's. Prejudice by the later date had largely disappeared so far as free col-
oured men went: they were in the "best society"; occupied important government posts;
were even in the royal service and were no longer segregated from the main party, nor
served drinks separately at public functions. Many, Dahlerup estimated, deserved to be
called "gentlemen" in the full meaning of that word:
Nu ere Mand af blandet Farve ansatte i vigtige og anseete Kongelige Embeder, og
det var mig en Glaede at m#de i de bedste Selskaber couleurte Herrer med liberal
Dannelse og med ethvert Krav paa at kaldes "gentlemen" i Ordets fulde Betydning,
en Glaede, naar jeg tanker tilbage paa den Tid, da de couleurte Officerer ved Fri-
corpserne, paa Kongens Geburtsdag og andre Festdag, blev staedende til Audients
afsides, ude i Galleriet, hvor Forfriskninger blev ombudte dem, medens de Blanke
var forsamlede i Salen.52
In 1841 the status of free coloured women had not yet approximated that of the men.
The nature of their association with white officials in particular had given rise to a pre-
judice which Dahlerup thought would take a long time to eradicate.53But the injustice
of prejudice could not for long resist the imperatives of change. An elderly free coloured
woman fulminated in Dahlerup's hearing against the designation "bastard" applied to
free coloured women and their children. They had, she claimed, brought their children
into the world in their fathers' own houses. They had been to those fathers all that an
honourable wife could be but could do nothing about that prejudice which deprived
them of the privilege of being a wife. But, she continued, things had now changed and
would continue to do so, and that would be better in the sight of God and man.
The change in attitude which this person detected had become the reality which Van
Dockum was to observe five years later. If by 1846 free coloured women had gained
total social acceptance, the presence of Anna Heegaard in Bulowsminde since 1834 had
contributed in no small measure.
While it is possible to attempt to reconstruct the influence of Anna Heegaard on the
course of the struggle for free coloured equality, it is considerably more difficult to
assess her contribution to amelioration and ultimate emancipation of the slaves in the
Danish Virgin Islands. The ameliorative milestones of the late 1830's and early 1840's
which distinguish the von Scholten administration are contemporaneous with her most
influential years after 1834. The question which poses itself is the degree to which Anna
Heegaard exerted any pressures in this direction. For lack of evidence, the question ad-
mits of no ready answer. For the same reason the weight of Charlotte Amalia Bernard in
the scales cannot be measured, although it is obvious she was living testimony to the vir-
tues of emancipation, von Scholten for his part asserted that it had been his intention
from the moment he assumed office to direct his energies in the direction of slave up-
liftment. The future of the Danish Virgin Islands, considered from any point of view, he
argued, was closely bound up with that.55
Whatever domestic or personal motivation might have been involved, the external
pressure of British West Indian emancipation, particularly with a free Tortola on the
doorstep of St. Jan, forced von Scholten not only to accelerate the pace of amelioration
in the late 1830's and early 1840's, but to work towards an ordered denouement of
slavery by total emancipation after satisfactory preparation. In this connexion it is
important to state that Anna Heegaard was not herself a rabid abolitionist; it is a matter
of record that although she occasionally manumitted slaves out of kindness,56she owned
slaves up to the moment of emancipation on 3 July 1848.57
The liberal Copenhagen newspaper Faedrelandet, one of von Scholten's bitterest
antagonists of the 1840's. suggested snidely after emancipation that Anna Heegaard had
with nice anticipation sold all her slaves a short time before the event.8The suggestion
was wholly without foundation. Federlandet, for all its measured prose, had never been
above innuendo in its strictures on von Scholten and all his works, and in this instance
simply overreached itself.
There was not and has never been any evidence, although there is fruitful ground for
speculation, that Anna Heegaard by herself or in collaboration with von Scholten planned
the uprising of 2-3 July 1848. Her importance, in so far as emancipation went, seems to
lie far more in the kind of constant support which she afforded von Scholten, to work
with a fixity of purpose towards the day when the progress of amelioration would justi-
fy a total and general emancipation. Such support was vital, particularly in the difficult
years after 1841 when von Scholten came increasingly under attack from the local plant-
ocracy, from Denmark's liberal politicians and the liberal press like Faedrelandet, who
saw in the governor-general the colonial variant of an authoritarianism which they were
determined to bring down at home.
Definitive judgment on the role of Anna Heegaard at this critical juncture in the
history of the liberation of Caribbean peoples will have to be suspended until the corpus
delicti of concrete evidence has been unearthed. In its absence the case, such as it is,
rests on the circumstantial evidence which the historian like the jurist is obliged to treat
with circumspection. Nevertheless, it is hoped that enough has been said to indicate that
she was at the very least a sleeping partner, but partner nonetheless, in an enterprise of
major magnitude. At worst she deserves a recognized place in the literature of New
N. A. T. HALL
1. Lady Nugent's Journal of her Residence in Jamaica 1801-1805, (ed. Philip Wright) Kingston:
2. John Poyer, A History of Barbados, (London: 1808), p. 604.
3. H. B. Dahlerup, Mit Livs Begivenheder, 2 vols. (Copenhagen: 1909), Vol. 2, p. 78.
4. Rigsarkivet, Copenhagen (hereafter cited as R/A): Dokumenter vedkommende Kommissionen
angaaehde negerhandelen samt efterretninger om negerhandelen og slaveriet i Vestindien, Plant-
ation Returns for 1792.
5. Ibid Plantation Returns for 1805.
6. H. F. Garde, Anna Heegaard og Peter von Scholten in Personal Historisktidsskrift, 13 R Bd. 6,
(1958) p. 29.
8. Ibid.: p. 30.
9. P. L. Oxholm, De Danske Vestindiske 0ars Tilstand i Henseende til Population, Culture og
Finance-Forfatning, Copenhagen: 1797, Statistik Tabelle, n/p.
10. H. Lawaetz, Peter von Scholten; Vestindisk Tidsbilleter fra den sidste Generalgouverners Tid,
(Copenhagen 1939). p. 123.
11. On cotton cultivation see:
On the cockade see:
On the curfew see:
On the Free Gut see:
On liquor licences see:
On dances see:
On freedom certificates
On clothing restrictions
R/A, Vestindisk Guineisk Rent Samt General-told Kammer (cited
hereafter as VGRG): Udkast og Betenkning angaaende Negerloven
Med Bilag, No. 27: Placater Anordninger og Publicationer no. 31,
d/d 11 August 1767.
Ibid., Placater, etc., no. 32, d/d 21 May 1768.
Ibid., Placater etc., no. 29, d/d 9 Iebruary 1765.
R/A, VGRG, Udkast og Betenkning . .. No. 1. lxtract af de for de
Kongelige Danske Vestindiske Ejlande udkomne Reglementer
Ordonnancer of Placater Negerne betraeffende: Governor Hansen's
Placat d/d 27 November 1747.
Dansk Vestindisk Regierings Avis (cited hereafter as DVRA). 8 Feb-
ruary 1803: An Ordinance for the Better Control of Rum Shops.
R/A, VGRG, Udkast og Bataenkning .. No. 27, Placater etc.. no.
38, d/d 5 October 1774.
see. R/A, Kongelige Anordninger, Ordinance of Christian VII, d/d
5 October 1776, para. 1.
see: R/A, VGRG, Kommissions lorslag og Anmaerkning angaaende
Negerloven med genparter af Anordninger og Publicationer. Bind 2,
Gienpart 63, Governor Schimmelman's Placat d/d 26 May 1786.
On corporal punishment see. R/A, VGRG, Akter vedkommende slaveemancipationen, Frikul6rte,
1826, 1834 (cited hereafter as AVS/FC) Free Coloured Petition,
1 April 1816.
See also R/A, VGRG; Udkast og Betankning .. No. 1, Extract ..
etc., Placats dated 14 December 1741, 31 January 1746, 25 Decem-
12. R/A, VGRG: AVS/FC: Governor Oxholm's Circular, 3 January 1816, Encl. D: Comments by
Regeringsraad Mouritzen, d/d 27 September 1815.
13. R/A, VGRG: AVS/FC: Free Coloured Petition d/d 1 April 1816.
14. DVRA, 28 August 1817.
15. H. F. Garde, op. cit., p. 31.
16. Ibid., p. 30.
17. Ibid., p. 31.
20. Ibid., p. 32.
19. Ibid., pp. 31-32.
21. See for example Dahlerup, op. cit., p. 264.
22. C. Van Dockum, Mit Livs Erindringer (Copenhagen: 1893), p. 63; Dahlerup, op. cit., p. 31.
23. H. F. Garde, op. cit., p. 31.
24. Lawaetz, op. cit., p. 221.
25. Garde, op. cit., p. 28; Dahlerup, op. cit., p. 47.
26. Lawaetz, op. cit., p. 238 n3.
27. Van Dockum, op. cit., p. 69.
28. Preben Ramlnv, Brodrene og Slaverne (Copenhagen: 1969), p. 190, In. 1.
29. DVRA. 28 February 1820.
31. R/A. VGRG: AVS/FC, von Scliolten to Frederick VI, 7 July 1833. Encl. 27 to Major Didrich-
sen, Commander, Fredericksted Fire Corps, 25 May 1833.
