Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Front Matter
 Guest editorial
 Back Cover

Digitization of this item is currently in progress.
Caribbean Quarterly
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099208/00095
 Material Information
Title: Caribbean Quarterly
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: University of the West Indies
Publisher: Extra Mural Dept. of the University College of the West Indies
Place of Publication: Mona, Jamaica
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 843029
sobekcm - UF00099208_00095
System ID: UF00099208:00095

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Front Matter
        Page v
        Page vi
    Guest editorial
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
    Back Cover
        Page 177
Full Text

SSN 0008-649
^^*HCaibea QuarterB~d^^lAy^
^.^KA.^Vol 56, No^^fl^s 1&2
^^^^^^f^^^^Marc^^h-Jue, 01


.~ ~~~... ,, : i, :
'. .. . .* ." ". .":
',* .: ,. ** ,"* -, ' ., ..- .., ,: '
* ..v j 1 '. . '* ...^

9q z.fooS
C 2-77-


Professor Rex Nettleford
February 3rd, 1933 February 2nd, 2010
It is with a deep sense of sadness and profound regret
that Caribbean Quarterly acknowledges the sudden
death of our Editor, Professor, the Honourable Rex
Nettleford, O.M., Vice Chancellor Emeritus, UWI.
He was appointed Editor of Caribbean Quarterly in
1970 and sought always to preserve the vision of its
founders throughout his forty years at the helm.
He inspired us all. La luta continue
May he rest in Peace

VOLUME 56, Nos. &2



(Copvight reserved and reproduction without pernlissioii siictly forbidden)

Slavery, Memory and Meanings:
The Caribbean and the Bicentennial of the British Abolition of the
Trans Atlantic Trade in Africans
(Guest Editor : Verene Shepherd)

Sir Roy Augier, Interim Editor ,
Guest Editorial
Verene Shepherd
Section One: Abolition And Commemorations in the Caribbean:
Contemporary And Modern Reflections, 1807-2007
Slavery, Shame and Pride: Debates over the Marking of the Bicentennial of the
Abolition of the British Trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans
Verene A. Shepherd
Commemorations in Jamaica: A Brief History of Conflicts
Veronica M. Gregg

Section Two: The Trade in Africans & Conditions of Enslavement
Enslaved Women and Children: Traumas of Dislocation and Enslavement across the
Atlantic World
Barbara Bush
"Routes and Roots": African Consciences and the Practice of Repatriation
Kra Kouassi

Section Three:Abolition & Emancipation: Process and Legacy
"Am I Not a Man and a Brother, Am 1 Not a Woman and a Sister": The Transatlantic
Crusade against the Slave Trade and Slavery
Carolyn Williams





The Politics of Morality: The Debate Surrounding the 1807 Abolition of
the Slave Trade 127
David Gosse

The Bicentennial Commemorations: The Dilemma of Abolitionism in the
Shadow of the Haitian Revolution 139
Claudius Fergus


Books for review 169

Notes on Contributors 171

Abstracts 172

Aknowledgements 175

Information for Contributors 176

University ot Fionr,

JUL 2 3 201

Professor,Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus, History, Mona, Interim Editor
Professor H. Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal, UWI, Cave Hill
Professor B. Chevannes, Research Fellow, School of Business, UWI, Mona
Professor Wayne Hunte,Pro Vice Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research,
UWI, St. Augustine
Professor B.Lalla,, Faculty of Arts and Education, UWI, St.Augustine
Mr. J. Periera, Vice Principal, UWI, Mona
Professor Clement Sankat, Pro Vice Chancellor, Principal, UWI, St. Augustine
Professor Gordon Shirley, Pro Vice Chancellor,and Principal, UWI, Mona.
Professor H Simmons-McDonald, Pro Vice Chancellor, Principal, Open
Campus, UWI at Cave Hill
Mrs. Linda Speth, General Manager, UWI Press
Dr. B. Tewarie, Pro Vice Chancellor, Office of Planning and Development,
UWI, St. Augustine
Professor Alvin Wint,Pro Vice Chancellor, Board for Undergraduate Studies,
UWI, Mona
Dr. V.Salter, CSI, OVC, Mona, Senior Administrative Officer, Managing Editor

All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to: The Editor,
Caribbean Quarterly, Cultural Studies Initiative, Office of Vice Chancellor,
University of the West Indies, PO Box 130, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
Tel. No. 876-970-3261, Tel Fax 876-977-6105
Email: veronica.salter(a)uwimona.edu.im, or cq(cuwimona.edu.im

We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they
would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews
of relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to
the guidelines on this web page. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors
are asked not to send international postal coupons for this purpose.
Exchanges: Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section,
Library, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
Back Issues and Microfilm : Information for back volumes supplied on
request. Caribbean Quarterly is available on microfilm from Xerox University
Microfilms and in book form from Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstract and Index : 1949-2009 Author Keyword and Subject Index
available o on t he website.

The journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI


I am honoured to have been asked to be editor, ad interim, of Caribbean
Quarterly, due to the passing of my friend and colleague, Rex Nettleford.

Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 56, Nos.l&2, March-June, 2010 is a special
issue entitled Slavery, Memories, Meanings: The Caribbean and the
Bicentennial of the British Abolition of the trans Atlantic Trade in Africans.

It was to help to provide a knowledge of the past as well as to engage that
history in the present, that Bicentenary Committees across the African Diaspora
made education such a central part of their commemorative activities. This was
manifested in the many lectures, teacher-training workshops, specialized
publications, museum and library exhibitions, panel discussions and conferences,
that were held across the Caribbean Community. Documentaries were also
produced, designed to ensure that many of the events and issues would be archived
for posterity.

Professor Nettleford addressed the United Nations, on March 26, 2007. We
are heartened that the full text of his speech "The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and
Slavery: The Psychic Inheritance ". is re-printed here in Veronica Gregg's article.
Other representatives from the Caribbean also participated in educational events at
the United Nations (UN).
This double issue contains a selection of the papers presented at the 2007
Bicentennial Conferenceof the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee (JNBC),
in collaboration with the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) and the Society for Caribbean
Research (SOCARE). The papers chosen reflect the topics of the conference that
were ideological and therefore controversial, as well as those which attempt to
enlarge our knowledge of the past. The conference offered the region the
opportunity to concentrate its attention on the possible contemporary effects of
the legacies of African enslavement in the Caribbean. We hope that the papers
selected will provide readers with some indication of what was discussed at the
conference. Book reviews complete the issue.