32. Preben Ramlv in his otherwise carefully researched historical novel Massa Peter (Copenhagen:
1967) has taken author's licence to attribute anti-slavery sentiment to von Scholten as early as
1804. An alternative view is that von Scholten was then far too preoccupied with life's pleasures
to have even given it a thought.
33. R/A: Deliberations Protokoller af den Dansk Vestindisk Regering, 3 June 1833, f.126.
34. H. F. Garde, op. cit., p. 34.
35. R/A: Deliberations Protokoller af den Dansk Vestindisk Regering, 3 June 1833, f. 126.
36. Peter von Scholten, Plan til en forbedret og mere Bestemt Organisation for de Fricouleurte i de
Dansk Vestindisk 0er, (Copenhagen: January 1830), n/p.
38. R/A: Kongelig Forordning Angaaende naermere Bestemmelse af de Frifarvedes borgerlig Stilling
paa de danske Vestindisk Oer, 18 April 1834, para. 1.
39. Ibid.: paras. 2-4.
40. R/A: AVS/FC: von Scholten to Frederick VI, 7 July 1833, End. 20: Major Magens, Police
Chief, St. Jan to von Scholten, 2 June 1833. In Major Magens' view, the problem posed by
prejudice was irresolvable.
41. Van Dockum, op. cit., pp. 64-65.
42. Ibid.: p. 46.
43. Dahlerup, op. cit., p. 264.
44. Ibid. See also Van Dockum, op. cit., p. 63.
45. Dahlerup, op. cit., p. 273.
46. Knudsen to Cabinet Secretary Adler, 2 April 1837, quoted in H. F. Garde, op. cit., p. 32.
47. Lawaetz, op. cit., pp. 54, 221.
48. Faedrelandet, 2 March 1841: Om Vestindien betragtet Ira Planteurernes Standpunkt, VIII (ii).
49. Dahlerup, op. cit., p. 274.
50. Ibid., p. 275.
52. Nyt Archiv for Sdvaesnet, Bind 1, 1842, pp. 30-31.
53. Ibid., p.31.
55. R/A, VGRG: Commission angaaende Negrenes Stilling 1834-1843: Afskrift af del af General-
gouvernor forfattede Udkast lil en Emancipations Plan for Slaverne paa de danske Vestind-iske
0er, 13 October 1834, f. 9.
56. H. F. Garde, op. cit., 1. 34.
57. Lawactz, op. cit., p. 194 n.
58. Faedrelandet, 15 September 1848.
UNDERSTANDING CALYPSO CONTENT: A CRITIQUE
AND AN ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION
Calypsos are songs with a distinctive rhythm whose music and lyrics originate in the
English-speaking Caribbean. The songs are identified in particular with Trinidad where
most are composed. In a study of the content of 107 of these songs by Trinidadian males
Elder (1968) reports the following findings: (1) Aggressive songs occur more frequently
than non-aggressive, older "non-calypsos" having a higher proportion of aggressive songs
than the more recent calypsos. (2) For songs with a clear reference to male or female,
the female theme is predominant. Elder also reports a reduction in the frequency of the
female theme in the more recent songs, but his Table III shows the opposite. (3) Ag-
gressiveness towards males has consistently decreased over the years. But while the
number of aggressive remarks towards the female supposedly increased over the years,
the increase in the more recent songs took place at a lower rate than in the earlier songs.
If this claim is supported by any table presented, it is not readily discernible.
The high incidence of anti-feminine remarks in the songs were seen by Elder as a pro-
jection of an underlying male/female conflict over desirable social roles in the society.
This paper will examine the adequacy of Elder's attempt to account for (1) the conflict
and its expression in calypsos; and (2) the decrease in the rate of aggressive reaction to
the female over time.
Reconstruction of Elder's Explanatory Schema
A. The Basis of Male/Female Conflict. Two analytically distinct threads run through
Elder's explanation but he does not differentiate between them. One explanation
depends on the acceptance of the psychoanalytic claim of a cross-sex parental preference
leading to the development of an Oedipus complex. The other is independent of this
claim and takes the following form:
1. The matrifocal family is the predominant type in Trinidad. In such families the
male child experiences maternal repression rather than paternal repression and
therefore regards the female as occupying the dominant role in society.
2. If a society has male initiatory rites the male can escape the threat of female dom-
inance. These rites do not occur in Trinidad so the male remains dependent on his
mother and experiences doubt over his sex role.
3. The male becomes hostile to his mother for usurping the dominant role in the
society but represses the hostility. The repression of hostility may be due to fear
of the dominant mother, but Elder is not clear on this. Alternatively, it may be
due to the love of the mother, regarded as an element in the development of the
Oedipus complex. This leads us then to the second explanation which may be
summarized as follows:
i. With no father present, the male child's love for his mother is frustrated by the
ii. The male child develops an ambivalent love/hate relationship with his mother.
Moreover, the absence of male initiatory rites in the society leaves him perpetually
fixed at this early stage of psychosexual development.
B. The Expression of Aggression in Song. Elder seems to see this as serving two pur-
poses. On the one hand, he regards aggression directed toward the love object (the
mother) as a manifestation of the psychological mechanism called reaction formation.
That is, if the love object is not available one must behave in a manner that denies his
love for that object. Only over-reaction brings a measure of relief from stress because
"the original opposite attitudes still exist in the unconscious" (Kitsuse and Dietrick,
1959). As Elder indicates, "male preoccupation with the love object" continues (p. 36).
Thus, the calypsonian must continue his aggressive songs. This purpose of calypso ag-
gression is a continuation of the Oedipus complex argument.
The second purpose is not as fully developed by Elder as the first. In this case the
calypsonian takes on the creative role of the mother when he composes a song
(Elder: 37). The implication apparently is that he becomes, temporarily, the dominant
figure in the society- the mother. Neither reaction formation nor a theory of psychosex-
ual development is necessary here. But, also, since aggression is not a necessary element
in creativity, this purpose will not account for the aggressive content of the songs. For
this reason, and because Elder gives it peripheral treatment only, it will not be considered
C. Change in the Rate of Aggressive Reaction. According to Elder, the Trinidadian
male is now discovering "areas of endeavor in which he can be a male in identity with-
out effective competition from the powerful female figure" (p. 38). His status, prestige
and authority are increasing and so getting closer to the female. He also thinks that Suttie
may be correct in his belief that males have surpassed females in the political and
Male hostility to the mother is an important element in Elder's explanations. This
hostility is inferred from the affective orientation in the songs toward women in general.
But Elder's calypso collection should have allowed him to determine the affective orient-
ation toward the mother whenever she represented the focus in a song. That is, he
neglected the opportunity to utilize an adequate indicator of a key variable and so
provide greater confidence in his explanation.
The inadequacy of the indicator of aggressiveness toward the mother also brings
Elder's use of reaction formation into question. There is no reaction formation if the
emotional content of the songs is not the opposite o' what is really felt for the mother.
Another kind of operational problem is provided by his u.e o,' thlie ler icpice Ced
hostility. Spiro (1972: 181 ) provides "belieflin evil siup lellatuJl .rd' ''pcsl sinllt ,liti-
cisin of others" :s i\\ illilicjtors ot hostltI\ (A1s U "'l lil\.[.;.. '. ' :
Burmese. Belief in evil supernaturals is prevalent in the Caribbean, including Trinidad;
but it is unlikely that much agreement could be obtained that this is an indicator of hos-
tility. The other indicator may obtain greater inter-subjective agreement but would be
tautological in the present instance. Besides, whenever hostility may be clearly inferred
from criticism of others it is because accompanying elements of the criticism make it
overt aggression rather than the underlying characteristic that Spiro and Elder need to
measure. In general, claims of repressed hostility should be supported by evidence other
than overt aggression which may occur years after the repression supposedly began.
Elder provides no such evidence.
A. The Matrifocal Family As The Basis Of Male/Female Conflict. There is much evid-
ence that lower-class males in the Caribbean have a deep love for their mother. Elder,
for instance, quotes Beaubrun to the effect that "the preponderance of the matrifocal
family has produced a tendency for the Caribbean male to put mother on a pedestal and
to hold all other women in low esteem" (p. 36). This quotation supports our claim that
aggression in calypsos toward the mother cannot be inferred from aggressive remarks
about other women. One may also point to a number of calypsos indicating love for
mothers. For example, one song proclaims that "a mother's love you can never forget,"
while in another the calypsonian declares that if he had to choose between saving his
mother and his wife from drowninghe would save his mother. Rodman (1972: 222, 224)
provides examples of calypsos recognizing the love that most people hold for their
mother. The following is an extract from one of these:
Last Mother's day they happy all about
Poor me a had to hush up me mouth
Little Children from East to West
Said how dey mother she try she best
Nice treatment for so, everybody say
And they start out singin on Mother's Day
M is for the million things she gave me
O means that she is only getting old
But all my mother used to give me heaven knows
Is to kneel down on a grater with plenty blows.
Elsewhere in his book Rodman supports the claim that Trinidadian males feel much
affection for their mother. Similar claims are made for Jamaica by Clarke (1957: 156)
and Kerr (1963: 70).
What then of hostility towards the mother? This occurs too, as is suggested in the last
two lines of the song above. Kerr (1963: 168) also provides evidence of this for Jamaica
by quoting the boy who referred to his mother as "that black bitch." I assume that this
was not disgust expressed in a moment of anger which hid a deeper emotion of an op-
posite nature. In addition, Rodman (1971: 89) discusses the case of the drunken man
who was cursing his mother without reservation.
Whereas Kerr and Rodman present direct evidence of hostility, Elder's evidence is
inferential. The mother is seen as the main source of punishment in the matrifocal family
and this is said to be favourable to the development of hostile feelings in the son. More-
over, Elder speaks of "repression" instead of punishment. This term is appropriate for
his explanation but may present a distorted picture of the true situation.
There is much agreement that the punishment of children by lower-class Caribbean
parents is often severe by Anglo-American standards. However, Kerr (1963: 156), while
admitting that this was the case in Jamaica, maintained that "no evidence of widespread
cruelty" came to her attention. Cruelty would be consistent with the idea of repression.
Also she claims that "the same men and women who regaled us with stories of their
mother's floggings would, in the same breath, enlarge upon her devotion to them and
theirs to her" (p. 159). This observation is of tremendous importance because of the
readiness with which hostile feelings towards the mother are deduced from the fact that
she punishes with some severity.
There is no hostility, repressed or otherwise, towards the mother for the majority of
children raised in the matrifocal family in the Caribbean. In these territories severe
physical punishment, at least in the lower class, is the norm and children are not as like-
ly to consider their treatment repressive as where psychological punishment, for exam-
ple, is the norm. Besides, the punishment that the mother administers is tempered by
the love she betrays on other occasions, and by the knowledge that "she works her
fingers to the bone" (a Vincentian expression) to feed and clothe her son. This partially
explains why children contribute to their mother's upkeep when they are grown and can
afford to (Greenfield, 1961: 80; R. T. Smith, 1960: 71). In addition love for one's
mother and providing her with financial support are strongly supported by Caribbean
lower class mores. Only an "ungrateful" child does not comfort his mother's old age.
The child who disrespects his mother is not expected to prosper because he is cursed.
These cultural supports for maternal devotion make the following story from Jamaica
She had her first child at 15. "Me mother nearly kill me, she licked me down with
big stick and stone. I remember one time after me have the baby, me mother send
me to spring to get water. When me come back she ask me why me stay so long.
Me say why. Miss B. story so, eh? She licked me down and beat me." Asked if she
still loved her mother she said 'Me love her still after is me mother already'
(Kerr, 1963: 62).
Such stories are often heard in the Caribbean; and those concerning boys differ only
in minor details. It is possible that Elder, like Kerr, sees some children as "reacting to a
cruelty pattern that does not exist" because of the frequency of "blood-curdling threats"
(1963: 45). But Kerr also allows for the retention of love for the mother under these
The investigations of matrifocality in the Caribbean offer little evidence that this
family form is the breeding ground of extensive male hostility toward mothers. Neither
does it appear that an examination of the calypso will yield direct evidence supporting
such a hypothesis. It must be repeated that evidence of hostility toward females is not
evidence of hostility toward the mother. But Elder's explanation needs the latter for
B. Change In Male/Female Conflict Over Time. According to Elder, the male in Trini-
dad has only recently approached the status, prestige and authority of the female. This
became possible with the extension of political rights and an increase in economic oppor-
tunities. He believes that the improvement is the status of males accounts for the de-
crease in the rate of aggressive affect directed at females in the modern calypso.
The claim about low male status finds some support in Smith's (1960: 68, 71, 73)
contention that lower-class males in Guyana have authority as "husband-father" only
where they provide economic support for a household. This is because of the relative ab-
sence in this group of status-conferring occupations and opportunities to coordinate
household and.economic activities, and the presence of an ascriptive system operating to
the disadvantage of Blacks. Unstable economic conditions further undermine the status
of the lower-class male. And Smith suggests that other lower-class Caribbean males ex-
perience a similar emasculation. The relative status of males and females will, however,
be examined further.
Assuming that the later years of the "non-calypso" showed no decrease in the rate of
male/female conflict then the male movement toward equality with women started after
1940, Elder's starting point of the "modern calypso." Further, the opportunity to de-
monstrate masculinity (Elder, 1968: 38) in politics could scarcely have occurred before
1946, the year that universal adult suffrage was granted to Trinidadians. Information
collected in 1939-39 may therefore provide an adequate test of the hypothesis of low
male status vis-a-vis females. If Elder is right, females at that time should occupy a high-
er status than males. Or, Elder may intend only, although this is not clear, that lower-
class females held a higher status than lower-class males. Neither proposition is support-
ed by the evidence outlined below.
A Royal Commission investigating social and economic conditions in the West Indies
in 1938-39 included among the undesirable features of West Indian social conditions. ..
the low status accorded to women" (Moyne et al., 1945: 230). There were territories
that did not allow women to sit in the Legislative Council, or to vote for elected repre-
sentatives on an equal footing with men. The higher civil service positions were held al-
most exclusively by men. Women were not appointed to Boards overlooking such areas
as education, housing or social welfare.
The status of women in the labour market is indicated in another Colonial Office re-
port. In a section dealing with Trinidad, Orde Browne (1939: 115-30) claims that male
shop clerks averaged 29 dollars monthly in wages while females averaged 18 to 19 dollars.
In the sugar industry, males obtained 45 to 80 cents per day while females obtained 25
to 45 cents. The Public Works Department paid unskilled male labourers 80 cents per
day, but paid females only 41 cents.
Many lower-class women were employed as domestic servants. The Moyne Commission
reports that their "normal working day.. is from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m." (1945: 218). Their
salary was between six shillings ($1-44) and twelve shillings ($2-88) a week; and this did
not allow them food and lodging which was sometimes supplied. Domestic servants
worked long hours, suffered the insults of arrogant employers and their uppish children,
obtained meagre wages and had little status in the community.
Even more recent reports reject the proposition of higher feminine status at an earlier
time. For example, Rubin and Zavalloni (1969) report the findings in a survey in Trini-
dad in 1957 on the attitude of fifth and sixth form secondary school children toward
the authority of the husband and wife in marriage. One item asked: Who will have more
influence in family affairs, wife or husband? While equality was the overwhelming
choice of all ethnic-racial categories, 19 percent of black (predominantly lower-class)
boys felt the husband would have more influence while 6 percent believed that the wife
would be dominant; of the black girls, 13 percent chose the husband and 4 percent the
wife; of the white (predominantly middle and upper-class) boys, 29 percent chose the
husband and 7 percent chose the wife; of the white girls, 20 percent chose the husband
and none chose the wife. Thus the middle and upper-class youths were more likely than
lower-class youths of the same sex to see the husband as the dominant partner. But the
lower-class youths also believed that the husband would be dominant. If it is assumed
that the youths' beliefs reflect the influence of males and females in Trinidadian families,
the findings show males as dominating family life in 1957. Although Elder wrote a
decade later, he portrays the male as "evening up with his female competitor" (1968: 38).
It seems more likely that any evening up in 1957 was due to an improvement in the
status of women.
The time at which the female-headed household comes into being in the Caribbean
also casts doubt on Elder's claims. Smith (1956) and Greenfield (1961) suggest that for
Guyana and Barbados, respectively, the unmarried mother becomes independent of the
male only after her children are sufficiently grown to allow her to enter the labour
force. The psychoanalytic theory that forms the basis of Elder's explanation expects
personality formation to occur in the earliest years of childhood. Therefore, the mother's
independence and the possible decrease of the father's status apparently occur after the
oral stage of dependency at which the calypsonian is supposedly fixed.
The proportion of female-headed households provides further evidence against Elder's
arguments. Cumper (1961: 391) reported that in Barbados a majority (58 percent) of
the unions involving a domestic servant showed households headed by women. But 25
percent was the largest proportion of female-headed households for other unions. These
included such lower-class occupations as non-farm labourer, peasant, renter of small
plots of land and landless labourer. The 1946 Trinidad census for the Eastern Counties
shows that for those five-year age groups between ages 20 and 50 there are more black
women occupying a common-law status than a single status (Rodman, 1971: 46). For
the whole island, 45 percent of the black women between the ages of 15 and 44 are
single while 54 percent are either married or living common-law. Rodman observes that
many categorized as single really are in a common-law status (1971: 45). In addition,
the single category is swollen by the 15 to 20 year age group which is less likely than
other age groups to have children. Further, those who are single are less likely to have
children than those married or living common-law. Thus a male may be present in the
majority of the households with children, even lower-class households. And Kerr
(1963. 67) claims that where there is a male in the household he is the dominant figure.