Commemorative moments in the Caribbean have always been controversial,
with those relating to African enslavement, abolition of the trade in Africans and
emancipation being among the most contentious'. But as Barry Higman has long
noted, "commemoration is central to the popular representation of the past,
offering opportunities for ... the public expression of pride and apology, regret
and nostalgia2.

It was within this context of the need for observance that, despite
understandable opposition in some quarters, the Caribbean territories of
CARICOM, embarked on a calendar of events in 2006-2007 (some events spilling
over into 2008) to mark the bicentennial of the passing of the 'British Slave Trade
Abolition Act' of 1807. From Trinidad and Tobago in the south to the Bahamas in
the north, Bicentennial Committees were formed; and historians, cultural activists,
artistes, heritage workers and so many others participated in events designed to
recall the horrors of the Middle Passage, to remark on the struggle for its abolition
and to issue renewed calls for apology and reparation from those complicit in the
Maafa. Among the events were cultural rallies, public lectures on a wide range of
issues', including reparation; teacher/student workshops, conferences, library and
musea exhibitions, special publications and book launches'. Special plaques and
story boards were laid at old Sites of Memory and new Sites of Memory were
either constructed (e.g. the Zong Memorial in Black River, Jamaica), declared or
had ground broken to future constructions; and there were opportunities for public
expressions of mourning (such as the ancestral funeral rites ceremony at Kingston
Harbour, Jamaica, and the ceremony held at the Esplanade in Barbados on March
25, 2007), church services and sporting events". The discussion of reparation even
reached the parliamentary level, with over a week of debates in the Jamaican
Parliament. While most of the events in the Caribbean were centrally organized,
others were organized by individuals, groups and institutions outside of National
Committees. Whatever the event, what emerged was the great need for public
education about Africa before the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans (TTA); the TTA
itself; the conditions of African enslavement, the abolition of the TTA,
emancipation and the legacies of enslavement, a reason so many territories hosted
lecture series and conferences and published new texts.
Among the regional conferences dedicated to the bicentennial were the 39'h
Annual Conference of the Association of Caribbean Historians (ACH), hosted by
the Mona Department of History and Archaeology and held in Kingston in May

2007; the Global Afrikan Congress's Conference held in Barbados in August
2007; the Mona Academic Conference (MAC) held from August 31 to September
2, 2007, and thel0'" (European) Society for Caribbean Research (SOCARE)
conference hosted by the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee from
December 5-8, 2007 in collaboration with the Institute of Jamaica. The latter
Conference was in keeping with the objective of the JNBC, established by the
Government of Jamaica in late 2005, to make educational events a central aspect
of the commemorative year and to engage in a North-South dialogue on the
bicentennial. This special double volume of Caribbean Quarterly presents a
selection of the papers presented at the December SOCARE/JNBC/IOJ
Conference held in Montego Bay, St. James and Accompong, St. Elizabeth. The
conference provided paper presenters and audience with an opportunity to engage
with the debates over the bicentennial, abolition, African enslavement and
marronage. The papers in this volume (just a fraction of the total conference
presentations, including plenary lectures), demonstrate the intensity of the debates
and the diversity of the perspectives that were presented at the Conference. These
papers allow for a comparative, pan-Caribbean (even African diasporic)
contemplation of issues that have pre-occupied us (and will no doubt continue to
do so) for some time.
The volume starts with Verene Shepherd's, Slavery, Shame and Pride
,which provides an overview of the various debates and controversies in Jamaica
and elsewhere primarily during 2006-2008 as a way of framing the context within
which scholars at the bicentennial conference attempted to intervene in the
discourses relevant to African enslavement, abolition and the legacies of African
enslavement. The article confirms the saying 'the more things change, the more
they remain the same'; for far from having reconciled ourselves to the slavery past,
many in the Caribbean continue to be uncomfortable about that past.
In Commemorations in Jamaica: A Brief History of Conflicts ,Veronica
Gregg presents a thoughtful commentary on a selection of newspaper extracts and
speeches from 1834-2007, which testify to the long-standing nature of the
preoccupation with commemorative moments in the Caribbean and the intensity of
both support and opposition of observances connected with Africans. She also
provides valuable context for the articles that follow.
In the articles following Gregg's, the authors set the context within which
abolitionism would emerge the dislocations caused by the trans Atlantic trade in
Africans, the conditions of enslavement and the rationale for calls for repatriation.

Some of the main themes that emerged from the discussions of the trans
Atlantic trade in Africans include a concern with motherhood and child-rearing
within the contexts of the Middle Passage, the peculiar institution of slavery and
the policing of black women's bodies by planters, missionaries and other colonial
regimes. The essays also remind us of the on-going search for dialectical
resolution over the issues of knowledge production and representation in
Caribbean and African diasporic history. If Wilbeforcemania, so ably critiqued by
Claudius Fergus, was contagious, it was because the story of abolition continued
in 2007 and 2008 to be told from a Eurocentric perspective. In this regard, the
project of producing a more liberating narrative of self is an on-going one.
In Slave Women and Children: Traumas of Dislocation and
Enslavement across the Atlantic World, Barbara Bush explores the impact of
enslavement and the trade on the most fundamental relationship in human
societies, the bond between mother and child. She reviews European accounts of
motherhood and childrearing (pre-enslavement) in the African cultures of origin
and addresses the traumas of dislocation and enslavement during the Middle
Passage. This is followed by some insights into the experiences of women and
children in Caribbean enslaved systems where she argues that, despite the harsh
conditions, African-derived conceptualisations of motherhood and parenting
endured. She concludes with a brief consideration of the reverberations of
enslavement into the post- enslavement era, specifically in relation to European
attempts to change African-derived practices. The relevance of her essay in a
collection devoted to the bicentennial lies in its reminder of the conditions of
enslavement and the rationale for the anti-slavery and pro-emancipation
Reproduction, sexuality and maternity remained contested spaces on the
Jamaican sugar estates, and the tensions surrounding their regulation increased as
the years of the trans Atlantic trade in Africans came to a close. There was the
desire not just to control the behaviours of the enslaved, but through religious
indoctrination, to mould their thinking and socio-cultural ideologies that is their
psychological space.
The question of control, but as it relates to the mind, is taken up in Kra
Kouissi, Routes and Roots: African Consciences and the Practice of
Repatriation. As part of her doctoral research, Kouissi is in the process of
exploring the political issues of(re)connection of Africa and her Diaspora in terms
of musical practice, ritual journeys and consciousness. Her investigation is
framed by a number of questions: How do we problematize consciousness? What