This is true of Trinidad as of Jamaica, the island of which Kerr speaks.
It thus appears that in Trinidad most males were reared in a household where males
are dominant; males dominated the important Aocial functions in institutions outside
the family; and the cultural ideal was that males should be dominant. Elder's arguments
are therefore based on the erroneous assumption that Trinidad was a female-dominated
society prior to the emergence of the modern calypso; that is, prior to 1940.
The basic contention of a relationship between female dominance and calypso con-
tent may find support at the individual level. That is, the society may not be female-
dominated but individual males reared in female-headed households may show aggression
toward females. A convincing test of this hypothesis with respect to calypso content
requires data on the family environment of individual singers and the content of their
songs. However, Kerr (1963: 167) provides an argument favourable to the hypothesis.
She claims that in Jamaica, where males are wandering about the island seeking work,
many children grow up financially and emotionally dependent on the mother. There is
thus a discrepancy between the cultural ideal of the authoritative male and the reality of
the non-providing male. The dominant male is only a fantasy and the child resents and
fears female dominance. Our earlier observation on the frequency with which calypsoni-
ans and other males praise their mother raises questions about this hypothesis too.
An Alternative Explanation
We do not agree with Elder's claim that an utterance may serve a tension-releasing
function. However, the calypsonian may be interested in more than getting things off his
mind. An audience accords prestige and more tangible rewards, and the calypsonian
must attend to the topics which at any time please the audience. Thus the taste of the
audience must be one factor determining the content of calypsos.
The largest part of the early calypsonian's audience was lower-class, as is the origin of
most calypsonians. Lower-class conversation is filled with earthy matters because limit-
ed education restricts exposure and interest to only the most obvious elements in one's
surroundings. Sexual matters, as one of these elements, are discussed openly and with
sufficient frequency in Caribbean lower-class circles to seem like an obsession. Clarke's
(1957: 90-91) comparison of the open sexual talk in Sugartown with the taboo on sex-
ual discussion in Orange Grove is very clear on this point. In addition, for the Caribbean
male, proof of masculinity is not only in the siring of a child, as Clarke observed, but
also in the ability to boast of sexual conquest.
It is only the male, however, who is expected to engage in sexual exploits. Women
who deviate from the mores of the society by being promiscuous are held in low regard.
Parents are more concerned about the sexual morality of their daughters than their sons
(Rodman, 1971: 130;Rubin and Zavalloni, 1969: 126). Indeed, one of the more obvious
contradictions of Caribbean society is the willingness of men to seduce every available
woman and their simultaneous preoccupation with the faithfulness and morality of
women. But this must not be seen as a peculiarly Trinidadian or Caribbean phenomenon.
The chaste woman and virile man ideal leads to a double standard in many areas of the
world. It encourages the condemnation and punishment of the female who engages in
prostitution or any semblance of sexual impropriety while the male accomplice is for-
gotten or gains status.
The calypsonian uses the artist's licence to remark publicly on his virility or the im-
morality of women. He does so in language often considered too filthy for other oc-
casions. He receives approval for his manly exploits or his support of the ideal of female
chastity. He appeals to the prurient interests of his audience and legally provides a kind
of entertainment that is otherwise frowned upon.
Ambivalence marked the earlier middle and upper-class attitude toward calypso.
Overtly, they tolerated this lower-class entertainment but banned from the airwaves
songs considered too risque. Those songs which were not too offensive they sometimes
sang publicly converting the lyrics to standard English and thereby distorting the song.
Sometimes they patronized and even helped to organize calypso competitions, mostly
under circumstances where they exercised at least indirect control over the lyrics. And
some are said to have ventured into the tents under cover of darkness.
The modern calypso is created in an atmosphere of political emancipation, greater
official recognition and a decreasing rate of illiteracy. The lower-class audience votes for
legislators and has, generally, wider interests than before. The audience has a greater
proportion of middle-class people more openly appreciative of "dirty" songs and suf-
ficiently nationalistic to support local talent expressed in a local medium. The new
audience, whether lower or middle-class, is more accepting of more varied lyrics while
retaining an appetite for earthy songs.
Calypsonians have always commented on local incidents and people's character and
have always dealt in satire (Pearse, 1969). If there is less negative comment on the female
it is partly because the audience as well as the calypsonian has developed broader inter-
ests. It is also possible that the economic fortunes of women and their overall behaviour
have changed sufficiently to help account for the decrease in condemnation. Moreover,
some of the more recent songs have come from middle-class composers who may be ex-
pected to refine the art (Pearse, 1955: 34).
The relationship of men to their mothers remains an attractive complement to the al-
ternative explanation provided. However, it is the close attachment of men to their
mothers rather than any feelings of hate or of being dominated by them that finds a
place in our explanation; for such a relationship may encourage men to hold of all wo-
men the same high expectations they hold of their mothers. At the same time, lower-
class women may often be forced by circumstances to defy the mores of the society;
and similar circumstances make public exposure of their deeds more likely than the
same behaviour of other women.
The scarcity of songs against the father has so far been ignored. Elder claims that the
son cannot hate the father because he is not present to frustrate the son. To us it seems
that a boy who loves his mother may hate the man who deserted her. Besides, if the
absent father does not contribute money for the son's care he limits the son's ability to
obtain important goods and may be hated for this. And if a father is present and is strict
he is more likely to be hated than the strict mother because he is less likely to cater to
the child's emotional needs.
Elder's first table (1968: 26) provides a clue to the reason for the scarcity of male
songs. The table showed that there was no significant relationship between endorse-
ment/non-endorsement of sex and referent. That is, songs about males are as likely to
be non-endorsing songs as songs about females. But the calypso deals primarily in non-
endorsement (85 percent of Elder's sample fell in this category). Part of this effect also
depends on the inclusion of explicit sexual material. In Trinidad it is the sexual behav-
iour of the female that is condemned and therefore becomes a topic for the calypso.
The scarcity of male songs is due to the scarcity of condemnation of male sexual behav-
iour in the society. Thus the calypso accurately reflects the community attitude in this
sphere. The following lyrics from a 1961 calypso do the same for the attitude toward
So it grieves me day and night to see
Children honouring their Mother so gratefully
And their Father they always neglect
Not even a teaspoon full of respect.
(Mighty Viper; in Rodman 1971: 222)
Elder's explanation of the frequency of condemnation of women in calypsos rests
heavily on two assumptions: (1) that calypsonians repress hostility toward their mothers
and (2) that females are the dominant sex in Trinidad; or, at least, in lower-class Trini-
dad. The first assumption has been questioned partly on the ground that Elder provided
no solution to the difficulty of operationalizing the idea of repressed hostility. In addi-
tion, it appears that an examination of calypsos will show many of the singers express-
ing love for their mother and recognizing the same emotion in most Trinidadians. Census
information and the observations of other authors suggest that the second assumption is
There still remains the probability that calypsonians dominated by their mothers are
more likely to condemn women than those with a different relationship to their mothers.
We do not have the data to test this hypothesis and neither, apparently, did Elder.
An alternative to Elder's explanation is that success and status for the calypsonian is
most likely if he pleases his audience. Therefore, it is the nature of the audience that
largely accounts for the content of the songs. And the interest of the audience is shaped
by events in the society and the capacity of individuals to find meaning in these events.
ROY L. AUSTIN
1. There is some difficulty in determining whether Elder's explanation is based on females dominat-
ing the society, or females dominating lower-class society, or females seen as dominant by certain
males who react with aggression toward women. In reconstructing the explanation, we try to use
the most logical alternative. However, our later comments deal with the three possibilities.
2. Sometimes we shall draw on research conducted in Caribbean territories other than Trinidad to
support our arguments. There is an assumption of similarity with Trinidad when this is done.
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SMITH, Raymond T. "The Family in the Caribbean." Pp. 65-75 in Vera Rubin (ed.), Caribbean
Studies: A Symposium. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 1960.
SMITH, Raymond T. The Negro Family in British Guiana. New York: Grove Press. 1956.
SPIRO, Melford E. "Violence in Burmese History: A Psychocultural Explanation." Pp. 186-191
in James Short and Marvin Wolfgang (eds.), Collective Violence. New York, Aldine, Atherton.
BLACK CARIB FOLK MUSIC
The Black Caribs, numbering roughly 30,000, are spread over the three Central
American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and British Honduras. They are a Negro
people who speak an Amerindian language with many French loan words and bear Span-
ish surnames for the most part. They are a people who have been immersed in many cul-
tural streams without being submerged in any one of them. The present study is based
on a year's stay in the Carib village of Seine Bight, British Honduras.