is the process by which it moves from the cultural to the political? Why do
ordinary social practices like music become active ways of political rallying and
what are the benefits of music as their way of expression? In exploring these
questions, she considers the work of the musical group, African Consciences,
arguing that the group, and others like it, represent attempts to forge an
international African consciousness. Music has the ability to gain real and
imaginary places in the social space; it is the platform to transmit the researched
African tradition. Music also contributes to create a network with a 'global'
African space. Those who embrace this 'African consciousness', rooted in the
experience of enslavement, displacement and loss, which unites the African
diaspora, can find meaning in either a real or symbolic repatriation to Africa.

The title of Carolyn Williams' article Am I Not a Man and a Brother, Am
I Not a Woman and a Sister: The trans Atlantic Crusade against the Slave
Trade and Slavery is adapted from a motto on medallions created by employees
of the eighteenth century English industrialist and champion of anti-enslavement
reform, Josiah Wedgwood. Her article addresses the contributions of African and
white men and women in Europe and the United States to the propaganda
campaigns instrumental in the abolition of the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans and
the anti-enslavement movements of Britain and the United States in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. Also addressed are the ideas and words of literary
figures in the service of eliminating the practice of African enslavement aand the
impact of the ideology addressing women's moral responsibilities regarding the
issue of African enslavement and the participation of women anti-enslavement
activists on the rise of the first wave of feminism. This is a timely intervention in
the discourse of anti-enslavement at a time when bicentennial discussions centred
around the fundamental question of who abolished the trade in Africans and

Dave Gosse's, 'The Politics of Morality: the Debate Surrounding the
1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade,' seeks to extend the argument that economic
imperatives overrode moral arguments in terms of the ending of the trade in
Africans. He argues that the British authorities publicly used the rhetoric of
morality as it was politically convenient in their campaign to end the trade.
However, in their private letters they urgently encouraged the Jamaican planters to
alter the declining social and economic context of enslavement in the British
Caribbean. Many of the proponents of abolition in Britain argued that abolition
was necessary to force the British Caribbean planters to practice better
management skills and to achieve natural increases of their African population.

From the first available minutes of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, (SAS),
otherwise called the African Institution, in 1787, they stated explicitly that the
trade in Africans was not only immoral but was bad economic policy. These pieces
of correspondence both before and after abolition highlight the fact that the
abolition of the trade in Africans was primarily economic in focus as it would not
only aid the British West Indian planters in the better organization of African
labour but also with the overproduction of sugar piling up at British wharves.

Claudius Fergus in 'The Bicentennial Commemorations: The Dilemma
of Abolitionism in the Shadow of the Haitian Revolution,' argues that the
commemoration in the making at least since the late 1990s -posed a major
challenge for historians as it overlapped with the bicentennial of Haitian
independence, which graphically illuminated the irreconcilable divide between
post-colonialist revisionism and reactionary, neo-imperial scholarship. Those he
labels "rightwing historians" have, according to him, argued that emancipation
was always on the abolitionists' agenda, a view propagated by abolitionists
themselves as they worked on a new image under the umbrella of a re-branded
Anti-Slavery Society founded from 1823. He believes the evidence suggests
otherwise. Central to the cult of Wilberforce, he argues, is the concerted effort to
alienate and marginalise African emancipators and abolitionists and disguise the
lure of self-interest in evangelical humanitarianism. He maintains that the roles
played by the movement cannot be denied and deserve commemoration, but the
underlying factors that drove the whole abolition movement must be contested and
subjected to renewed scholarly examination to fail to do so is to betray our
Clearly, when the Jamaican planters and writers produced their narratives
and arguments in relation to the debates over the trans Atlantic trade in Africans,
they aimed not merely to defeat the abolitionists, but to plant their history firmly
for the future. It was in that same period, too, that some of the most significant
revolts and other acts of resistance, especially at the level of culture and thought,
were being carried out by the enslaved.
It was the fact that anti-African enslavement activism on the ground (notjust
in Europe) was critical in destabilizing the enslavement system and ending the
African holocaust that made the 2007-2008 observances so meaningful to many in
the African Diaspora. Sadly, while Caribbean/African Diaspora people were
trying to provide a more nuanced view of the abolition campaign, the abolition
story in Britain still very much followed the traditional line, leading to complaints
from the Black British community that Britain planned to "eradicate African

freedom fighters from the bicentenary ... celebrations" and, as Toyin Agbetu
warned, to subject Black Britons to a "...culturally humiliating experience where
the education curriculum of the UK is to potentially incorporate 'slavery lessons'
and 'black history' where the story of Africans begins at enslavement and ends
with British abolition". Only time will tell if those predictions are correct.

1. See Barry Higman, Writing West Indian Histories (London: Macmillan, 1999) and
Bridget Brereton, "A Social History of Emancipation Day in the British Caribbean: The
First Fifty Years", in Hilary Becklcs, ed., Inside Slavery: Process and Legacy in the
Caribbean Experience, with foreword by Woodville K. Marshall (Kingston: Canoe Press,
UWI, 1996), pp. 78-95
2. Higman, Writing West Indian Histories, 203
3. For example, the History Departments of the UWI at Cave Hill and St. Augustine
hosted lecture series.
4. Two of these were Sandra Gift, Maroon Teachers (Kingston: lan Randle, 2007);
Freedom Delayed (Kingston: JNBC/JIS, 2007) and The Dominant Narrative Deplumed,
special issue of The Arts Journal (Guyana, May 2007), guest edited by Rita Pemberton.
5. For example, the Cave Hill Campus hosted a 'sod-turning' (groundbreaking)
ceremony for their "Golden Stool"-shaped Administration Building in honour of the
bicentennial in October 2008. The guest of honour was the Asantehene of Ghana.
6. Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica played for the Bicentennial Cup; and an
International Track Meet in Jamaica organized by the University of Technology, with
participation from athletes from Africa, was dedicated to the bicentennial