In 1666 John Davies published a translation of Cesar de Rochefort's Histoire naturelle
et morale des isles Antilles de I'Amerique, which appeared in 1658. Describing the dis-
position and habits of the Negro slaves-some of whom, he says, were enslaved to
"Caribbians" (Carib Indians) on the islands of St. Vincent and Dominica (Davies, 1666:
295)-the author has this to say:
They are great lovers of Musick, and much pleas'd with such instruments as make
a certain delightful noise, and a kind of harmony, which they accompany with
their voices. They had heretofore in the Island of St. Christophers a certain
Rendezvouz in the midst of the Woods, where they met on Sundays and Holidays
after Divine Service, to give some relaxation to their wearied bodies: There they
sometimes spent the remainder of that day, and the night following, in dancing
and pleasant discourses. (Davies, 1666: 202)
During the several hundred years hat have passed subsequent to Rochefort's observa-
tions, this love of music has not been lost by the descendants of those early Afro-Ameri-
cans, among whom the Black Caribs are numbered.
In this paper we shall attempt to get an overview of Carib folk music. I shall divide
Carib music into dance music and non-dance music. Dance music, in turn, can be sub-
divided into that with instrumental accompaniment and that without such accompani-
ment. This gives us the taxonomy presented on the following page, along with the Carib
names of the resulting genres that fall within each category. We shall proceed to discuss
each of these genres in turn, emphasizing their performances within a cultural setting.
DANCE MUSIC ACCOMPANIED BY SONG
As with the terms wanaragua and hingii(hii)nghii, the word punta denotes primarily
a type of dance rather than a type of song. But iust as one dances a waltz only to the
accompaniment of waltz music, so one dances punta only if the punta rhythm is beat on
the drums accompanied by a punta song.
Punta is the most common genre in the Carib repertoire of folk music. It is danced at
wakes and at weddings. According to custom, it is obligatory that punta be danced at
the "nine-night" wake. The hostess of one 'nine-night' I attended became worried when
midnight approached and no one had yet begun to dance punta; to have omitted it
would have, so to speak, rendered the 'nine-night' invalid.
The Setting: Except at village-wide feasts-such as Carib Settlement Day and Christ-
mas, when dancing is done in the Community Centre and Hurricane Shelter-the ordin-
ary site for punta dancing is out of doors beneath the stars in a house yard. A wood fire
is kindled more as a source of light than of warmth. Near the fire are seated the two
men who beat the drums (dfara gardun). Beside and behind the drummers stands the
chorus of perhaps a dozen women who sing the accompanying song. A full circle is
rounded out by the onlookers and the dancers. When the music begins, the diameter of
the circle of singers and spectators is large enough to allow the two dancers within its
compass ample room for movement, but as things get hotter, the crowd pushes inward,
barely giving the dancers space to perform.
First the drums set the rhythm and tempo. After a few bars the leader of the chorus,
usually a septuagenarian widow fondly known throughout the village as 'Mom', begins a
song. Shortly thereafter one man and one woman-anyone at all so desiring- jump into
the circle and start to dance. When either gets tired of dancing he or she retires to the
circle of spectators and someone else soon fills the vacated spot. The crowd of onlookers
meanwhile does not just watch in silence; they are laughing and shouting at the antics of
the dancers, complimenting them if they are crowd-pleasers or shouting paso 'move on'
if a particular dancer does not please. At a 'nine-night' wake punta dancing runs from
about 11:00 p.m. until nearly daybreak, with occasional pauses during which the drum-
mers and dancers rest and refresh themselves with rum.
We shall now discuss, in turn, the performance of the drums, the song, and the dance.
The Drums: Whipple gives a full description of the construction of Carib drums and
of techniques of playing them (Whipple, 1971: 59-93). Pdnta dancing requires two
drummers: the man playing the larger-the bass or, in Carib, segdnda-drum sets the
basic six-eight rhythm while the solo or first drummer is free to beat a "cross-rhythm".
Whipple places Carib drumming within Lomax's category of simple polyrhythm
(Whipple, 1971: 41).
CARIB FOLK MUSIC
Dance Music Non-dance Music
accompanied unaccompanied accompanied unaccompanied
by song by song instrumentally instrumentally
Pdnta Tira Berusu Abamahanil
Hiini(hii)ngii Chakanari Uyanu
Gunjai Eremuna Egi
Wa'rini Occasional Songs
I often wondered how these drummers could pound out their rhythms for nearly a
half-hour without taking a break. Only the profuse sweat soaked up by their shirts be-
trayed the degree of their exertion. It was always understood that the drummers would
be recompensed for their labours with generous potions of rum during the break periods.
Finally, it should be noted that wooden crates instead of drums are used to accom-
pany punta dancing at a 'nine-night' wake. I could not determine just why the use of
drums is taboo on this particular occasion, but Taylor also notes the prohibition.
(Taylor, 1951: 100).
The Song: Punta songs are composed exclusively by women. Whipple has provided us
with a musical transcript of one such (Whipple, 1971: 137). The basic structures of a
stanza of a punta song is as follows:
3. Refrain Repeat
Many pdnta songs have two such stanzas, others just one. The call, ideally, is a solo by
the leader. I say ideally because often-depending on the amount of background noise,
partly on the amount of rum that has been consumed-one or two others may join the
leader in her solo part. Usually the call, grammatically, is a half-sentence, which the
response completes. The response is sung by the chorus. The call and response are then
repeated once, whereupon the leader and chorus join together in singing the refrain,
which is also repeated at least once and maybe several times, depending on the whim of
the leader. If there is a second stanza, it follows the same pattern as the first. Following
the second stanza the leader may return to the first stanza and begin all over again or,
if she prefers, repeat the second stanza, then go back to the first. In short, the leader
leads wherever she will and the others follow. The number of times stanzas get repeated
is a function of how well everyone is enjoying the song; it may go on for five or ten
minutes. If the leader decides to change songs, she simply introduces a new call at the
appropriate moment without a break in the rhythm of the drums.
The chorus sings in unison; there is no polyphony in punta singing. The voices tend
to be somewhat loud and a bit harsh by our own expectations but not unpleasant. Usual-
ly the whole series of songs runs for about twenty minutes before the performers take a
The Dance: When the drummers and singers have struck up their tune, somebody-
either a man or a woman, whoever gets the nerve first-jumps into the circle and starts
the punta dance movements. Shortly thereafter a mate of the opposite sex joins in to
form a dancing twosome. Taylor has a good description of the pdnta dance;
They begin facing one another, the woman with her hands on her hips, the
man holding out the lapels of his unbuttoned jacket. The step is a sort of minute
and rapid shuffle, accompanied by a continuous shimmying of the buttocks...
so that progress in any direction is extremely slow. The figure varies with the
ingenuity of the dancers, but always represents the evolution of a courtship in
which first the man pursues, and then the woman, while the other retreats; and
ends only when one of them, from exhaustion or from lack of further initiative,
admits defeat by retiring from the ring, to have his or her place immediately
taken by another. (Taylor, 1951: 100)
Whipple argues for the close relation of the Carib punta to the ptnto of Central
America: both are solo couple dances; both use a two-against-three rhythmic effect; and
finally, both are stylized imitations of the courtship of the cock and the hen (Whipple,
More than by the symbolism of the dance, I was impressed by the fact that the
spectators were keen critics of the ability of the dancers as individual performers, apart
from their ability to defeat their opponent, if I may so speak. The main focus of their
concern seems to have been the hip movement; a good dancer synchronises his or her
whole body, but especially the shimmying hips, to the rhythm of the music. When a
spectator wishes to express satisfaction over the performance of a particular dancer, she
(I only saw women make this gesture) moves her hand in a stroking gesture about eight
inches away from the buttocks of the dancer she is complimenting. And as mentioned
before, if the spectators are not satisfied with a particular dancer, they shout pdso,
which means they want that dancer to retire from the dancing circle and give way to
Unlike punta, which must be danced on certain occasions, and unlike wandragua,
which is the piece de resistance of the Christmas season, hungu(hii)ngii does not seem to
have any set time when it must be danced. It is danced at all sorts of festivals-barring
wakes-but does not seem to be the featured item on any one occasion. Whipple has
suggested that the huingi(fhi)ngii may be a "popularised version of the more serious
dancing typical at the dogo rites" (Whipple, 1971: 110). I should prefer to call it a
secularised version of the sacred dancing that takes place at the diigu.