Slavery, Shame and Pride: Debates over the
Marking of the Bicentennial of the Abolition of
the British Trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans in


This article focuses on the topic 'Slavery, Shame & Pride: Debates over the
Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the British trans-Atlantic
Trade in Africans' in 2007 as a way of intervening in the public debates over the
relevance of the bicentennial to post-colonial societies in the Caribbean; and as a
way of understanding the longer-term meaning and legacy of abolition in the 2 1"
century. My choice of subject matter has not only been influenced by the
controversies that emerged in the Caribbean and elsewhere during the
bicentennial, but also by Elsa Goveia's view that "Our history is not dead
knowledge. Its significance for us is vital and immediate";2 and by the need to shift
the subject of slavery from text to public space.
By way of theoretical context, I would say that my project could be located
within what David Scott calls the "Foucauldian exercise of writing histories of the
present" an exercise that involves engaging with "the hegemonic persistence into
the postcolonial present of aspects of colonialist discourse and practice."3 This is
by no means new. As Scott reminds us, "reading and writing after Michel
Foucault, it is scarcely a controversial matter to assert that the investigation of the
past ought to be connected to questions derived from the present. This after all is
the now familiar idea of a history of the present".4
In the Caribbean, many scholars, most of them historians, from Trinidad
and Tobago in the south to the Bahamas in the north were called upon in 2007 to
lead National Bicentenary Committees and to involve themselves in what emerged
as an on-going contemporary intellectual reflection on African enslavement and
its legacies. Indeed, it was the Caribbean which influenced the United Nations to
mark the bicentennial. As Tony Best reported:
The drive to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first
parliamentary step to abolish slavery in the British Empire began
when Caribbean nations, strongly backed by African states
encouraged the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last

November[2006] to commemorate the bicentenary of the passage
of legislation in Britain calling for an end to the transatlantic slave

Dr Chris Hackett, Barbados' Ambassador, concurred, stating: "This is an
initiative that was started by the Caribbean and we were able to secure the strong
support of African member-states to get it through the UN." At the March 26,
2007 commemorative event at the UN, speakers included Dr Denzil Douglas,
Prime Minister of St Kitts-Nevis (who addressed the General Assembly on behalf
ofCARICOM), and the late Professor Rex Nettleford, a former Vice Chancellor of
the University of the West Indies, and a member of the JNBC (who delivered a
keynote address before the Assembly).

But the task, with which Caribbean historians/leaders of bicentennial
Committees were charged that of showing the inside of slavery to the outside in
the contemporary age when many are sceptical about history's relevance to the
present, was not an easy one. For one, few Bicentennial Committees were funded
adequately, leaving Committee Members to become fund-raisers. This was
particularly difficult because the region was then staging World Cup Cricket and
many private sector companies which might normally have contributed to cultural
initiatives, had already committed to the budget for the Cricket World Cup. The
Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee was particularly financially challenged,
with no direct grant from Central Government, leading former Prime Minister
Edward Seaga to ask "If 14 days of cricket is worth the expenditure of US$100M
[or 650 times the money available to the Jamaica National Bicentenary
Committee], how much more should be invested in reversing the legacy of slavery
from ignorance to knowledge...?"7 In the meantime, of course, in an ironic twist
of history, about 20 million pounds (the sum paid to the enslavers for their loss of
'property' in 1834), was made available for bicentenary activities in the United
Kingdom, to ensure that the narrative of abolition continued to perpetuate the idea
that British Parliamentarians and humanitarians "set all free' in a flurry of
"Amazing Grace".
The task of Bicentennial Committees was also made challenging because,
rather than being embraced as a celebratory event in the history of the
trans-Atlantic World, the bicentennial was mostly mired in controversy in so far
as any attention was paid to it at all in a region that was (at least at first) caught up
in the euphoria and possibilities of World Cup Cricket; or oblivious to the meaning
of 1807, grappling instead with so-called 'real developmental issues'.

So, why were some African and African Diaspora peoples opposed to the
bicentennial commemoration rather than supportive of a celebration of what many
others considered to be a momentous, historic anniversary? Why was there so
much controversy surrounding this bicentennial? Using Jamaica as the main
example, this article seeks to provide a synopsis of the debates in the Caribbean
over the bicentennial and the main bases of the internal and external controversies
that surrounded it. Of course, based on research by Bridget Brereton, Marcia
Burrowes, Veronica Gregg, Barry Higman and others, commemorative events in
the Caribbean have always been controversial, especially when associated with
the anniversaries of conquest, abolition and emancipation; and for a long time,
they were mainly 'unofficial' 'folk' celebrations. Bridget Brereton tells us that
because the anniversaries of emancipation were marked mainly by working class
people of African descent, the celebrations were "frowned on by the elite and
clergy since they almost always incorporated African or Afro-Creole elements,"'
in an environment in which there were efforts by missionaries and the state to
eradicate them.
In 1888, a contributor to the Jamaica Daily Gleaner, remarked:
"[T]here is a strong feeling in the West Indies generally that the
celebrations [of emancipation] are to be deprecated. It is only
common sense to decide that no greater obstacle could be placed in
the way of the real progress of the negro than the constant reminder
of his condition in the time of slavery. The true friends of the
African would not encourage such reminiscences. They should
look forward and not backward."
As Marcia Burrowes shows, this attitude was not unique to people in
Jamaica. Despite the views of individuals like Theophilous M. Stuart and the
proprietor of the Times, J.M. Wilkinson (who seemed to spearhead the Jubilee
movement), that the 501' anniversary of emancipation was worthy of 'loud and
lively' celebration; despite petitions to the Governor by 371 signatories; despite
the knowledge that other Caribbean territories including Trinidad, Guyana (where
a public holiday was declared by the Governor), and Dominica, were making plans
for the 'Jubilee', there was no public [state-led] celebrations in Barbados in 1888
by 'those in authority', leading the editor of The Barbados Globe to comment:
"Yesterday was the jubilee day of Emancipation from Slavery. There was no
public celebration of the event on this island, owing to indifference of those most
interested in it, which is of course influenced by those in authority...."'o It was left
to individuals and groups to stage 'unofficial' celebrations despite the

'indifference' and the views of those like of the plantocratic Agricultural Reporter

A very feeble effort is being made to have a celebration of the
Jubilee of Emancipation... For our part, we fail to see either rhyme
or reason in the movement, as by far the greater proportion of the
older inhabitants of the island were but children at the time of
emancipation, whilst the large majority of the people of today were
at the time unborn. But the most noteworthy part of the movement
is that, none of the leading men, whom it may have been supposed
would feel deeply interested in the movement, have in any way
countenanced it."

The Editor of the Jamaica Daily Gleaner wrote a more hopeful piece, a
reflection that despite some opposing voices in Jamaica, the Jubilee did not go
...So, throughout the British Colonies to-day, we celebrate the
jubilee anniversary of that grand act of National Humanity and
Justice, the setting free of the hundreds of thousands of human
beings who up to the year 1838 had been considered but as beasts
of burden, condemned even by the Almighty himself to eternal
Throughout the Island of Jamaica the anniversary will be kept as a
period of general rejoicing and will be celebrated by religious
services of thanksgiving by all denominations of Christians, and as
the ideas of men have so changed with regard to slavery within the
last fifty years, so may we hope that many wrongs under which the
human race suffers through ignorance, prejudice and
misunderstanding, may finally be swept away, as slavery was, by
the development of knowledge, and the spread of the true
principles of morality, truth and virtue.12

The spokesman for the Jubilee Committee in British Guiana urged: "Let the
people, let us, rejoice at the Jubilee of Emancipation, disregarding the narrow
views of individuals who may be ashamed to identify themselves with the Great
African family, and therefore wish to ignore this...great historical fact"." Such
differing views on celebrating anniversaries associated with conquest,

colonization, slavery and emancipation would resurface again and again. In a letter
to the Editor of the Gleaner in 1934, one contributor wrote:
There is [a] matter worth discussing just now, namely the
celebration of the Centenary of Emancipation. In my humble
opinion, it is a great mistake to do so. The sooner slavery is
forgotten the better. It is a matter that every right thinking white
man is ashamed of, and I am sure that no black man desires to be
reminded of it. I prophesy that the meetings are going to fall flat.
Nobody wants them.14

Much later, among the more testy issues during the Columbus
Quincentenary, appeared to have been former Prime Minister Edward Seaga's
suggestion that the King and Queen of Spain be invited to pay an official visit to
Jamaica and the proposal from the Bahamas National Trust and Historical Society
that official Columbus commemorative dolls be created"5 The return of
Emancipation Day as a public holiday in Jamaica in 1997, due to the activism of
influential black activists, intellectuals and supportive members of government
who had opposed its conflation into Independence Day, did not imply consensus
over the issue of slavery, as 2007 demonstrated.

In the context of the 2007 bicentennial, as Larry Smith tells us, among the
responses to an article on 'Bahamas Pundit' on the abolition of the trans Atlantic
trade in Africans was one which indicated that such a commemoration would only
serve to inflame racial hatred:
The 200th anniversary is likely to be yet another occasion for the
less developed countries of the world to bash the developed
countries...no doubt with the encouragement of the UN and its
NGO siblings...another occasion to inflame racial hatred. In this
way these countries can overlook, for a moment, the causes for
their backwardness and the social and political changes needed in
the fabric of their own societies.'6
But, surprisingly, some of the opposition seemed mired in feelings of shame
about the slavery past. In the wider social context of Jamaica, for example, the
Bicentenary Committee soon became aware that it was operating within an
environment in which, over four decades after Goveia observed that:

... in a country such as ours, where shame about the past too often fills the
place that should be held by knowledge, knowledge of the past must play its part in
our liberation from the bonds of the past, '7

Shame still occupied that place that should have, by 2007, been filled by
knowledge. But clearly, pride about the past had still not substituted for that
feeling of shame among segments of African diasporic communities, some of
whom continue to try to bleach away the evidence of that DNA connection; that
hereditary blueprint.
Evidence of the persistence of feelings of 'shame' about the slavery past
surfaced in Jamaica shortly after the launch of the JNBC when the headline 'Don't
Look Back at our Shame: St Elizabeth Councillors Reject Proposal to Celebrate
Abolition of Slave Trade' appeared in Jamaica's Sunday Observer newspaper.
This not only re-started a contested discourse on slavery but also resurrected an
earlier "dominant and hegemonic discursive formation about slavery"'". as Ashraf
Rushdy would put it. Reporter Garfield Myers, went on to tell Jamaicans that a
Resolution drawn up by the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation urging all Parish
Councils to find meaningful ways to mark the bicentennial, had been rejected by
the St. Elizabeth Parish Council (hereafter SEPC).

Convinced that "slavery and the trafficking of slaves were shameful aspects
of Jamaica's past," Jamaica Labour Party Councilor, Broderick Wright, claiming
to be following Sir Alexander Bustamante's ideology, opposed the motion on the
basis that "we should celebrate our achievements (but) we should not look back at
our shame". In supporting Wright, People's National Party Councilor, Winston
Sinclair, (in a manner reminiscent of the 1888 Gleaner extract quoted above), gave
as his justification, "we need to leave slavery behind and forget it. All I want to
know is how to develop this country". 19 The Councillors also opposed what they
interpreted as a call to 'celebrate' the bicentennial; and vowed that under no
circumstances would they be persuaded to celebrate the activities of white
abolitionists, or build monuments to them. The Resolution had called on the
Jamaica National Heritage Trust to oversee the construction of monuments to the
black and white abolitionists; but, according to Councillor Wright, in particular, he
knew of no black abolitionists. This reflected a reluctance to number the black
anti-slavery activists among the 'abolitionists'.