The Setting: Like punta, hiingi(hii)ngii is danced either outdoors in the sand or
inside the Hurricane Shelter or the Community Centre. Unlike punta, however, this is a
dance in which both the singers and many spectators may become participants in the
dance as well, and there are nearly as many dancers as onlookers. Let us now consider
briefly the respective performances of the drums, the song, and the dance:
The Drums: According to Whipple, the hiingd(hU)ngU (he calls it hundu-hundu)
rhythm is the "least complicated accompaniment beat. There is no cross-rhythm be-
tween the drums, and the tempo is rather slow-a dotted half note (in three-four time)
would equal c. 62 beats per minute" (Whipple, 1971: 78). My own informant assured
me that I too could beat out the hiingd(htUngU rhythm with a few minutes' practice.
The drums used for this dance are the same two that are used for punta dancing. As
with punta, the drummers set the basic rhythm and tempo and are soon joined by the
The Song: As with pdnta songs, the composition ofhiingh(hii)ngii is the province of
women. The structure of hilng&(hul)ngi songs does not seem to me to be nearly so
clear-cut as that of punta songs. A stanza may consist of three lines or four. Often there
is repetition of a line or lines within a stanza, but two of the most popular hiingiu(hiingt
songs do not have such repetition.
Although hiingii(hii)ngii singing does require a leader, it does not, in my opinion,
employ the call and response technique. This stands in contradiction to the opinion of
Whipple (Whipple, 1971: 44). The other singers must listen to the leader to catch the
first word or two of the line so that they may know what to sing, but they do not wait
until the leader has completed a particular part before responding as in punta and wana-
As with pdnta singing, the voices of hingi(hu)ngl singers tend to be more tense than
the North American ear is accustomed to, but they are not grating. The voices sing in
The Dance: As mentioned earlier, the hilngiu(hi)ngi dance is a sort of communal
dance in which everyone-men and women, young and old-may join. The participants
line up single-file in a circle, each one facing the back of the person in front. There is a
leader somewhere in the circle of dancers, but one is hard put to find her; only by watch-
ing carefully to see who leads the turnabout in direction-from counterclockwise to
clockwise-can one pick her out. Most of the dancers also take part in the singing. The
dance movements are described by Whipple thus:
The dance step itself is a sort of shuffle, approaching perhaps a slide, the body
being held upright at times and inclined slightly forward at others. Each hundu-
hundu usually begins with a slow procession in single file, counterclockwise
around the room and spiraling toward the center of the group formation.
(Whipple, 1971: 109)
I did not find, however, that the movements of this dance "are performed simultaneous-
ly by the entire group" (Whipple, 1971: 108). Indeed, I felt that the dancers paid little
regard to their fellow dancers, other than to move in the same direction. If someone
took a notion to throw his or her arms into the air or two swing his or her body around
a full turn, so it was done.
If there is any dance for which the Caribs are known in British Honduras, it is
wanaragua or, as it is more commonly known in English, John Canoe. It is so prominent-
ly associated with the black Caribs that a statue of a wanaragua dancer was recently
erected at the entrance to Stann Creek Town, the largest Carib settlement in the country.
This dance is performed in full regalia only during the Christmas octave-from Christmas
to New Year's Day. Every year at this time a troupe of dancers travels from Stann Creek
to Belize City to perform the John Canoe dance on the city streets and in private yards.
In Seine Bight the wanaragua season really begins much earlier, in late September.
Every Saturday night, weather permitting, a crowd of villagers gathers in a yard to
watch, or participate in, a practice session of wandragua dancing in preparation for the
Christmas season. At some point in the evening punta and hUngd(hiijngli dances are also
performed, and one gets the impression that the more immediate function of these prac-
tice sessions is one of providing recreation and laughter for the village folk. Many,
indeed most, of those who take part in the wandragua practice sessions never don the
full regalia to dance it during the Christmas holidays. Even children are given an oppor-
tunity to dance early in the evening before they are hustled off to bed. In short, these
practice sessions serve as a good excuse for some well-deserved fun.
The Setting: The practice sessions always take place in the same house yard; perhaps
the reason for this is that the man of the house plays the large bass drum and doesn't
want to haul it elsewhere. At any rate, on toward 7:00 p.m. of a Saturday night the
drums strike up and people of all ages begin to gather. Usually the crowd numbers from
about 50 to 75. The scene is the same as that depicted earlier for pinta dancing:the
wood fire, the two drummers, the chorus of female singers, and the circle of onlookers
and prospective dancers. About 9:00 p.m. the crowd breaks up and heads home.
During Christmas week, however, the scene changes. Then the dancing takes place in
the daytime instead of at night. Moreover, the performers move from house to house,
wherever the residents agree to let the troupe perform-which means, in effect, that
they agree to recompense the drummers, singers, and dancers for their entertainment.
We shall now consider each of these performances in turn.
The Drums: Like pdnta, the wandragua drums beat out a polyrhythm. Whipple in-
dicates a three-four time for the bass drum (Whipple, 1971: 80). Of the first drum he
The Tuba Primera rhythms for the John Canoe are characterized by free use of
duple patterns, superimposed on the basic three against two rhythm of the
accompanying drums. For a while the drummer will seem to be playing com-
binations of sixteenth notes in two-four time, and then he will suddenly shift
to a feeling of six-eight or even three-four. (Whipple, 1971: 91)
My informant pointed out that the first drummer must accommodate himself to the
movements of each successive dancer-somewhat as a pianist adjusts to the tempo of a
singer. This calls for expertise, in Carib eyes, and a good first drummer is admired for
his skill. One of the best first drummers in Seine Bight during my stay was an elderly,
somewhat unpleasant fellow (in his fellow Caribs' opinion). I once watched the chorus
of singers cajole and coax him back to his drum after he had stalked off in a huff, think-
ing some boys had been making fun of him.
The Song: The composition of punta and hiinglt(hU)ngUi songs is left to women; the
composing of wandragua songs is the bailiwick of men. The structure of these songs con-
sists simply of a single call and response, which can be repeated over and over a dozen
times or more, until the leader decides to introduce a new call necessitating a new re-
sponse, without, however, requiring a break in the rhythm. Unlike the call of pinta
songs, the wandragua call is a complete grammatical statement; in general it points out
the problem area concerning which the response comments.
The chorus is the same as that which makes up the pdnta chorus, women for the
most part although an occasional male voice joins in. The degree of voice tenseness is ap-
proximately the same as that found in pdnta and hiingf(hi/)ngis singing.
The Dance: No ethnographic description can do justice to any Carib dance without
the aid of a motion-picture camera; this is especially true of the wandragua dance. The
colourful costumes of the dancers can be captured with a still camera; not so their
First, it should be mentioned that only men dance wanaragua when it is performed in
full dress (at the Saturday night practice sessions women also dance it). Costumes vary
depending on whether the men are dressed as men or women. The men dressed as men
wear a white suit coat and white pants arranged to resemble knickerbockers, knee-
length dark stockings, white tennis shoes, and, if available, white gloves. They don a
colourful sash which runs from the shoulders, criss-crosses over the breast, then encircles
the waist like a cummerbund. Most ornate of all are the screen masks topped with multi-
coloured crowns (wabdban) decorated, for the most part, with crepe paper and bright
feathers. Worn on the knees are cloth bands onto which are sewn hundreds of tiny shells
that rattle gaily; these knee bands are called yawain in Carib. The costumes of men
dressed as women differ only in that they wear brightly coloured skirts and blouses in-
stead of the white coat and trousers. They also wear the crowns and knee bands.
In Seine Bight there were half a dozen wanaragua dancers during the Christmas cele-
bration; two of these men were dressed as women, the rest as men. Wherever this troupe
went-from yard to yard-a crowd of village folk always gathered to watch. One by one,
to the accompaniment of drums and singing, each man took his turn dancing.
The foot and leg movements of this dance are by far the most important feature. Un-
like pdnta, where hip movement attracts the focus of attention, here the upper torso is
relatively quiet, as though it is merely resting atop the rapidly contorting legs. I some-
times got the impression that it was the mark of the good dancer to maintain his upper
body impassive amid the flurry of activity just below. The description offered by Shedd
of wanaragua as she witnessed it in southern British Honduras some forty years ago does
not replicate the style of wanaragua dancing as it is found in Seine Bight today:
There were leaps straight up in the air with the feet criss-crossing one another
rapidly. Nearly all the positions were taken with the feet off the ground, and
the accent gesture, so to speak, was to snap the whole body backwards, as a
whip is snapped, at any time and no matter in what position the body found it-
self. These grotesque checks, wholly rhythmic indeed, but abrupt, were like ex-
clamation points constantly intensifying the excitement. The feeling was for
postures of violent angles and contrasts, the torso bent so that the head was
backwards near the feet while arms were forward; then from this to a leap up-
ward in the air with legs and arms spread wide apart. (Shedd, 1933: 74)
In Seine Bight there is much less accent on bodily contortions and more on fancy foot-
work. This in no way vitiates Shedd's description; it merely points out that there are
many different styles of dancing wanaragua. In Seine Bight, for instance, there was re-
siding a Honduran Carib who used to delight the local folk by his distinctive style. Even
within the village, good dancers develop a dancing style unique to themselves. One of
the greatest crowd-pleasers is the man who is able to imitate the dancing styles of those
who have since retired or even passed away.