The Councillors' objection to the use of the word 'celebrate' in the KSAC
Resolution stimulated a side battle over the language of representation reminiscent
of the public debates over the Columbus Quincentenary, when the Caribbean
seemed unable to decide whether it was 'celebrating', 'commemorating',
'observing' or 'marking' a milestone event that had such devastating impact on the
indigenous peoples. Jamaica's then Minister of Education, Burchell Whiteman
eventually had to make peace with the anti-celebration voices of 1992-94 by

insisting that Jamaica was 'marking' and 'observing', not 'celebrating,' a historic
anniversary. Interestingly enough, history repeated itself during the bicentennial
in 2007. While 'observe' or 'mark' appeared to have been the preferred
terminology among intellectuals, with 'commemorate' cropping up from time to
time, there were those in the region who insisted that not to 'celebrate' was to deny
the role of the anti-slavery activists in forcing Britain's hand towards passing the
Abolition Act. A similar linguistic battle had been observed in the French
Caribbean during their 150'h emancipation anniversary. Then, Ina Cesaire had
constructed an opinion typological matrix for Martinique and found that eight
different opinions ranging from the 'native response' to the 'outsider response'
were revealed. What dominated that matrix though was the opinion that "In our
country, there are many people who wish to make this anniversary a
commemoration and not a celebration".20

The objection to the uses of 'commemorate' or 'celebrate' was not confined
to the Caribbean but was noted in the United Kingdom. In her message to the chair
of the JNBC dated December 6, 2006, Deborah Gabriel, editor of Colourful
Network, appeared to be quite outraged at the idea of Jamaica 'commemorating'
the bicentenary. She wrote:

".... I would like to know why the word 'commemorate' is being
used particularly in reference to the choice of date March 25th,
which does not represent African resistance to enslavement but a
white-washed version of history which purports a parliamentarian
by the name of William Wilberforce to be the person associated
with the ending of slavery..... It's quite astonishing to see Jamaica
leading the Caribbean in colluding with what can only be described
as a major attempt to use 2007 to absolve itself (and this is where
she loses me) for its past crimes against the humanity of African
people.... Why is Jamaica not leading the call for reparation
instead of getting ready to celebrate the African holocaust?"
Of course, a JNBC member had to swiftly educate Ms. Gabriel about just
what Jamaica set out to do with 2007 not celebrate or commemorate so-called
'British benevolence', but celebrate African resistance that led to the passage of
the Abolition Act, honour the ancestors through sites of memory, and intensify the
call for reparation. Had the island and the region generally not decided to take this
approach, Caribbean people would have been inundated with greater
"Wilberforcemania", a project that was tried through the local screening of

Amazing Grace, which the JNBC had refused to endorse, despite a request for it to
do so.

But to return to the SEPC; both PNP and JLP Councillors, without
submitting the Resolution to a debate or a vote, and in the absence of the Mayor,
took the decision not to support the Resolution. In the days and weeks that
followed, public response was swift, with the nation divided between those who
condemned and those who supported the SEPC's position.2 The Editor of the
Observer was the first to attack the SEPC, followed by letters to the editors of the
various newspapers and opinion pieces by well-known and not so well-known
Jamaicans, at home and abroad, among them22 Prof. Rex Nettleford, opposition
spokesman on Education (now Minister of Education), Andrew Holness and
journalist Claude Robinson.23 Operating from the standpoint that "ignoring
history is not the answer", the Observer Editor lamented the position taken by
people who were political leaders, pointing out that
.... it is exceedingly worrying that parish councillors who are not
just political representatives but community leaders in a highly
Holiness position to shape public opinion, should hold such views
on an issue that is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of our
Les Francis maintained that "...... These politicians and anyone else who
wants to deny our history should be the ones ashamed of themselves".25 Andrew
Holiness responded with an informed, historical piece titled 'Do not deny our
history' in which he chided, encouraged, and educated, stressing that

...the abolition of the Slave trade is a pivotal milestone that
marked the formation of the modern Jamaican state... the abolition
of the Slave trade should be acknowledged as the first victory of
black political activism.... While the work of abolitionists, like
Wilberforce and Pitt, deserves] attention in history, so too does the
resistance of slaves and freed blacks. 26

But as far as many other people were concerned, March 25, 2007 was a
British anniversary, imposed by Government fiat with no groundswell from the
people, who should, therefore, ignore it. After all, the Abolition Act changed very
little. The trade continued, albeit this time deemed illegal, intra-regional
relocation/trading in peoples intensified and the Slave system remained firmly in
place; not being abolished until over 30 years later.27 This 'long postponement' of
freedom was one reason that Richard Gott in his article in the UK Guardian, urged
people in the UK, "who might find themselves caught up in the prolonged bout of

self-congratulation imposed by government fiat to celebrate the bicentenary in a
minor, not major key.",2 One 'Fuddy-Duddy' was quick to inform him that
"ordinary citizens would largely ignore this anniversary".

People on this side of the debate also added that, faced with the prospect of
carrying on the productive processes of the sugar economy with a diminishing
supply of labour after 1807- and a labour supply radicalized by Haitian
anti-slavery politics at that the Slave regime became more brutal. The year 1807,
then, signified greater repression. For all these reasons, the arguments went,
Caribbean governments should focus not on a celebratory event, not even on the
pain of slavery, but on urging current political regimes to eradicate the
contemporary legacies of slavery, like the prevailing pigmentocracy; and the
problems of development.
Others maintained that for so long, so much repressed memory; so much
silence had surrounded the topic of the trade in Africans via the Atlantic, the facts
of the abolition campaign and the experiences of African peoples, that one should
not blame those who responded like the St. Elizabeth Councillors; that many
African diasporic peoples do embrace the psychology of victim-hood; do believe
that slavery is a shameful family secret because the dominant knowledge system
has projected African complicity the brother-selling brother syndrome. Many
expound the view that "the fate of the black person in modernity is not solely the
result of the 'Other's' tyrannical will and cruelty" without looking at the fact that
the temporalities of servitude and suffering were not the same on both sides of the