Baxter's depiction of John Canoe dancing in Jamaica sounds more akin to the style
I witnessed in Seine Bight:
The John Canoe dance was seen most often as a variant of a jig or horn-pipe...
The chief steps were a quick step and hop on one foot then on the other, mov-
ing backwards, like the ballet step known as retire. There was continuous
shifting of the weight from the back foot to the front foot, in a type of vibrat-
ing action which could be likened to a rapid open coupe in fourth position,
done with bent knees. Turns were quick spins on one foot, followed by sudden
stops with feet apart sideways with the hips sharply forward and with arms out
to the side. (Baxter, 1970: 223)
In every yard performance at Christmastime each dancer takes two turns at solo per-
forming-about two minutes each, which is sufficiently long to be exhausting to the
dancer. One of the men dressed as a woman performs last. Carrying a lady's pocketbook,
he is detailed to scoop up the dish containing an offering of money-at least a quarter
and sometimes a dollar-during the course of his second solo performance; whereupon
he puts the money into the pocketbook. As a sort of grand finale, all six dancers jump
into the ring together and dance simultaneously for a short while. This signals the end of
Gunjal, Sambal, Warini, Chumba
There are other Carib folk dances accompanied by song which I can scarcely more
than name. Apparently they are rarely if ever danced any more in Seine Bight, and some
adults confessed ignorance of these dance styles, although they had heard the names.
My informant briefly described the movements of each dance as follows:
Gunjat' similar to wandragua but performed by a man and woman together.
Sambal: similar to wandragua; danced by men only, one by one.
Wdrini: identical with wandragua in dance style and song but dancers wear old,
tattered clothes; danced as a prelude to wanaragua.
ChUmba: similar to sambal; has many fanciful movements.
DANCE MUSIC UNACCOMPANIED BY SONG
Contrary to Whipple's contention that "Carib music always involves singing"
(Whipple, 1971: 38), there are several different occasions when Caribs dance to in-
strumental music alone. One of these occasions is the dancing of the children-
hingiu(hii)ngi-fashion-on the day of Indios, December 12th. Another occasion is the
dancing of tira on Easter Sunday. At both these celebrations, the dancing is accompanied
by a fife and one or two drums without singing. There is still another time for dancing
to the accompaniment of instrumental music alone. The instruments, again, are the fife
and the drum. The dance, called chakanari, is performed by boys several times prior to
the celebration of Carib Settlement Day, November 19th.
The Setting: Chakanari might be called the boys' counterpart of wandragua; there are
many similarities. As in wanaragua the youngsters who take part dress up in costumes
and masks. Some wear dresses and masquerade as girls. Their face masks often consist of
a large leaf with holes punched out for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Also like wanaragua,
the dancing takes place in one house yard after another, wherever the owners permit the
children to perform.
The Performance: The performance too bears similarities to the wanaragua perform-
ance. When the music begins, each boy takes a turn dancing solo. The movements re-
semble those of wandragua but are much slower. An appointed boy collects the offering
of money, which is used on Carib Settlement Day to buy treats for the children of the
village. Finally, after everyone has had a turn dancing, the whole troupe jumps into the
ring and dances together, signalling the end of the performance.
NON-DANCE MUSIC ACCOMPANIED INSTRUMENTALLY
Of all Carib folk music this genre is the most obviously influenced by Latin music.
The proper instrument for accompanying a berusu is the guitar, "or would be if only a
suitable performer were available" (Whipple, 1971: 50). When I arrived in Seine Bight
bearing a guitar, I had the only guitar in the village that was in playing condition. There
were a couple others around, but they had no strings. Several men of the village used to
enjoy borrowing mine.
The Setting: I'm told that, when the economy was brighter a few years back thanks
to the operation of the lumber mill in Mango Creek, Seine Bight men would spend their
Saturday nights going about the village drinking rum and singing berusu to guitar accom-
paniment. During my stay, however, I only saw these songs performed in the daytime
by sober men-and occasionally by women.
The Performance: Although Whipple says "there are two varieties of guitar songs: one
for men and one for women" (Whipple, 1971: 51), my own informant said they were
the compositions of men exclusively. The melodies of berusu are clearly Western, but
the text is Carib. Even the voice set of berusu singers is more relaxed than the voices of
those who sing dance songs-which is also more in keeping with Western expectations. If
more than one person is singing, it is not unlikely that one of them may slip into
I could determine no structural components that might characterise this genre of
song. Unlike the pdnta and wandragua songs, the berusu allows the composer a great
deal of freedom.
Whipple describes the techniques of playing the guitar to accompany berusu:
The guitar accompaniments that were heard were performed in a rhythmic,
agitated style, the fingers of the right hand rapidly strumming the strings,
sometimes dampening them to get a dead sound. The technique is similar to, if
not the same as, that used in much of the guitar (and other stringed instrument)
playing of the Spanish Latin Americans, and the Carib undoubtedly borrowed
this technique from them. (Whipple, 1971: 55)
One of my guitarist friends assured me that he could recognize the Carib village from
which a particular guitar-player was from just by hearing him play, for each village has
its own distinctive style of strumming.
NON-DANCE MUSIC UNACCOMPANIED INSTRUMENTALLY
Of all the genres of Carib folk music in current use, the abaimahani is the most
foreign to the Western listener. It, more than any other genre, seems to bear similarities
to American Indian music. As Whipple puts it: "If Carib dance music shares the most
characteristics with the music of Africa, then abaimahani song would seem to share the
least" (Whipple, 1971: 57).
The Setting: The proper occasion for singing abaimahani is the celebration of the day
marking the end of mourning for a deceased relative-a widow, for instance, mourns one
full year for her deceased husband. The day's festivities begin with a requiem Mass if a
priest is available. After Mass the women, or woman, who are casting off their mourning
garb (dgura lddu) go directly from church and, fully clothed, undergo a ritual bathing in
the sea while friends look on. From there they go home and remove these mourning
clothes. Soon the invited relatives and friends gather at the home to sing abalmahani,
drink rum, and, in general, make merry for a good part of the day.
The Performance: Abalmahani songs are gestured songs; they are both composed and
performed by women. Some seven or eight women arrange themselves chorus-line
fashion and clasp hands-the woman on the left clutching in her right hand the left-hand
thumb of the woman to her right. One of the women serves as leader both of the song
and of the gestured movement; she can be picked out by the fact that her voice begins
new sections of the song just an instant before the others join in.
There are too many variations in the structure of these songs to lay down any hard-
and-fast rules for their construction. A typical stanza-there are usually two to a song-is
Line A Repeat
A common variation of this pattern inserts a slight modification of line A instead of
repeating it verbatim:
Another variation inserts a non-repeated line between the two strophes:
Line A Repeat
As with dance songs, whole stanzas get repeated as the leader desires. Abalmahani song
does not employ the call and response technique. The singing is done in unison.
Although meaningless syllables are found in dance songs also, they are far more
common in the abalmahani; this tempts one to locate their origin in New World tradi-
tion rather than in African tradition. For Bruno Nettl writes that "meaningless syllable
songs occupy an important role" in American Indian music (Nettl, 1965: 165). Another
feature of abaimahani that seems to link this genre to American Indian music is the de-
scending melodic contour. For example, the singing style of one Indian group in Bolivia
sounds akin to this particular genre: "The songs usually have descending melodic con-
tour and are sung with a 'decrescendo' as the singer's breath runs out" (Nettl, 1965: 149).
While they sing, the women perform gestures in unison, now swinging their locked
arms forward, now bowing deeply from the waist and bending the knees- slightly. The
feet remain still. The same woman that leads the singing also leads the gestures. Possibly
these gestures had some symbolism at one time: if so, the meaning has been lost.
Just as certain genres of Carib dance have fallen into disuse, so also with anrmahani.
In Seine Bight, at least, this genre-the male counterpart of abaimahani-will be extinct
in another generation. I did manage on one occasion to hear and record an arumahani,
but it was sung by a lone man along with a chorus of women instead of by a chorus of
men. Taylor acknowledged twenty years ago that ardmahani singers were hard to come
by (Taylor, 1951:128) today few men younger than fifty years of age even know these
This is a genre of women's work songs, more specifically, songs to grate cassava by.
They are sometimes called ahiriihani.
The Setting: I spent one afternoon in a kitchen watching women perform the messy
job of transforming cassava roots into meal for baking cassava bread. While two of the
women bore the back-breaking chore of bending over a wooden grater and making mash
of the wet cassava roots, several other women looked on and heartened their labouring
friends by singing "grating songs".
Compared to the abalmahani, the eremuna egi seem a good deal more light-hearted
both in melodic contour and in tempo. The rhythm, though not exactly a lilt, rolls
along with the scrub-board motions of the women grating the cassava. In all, the singers
help to make a joyful occasion of what would otherwise be a tedious chore.
This is something of a non-descript class of songs. They may be composed by either
men or women and they have no generic name in Carib. The compositions are not
intended to be performed on any special occasion, as are eremuna egi, but just occasion-
ally, as the composer desires. In a sense, they epitomize the essence of all Carib songs:
they are a memorial of some event. We in our culture memorialize events in written
words and bronze plaques; Caribs do so in songs. Just as it is more important to us that
the plaque be placed than that it be observed often, so is it more important to the Caribs
that the song be composed than that it be performed often.
SAMPLE SONGS AND TRANSLATIONS
Gawaiasunhadina yebe (ne) I have planned to journey
Gawaiasunhadina barawarugun J I have planned to journey overseas
Gawaiasunthadina ydbe (ne-an) I have planned to journey overseas "1
bardwarugdn (i) Where will I leave Chona? J
An maga halfaba nfchigaun an Chdna.
Lirauna gudemein nuguya R. I am a child of poverty
Lirauna yumurau nuguya maga ) I am a child of suffering Rep.
Lirauna gudemein nugdya namulel I am a child of poverty, my dear
(ne)ralU(ne) brother Rep.
An maga mAfarun (i) lubadina Rep. Anyhow, suffering will not kill me.)
Anagura halala nuru (o)
Anagura delnla ndru (o-an)
Anagura halala nuru (o-an)
An maga 'da luba nuaguti
I am discouraged by East Wind R
East Wind has broken my plans ) p
I am discouraged by East Wind, my
dear brother ep.
How am I going to make ends meet?)
Ruba bendisifau luiaun namule nun
Magadine lamuga luagu luarariln (e) Rep.
Arumuganali tati Etel (e) Rl
Gewenadinali namule narigili.
Btngiu, Baba, nubungiute
Busl fetina yebe narihinibu
Give a blessing to my younger
brother for me
So that he may be well on his travels
I have been lonely.
I have dreamt about Ethel's older
I have dreamt about my younger
brother who comes after me.
God, Father, my God
I had wanted to see you
So that I might have a short
talk with you.
Darabai bena, nati Maximo
Darabai bena, (a-a) nati Maximo
Darabai bena, darabai bebenari
Nuba (rane) ayanuhanamuga buma.
Hagai san buga alagan ligia
Hagai san buga alagan ligia (a-a)
hagai san buga
Alagan ligia, hagal san balagante
Ligla (ne) maganbun(ya) tina ludgu.
Huutu dunu'ru nuai (e)
MafAyeihanifatu pasai (e)
Huutu dunuru nua (e)
Mafayeihanifatu pasal (e)
Temesebedunia hurata taruna
Open the door, my brother Maximo
Open the door, my brother Maximo
Open the door, open your door
For me so that I may converse with you.
Where is that legacy
Where is that legacy
Where is that legacy, where is your legacy?
I have only heard about it.
A bird is worth more to me
She does not have to pay for passage)
A bird is worth more to me
She does not have to pay for passage Rep
Whenever she becomes lonely, she |
flaps her wings and flies again.
Lubuidun garabali nuru
Kaba narune, ni (e)
An kaba nariine ya, ni (e)
Hamatina hamuga uara luma
How well the East Wind blows R
Breeze of those who do not live well
Who will be my captain, you people
0 who will be my captain here,
you people? ep.
I would fly along with the darkness.
Hagabu nun, luguchin Tani* (e)
Narmaharauna bun (o)
Mabuyarabana me (e)
Nagamba buma, naufuri (e)
Tigirayadibu tura tuariua
Ladliga mabunubanu tiban (na)
An tererun buagu nubinfe tar-iegai (e)
"Come to me, Tanf's father
I am just reporting to you
Do not betray me."
"Let me hear from you, my aunt."
"She will walk out on you
Because you have not built a house for her
So she said of you, she said it in my house."
*ldguchin Tani: 'father of Tan'; a case of teknonymy.
BAXTER, Ivy. The Arts of an Island. Metuchen, N.J., 1970.
DAVIES, John. The History of the Caribby Islands, trans. by John Davies. London, 1666.
NETTL, Bruno. Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents. Englewood
SHEDD, Margaret. "Carib Dance Patterns." Theatre Arts Monthly 17: 66-67. 1933.
TAYLOR, Douglas M. The Black Carib of British Honduras. New York, 1951.
WHIPPLE, Emory C. The Music of the Black Caribs of British Honduras. M.A. thesis,
University of Texas at Austin, 1971.
RICHARD HADEL, S.J.
I Came on a Slaveship I came on a slaveship.
They brought me.
Cane, lash, and plantation.
A sun of steel.
Sweat like a caramel.
Foot in the stocks.
Aponte, smiling, spoke to me.
I said: "Count on me!"
Oh death! Afterwards silence.
A long violent sleep!
A harsh sleep.
of snow and emerald
beneath the moon.
O'Donnell. His dry fist.
Lash and more lash.
The constables and the fear.
Lash and more lash.
My body blood and ink.
Lash and more lash.
Maceo came on horseback.
I was in his retinue.
Long the howl of the wind.
Loud the thunder.
A splendor of macheteros.
I was among them.
of snow and emerald
beneath the moon.
I see Menendez stretched out.
The open lung bubbles.
The chest burns.
His eyes see, are seeing.
The corpse lives.
Oh Cuba! I give you my voice.
I believe in you.
The land I kiss is mine.
Mine the sky.
I am free, I came from far off.
I am a Black man.
of snow and emerald
beneath the moon.
Tr. by Robert Marguez and
David Arthur McMurray
Sweat and the Lash Lash,
sweat and the lash.
The sun was up early
and found the Black barefoot,
his scarred body naked,
in the field.
sweat and the lash.
The wind went screaming by:
"Your hands are two black blossoms!"
His blood said to him: "Do it!"
He said to his blood: "I'll do it!"
He left, barefoot, in the blood.
The canefield, trembling,
let him pass.
Afterward, the silent sky,
and beneath the sky, the slave
stained with the master's blood.
sweat and the lash,
stained with the master's blood.
Lash, sweat and the lash,
stained with the master's blood,
stained with the master's blood.
Tr. by Robert Marguez
THE REBEL WOMAN in the British West Indies During Slavery. By Lucille Mathurin
Mair. Illustrations by Dennis Ranston. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica (African-Jamaican
Publications Series), 1975. 40 pp. Price $0-50.
Dr. Lucille Mathurin Mair has conducted research into the past of Jamaican women
for some years now. It was fitting that she should contribute some of her findings in
International Women's Year. Happily she does not emphasise that connection in her text.
The Rebel Woman is a generally attractive paperback of 37 pp. The illustrations, all
but one, by Dennis Ranston are "narrative" in nature. It was no doubt this that caused
me to issue the book widely to teen-age readers last Christmas.
The contents, however, are really a long article presenting many facets of the lives of
slave women in the West Indies, with some imputations of motive which can be pon-
Perhaps the most interesting suggestion, early in the script, is that the slave woman
maintained in slave society the significant, and public, roles which she played in the
African societies from which she came. It would be interesting to know whether this
awareness continued in say Maroon society. The prominent role of Nanny, or indeed of
Queen Cubah (p. 21), would then be readily explained.
There are other facts presented which could also explain the dominant role, and
indeed the confidence, of women in the transported society. The ratio of slave importa-
tion was two men to one woman. By the abolition of slavery the ratio was reversed. It
would appear that everyone had an interest in preserving the woman, not least the
woman herself. For her fellow slaves she was the human figure of motherhood in a sys-
tem where little other humanity existed. For her owners she was a child-bearer. For her-
self, as Dr. Mathurin Mair presents her, she is all resourceful vitality and strength, out-
witting the system in more ways than were possible for the men.
One of the most telling passages in The Rebel Woman is the explanation of why
women slaves were so often regarded as more "insolent" than the men. Their respect for
overseers, book-keepers and even clergymen did not survive the effects of sexual attrac-
tion, from winking to cohabitation. Many domestic slaves were also women; what they
overheard in the great houses was unlikely to strike awe into their hearts.
One of the disadvantages of historical studies of slavery is that slaves hardly ever
speak for themselves. Comment is from observers, not from their subjects. In a chapter
called "The Tongues of Women" Lucille Mathurin Mair almost 'makes them speak. The
torrent of indignation which could quell the slave driver, overseer or manager, and even
attract the attention of a Governor, almost becomes articulate. One satirical song is
quoted; more would have been welcome. The complaints and appeals to slave courts of
protection, by women in particular, persisted despite the hopelessness of the cause
where magistrates were nearly all slave owners themselves. As the writer observes, this
very argumentative, vocal protest was a strong assertion of humanity; it must indeed
have been difficult to regard these "turbulent" women as dumb animals.