Anne Bailey, author of African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade, in
supporting this idea that silence surrounds the history of the trans Atlantic trade in
Africans on all sides of the Atlantic, elaborated: "Growing up in Jamaica, I was
engulfed by this silence. Slavery and the Slave trade were not exactly taboo
subjects, but they were not subjects that many Jamaicans readily discussed",
although she was aware of a few "whispers'. 30
With very few exceptions, those who attacked the Councillors accused them
of being misguided, mis/uninformed and ignorant of their history; a history that
had long uncovered the agency of black people in the abolitionist campaign,
within an era when "the new social history [had] carved out a space for the
emphasis on subaltern studies or the history from below approach that could be
translated into the celebration and commemoration of heroic events and episodes
in the experiences of such groups of subaltern peoples." They argued that
commemoration of important historical moments often provides people with an

opportunity to vent their emotions, leading to healing and catharsis, even
reconciliation.3 As Higman noted, such commemoration "is central to the popular
representation of the past, offering opportunities for ... the public expression of
pride and apology, regret and nostalgia offering opportunities for the state to lead a
cathartic movement."32 In reinforcing this rationale, Nicolette Bethel, who took
over the leadership of the bicentennial activities in the Bahamas after the
unfortunate passing of Winston Saunders, asked the question: "So why should we
commemorate Abolition?" Her answer, "For our culture and our language, at the
very least. And of course, for all the ancestors who were changed by it, and who by
that change changed us African, Creole, White, liberated, slaves, and free."33
By April 30, 2006, most of the St. Elizabeth Parish Councillors, armed with
more information from JNBC members in the south-western part of the island
about the nature of Jamaica's calendar of events (which did not centre solely on
March 25), had 'back-pedalled' on their March position and agreed to support the
Resolution when it came back on the table for voting in September 2006, (and they
honoured their promise, as the same diligent Observer reporter noted in October
2006 in 2 headline articles, viz: 'St. Elizabeth PC Makes New Gesture on Slavery:
Councillors Want To Help Plan Abolition Celebration'" and "The St. Elizabeth
Parish Council Backpedals on Slavery").
The JNBC duly breathed a sigh of relief and proceeded to secure good
bi-partisan support for the planned events, without any obvious tension between
central and local government. Certainly, people from all sections of the political
spectrum supported the opening event at Emancipation Park in Kingston on
January 2, 2007, Haiti's Ancestors' Day. The choice of that day was in recognition
of Haiti's fundamental role in the regional anti-slavery campaign; for Jamaica was
determined not to focus on March 25, 1807 alone but on a programme of
educational activities that would restore greater balance to the story of abolition.
In the UK, on the other hand, there was some tension between Central
Government and cities like London, judging by statements attributed to Ken
Livingstone, mayor of London, who believed that the National Government was
anxious to move the celebrations away from London to far-flung Liverpool,
Bristol and Hull as if London had nothing to do with the trans Atlantic trade in
Africans. The Mayor was quoted as saying "I will do everything in my power to
keep this commemoration as a key element in London's calendar this year"; [for]
"...London's involvement [in the Slave trade] was both longer and deeper than
any other British city". His charge that 200,000 set aside in his budget for the
commemoration was under threat from the majority Conservative group in the

London Assembly, was described as a 'shameless lie' by leader of the
Conservative group, Angie Bray, whose view, nevertheless, was that 'a better way
of commemorating yesterday's slavery would have been to put the money towards
tackling today's slavery which sadly still carries on in London today".
But I wish now to return to the questions brought sharply into focus by the
example of the St. Elizabeth Parish Councilors' original position. The questions
are: why, so long after Goveia made her observation in 1959, do people still feel
such shame over the question of slavery and what can we do about it in the 21sI
century ?
I can only speculate about the answers; and this might even be dangerous
ground for a historian. But first we have to interrogate the literature on 'shame' to
understand how deep-seated are its origins and impact; for as many experts have
argued, shame is not an emotion that is easily dislodged. In Shame and the
Origins of Self-Esteem, Mario Jacoby tells us that "shame has many ... causes
and effects including feelings of inferiority, embarrassment and humiliation": that
"a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem is the root cause of a susceptibility to
shame." 3 That shame can arise from "Membership in a certain race [which] can
... provoke a sense of inferiority, because of the internalization of negative
attitudes to one's race developed by others; the knowledge of the humiliation
meted out to ancestors and in a class society the fear of association with slavery
ancestors."36 Of course, while Jacoby locates the origins of shame in childhood
experiences and moder-day psychological factors, Ron Eyerman and many
Caribbean historians focus more explicitly on the trauma of the slavery
There has been no shortage of suggestions about how African pride,
self-worth and pride in the historical past can be fostered among African diasporic
peoples. There is a strong view that a combination of empowering knowledge
about the past, show-casing pride in the achievements of one's ancestors
(especially those denigrated and negatively stereotyped in traditional knowledge
systems) and iconographic decolonization removing the iconic stamp of the
colonizer from the landscape and substituting local icons; insisting on
reparation"; and eliminating the victim psychology, could all be helpful strategies.
The rationale for most of these suggestions is that in a region where there are still
lingering problems of black identity as well as shame and guilt about the past,
instilling pride in the past may help to address a culture of negative self image
manifested in violence, bleaching etc39

The failure of Europeans countries involved in the trade in Africans to
apologise for their participation, indeed the apparent strengthening of their 2001
Durban position, noises from then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Andrew
Hawkins, the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Methodist Churches, and Peter
Hain, notwithstanding, intensified the call for reparation among African diasporic
peoples, who believed it was the only cause worth fighting during the bicentennial
year and the only solution to the present fractured state of global relations. Indeed,
as Larry Smith noted, "international plans for the abolition bicentenary [was] tied
to a raging debate over whether the descendents of Slave Africans are entitled to
reparations and official apologies."4" Peter Hain, outspoken Northern Island and
Wales Secretary came under fire for seeming to go where Blair feared to tread and
issuing an apology for the roles that Northern Ireland and Wales played in the trade
in Africans"'. Blair, on the contrary, steadfastly refused to call the trade in Africans
a crime against humanity, only admitting that: "It is hard to believe that what
would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time". Baroness Amos,
leader of the House of Lords made things worse by her comments that: "in
reflecting on the past and looking to the future (England's official logo), it is
important to address three contemporary issues of relevance to the bicentenary: the
challenges facing Africa today; the discrimination, inequality and racism that still
exist in our society and the modern forms of slavery like people trafficking and
child labour that persist today".

Lee Jasper, race advisor to London's mayor, predicted correctly that Blair's
failure to issue an outright apology would "infuriate the descendants of enslaved
Africans who want and deserve a full and unfettered apology for what is one of the
greatest crimes in human history...". Richard Gott's sympathetic suggestion that
"the demand for reparations is a serious proposition, similar to the claims put
forward by the families of holocaust survivors for the return of property stolen by
the Nazis" set off a spate of angry internet responses. Someone identifying as
"marketsaremonsters" said somewhat sarcastically: "I think I agree [with Gott's
rationale for Black people's claim for reparation] and look forward to launching
my own claim for the lands and property stolen from MY ancestors during the
enclosures, and by the Monarch and his barons". There were many other such
On this side of the Atlantic pro-reparation voices became louder, demanding
that Bicentenary Committees place the matter high on their agendas which
Antigua, Jamaica and St. Vincent did. Dorbrene O'Marde of the Antiguan
Bicentenary Committee went to great lengths to stress that "one of the legacies we

hope to establish for the commemoration is a strong movement calling for
reparation". Among the other authoritative voices were Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, Prime Minister Ralph Gonzalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
(in his 2006 speech to the UN General Assembly); and politicians in Jamaica, who,
led by Minister Mike Henry, debated the matter in the House of Parliament,
attracting support but also ridicule in what was also an election year.

The strong historical justification, of course, was that the forced
transportation of over 15 million enslaved Africans to the Caribbean and the wider
Americas, the permanent dislocation of over 30 million in communities across the
continent, and the mutilation and murder of millions unknown, constituted
modernity's greatest crime against humanity. Western European culture, while
aggressively championing the cause of human liberty, political freedom, and the
public accountability of government, promoted and globalize for near 400 years
racialized black chattel slavery; and have so far failed to repair the economic and
psychological damage done by slavery and the trade.
While there is no guarantee that intensifying the call for reparation- even
winning reparation- or any of the other strategies mentioned earlier will instill
pride for we may well be way off in our diagnosis of the problem anyway, there
is a tendency for this question of 'pride' to be raised on each occasion that
anniversaries related to slavery are observed in the Caribbean; and the bicentenary
was no exception.

Finding evidence of 'pride' in the past from the historical records is not hard,
especially evidence from the period of slavery and the abolitionists' campaign.
This was clearly evident in the UK where 'Wilberforcemania' was rife in 2007;
and where the people of Belfast, in rejecting Peter Hain's apology, put forward a
less damning image, insisting that "there was a very, very, strong pro-abolition and
anti-slavery movement in Belfast which chimed with the kind of reception of the
French Revolution". They trotted out names like Mary Ann McCraken and
Thomas Macabe to remind Hain about the proud anti-slavery stance of the Irish -
in Ireland (if not in Montserrat).
In the case of the Caribbean, since the appearance of Goveia's 1950s work
on Slave society and CLR James' magnificent narrative on Haitian agency,
Caribbean revisionist historiography on slavery has proceeded at breakneck
speed. Despite one view that: ".... surely, given the paucity of resources to
finance the university and the urgent need to generate wealth in and across
Caribbean societies, the UWI cannot continue to afford expenditure on subject

matters such as slavery", 42 scholars, among them those at the UWI, continue to
study slavery from every conceivable angle.
The objective of many of these works is not simply to add new empirical
data to this most rapidly expanding field. When I did my study on the non-sugar
sector in Jamaica's Slave system, my intention was much broader than telling
people what they already knew: that Caribbean economy was diversified and
self-sufficient in certain commodities. My larger project was to intervene in the
dominative even canonical theories of monoculture and the staple thesis; agency
and intra-Caribbean relationships under slavery, showing the relationship between
occupation and agency and proving that Caribbean inter-connectedness was not a
complete casualty of colonization and the monopolistic tendencies of empire.
The point is that the research on enslavement and the trade in African has been
located within a wider political project: that of producing a more liberating
narrative of self.
Indeed, since the period of modernity, Caribbean people have sought to
eradicate and dismantle historical representations of the Caribbean in text and
image that mostly reflected European colonial subjectivity and authority".44 The
production of alternative knowledge was a particularly critical aspect of what Bill
Ashcroft et. al refer to as the counter-colonial resistance45; for the Caribbean has
been affected by a historically constructed image that still influences
self-knowledge as well as global attitudes towards its citizens. This image,
paraded as 'truth' and knowledge,' was the product of the minds and pens of
generations of writers from the North Atlantic System, who appropriated the
project of producing knowledge on the Caribbean for overseas consumption. The
knowledge produced had a discrete political purpose: to support European
imperialism and "dislodge and disorient" the Caribbean in the same manner that it
did Africa and the Orients, following Dani Nabudere's and Edward Said's
formulations.46 Caribbean scholars were forced to engage in a project of
reconstruction, constructing indigenous interpretations of the Caribbean
experience, fashioned by explicit formulations and theoretical constructs and
offering the antithesis to the imperialist view of the Caribbean world.
Now, even a cursory survey of the historiography of slavery and the trans
Atlantic trade in Africans, of decolonization and the emergence of modern
Caribbean societies, from Elsa Goveia to the contemporary crop of researchers,
will indicate that there is abundant evidence that can be used to convince
Caribbean people of the achievements of their ancestors.47 I have no intention of
detailing that research here; but suffice it to say, in summary, that we no longer

have to look too hard to prove the glorious and free African origins of
African-Caribbean people; of the role of enslaved people's agency in opposing the
Middle Passage4" and in destabilizing the slave system; to find the political role of
enslaved communities of men and women in the Caribbean, who in the context of
the wider Atlantic dimensions of the trade in Africans, were its fiercest foes. We
do not have to dig too deeply to find evidence of the search for self-worth and
economic identity; in fostering a sense of self-reliance; of cultural survival.
Caribbean historians have told the other side of the abolition story, centring
the role of Black activists in the campaign; and every reference to the erosion of
male masculinity, family, love relationships among the enslaved and Caribbean
domestic economies can be met with research that proves the existence of nuclear
families, caring black parents, love and intra-regional trade which incidentally
was not a total casualty of the mercantilist dictates of empire. There was economic
marronage and a certain creolization of Caribbean economy according to a meaning of
creolization that is more closely aligned to the perspective offered by Rene Depestre
of a historical process resulting from 'maroon activity' outside of the plantation
system that "engendered new modes of thinking, of acting, of feeling, of imagining.'"'

We have no shortage of writers telling us about our ancestors' attempts to
create an Atlantic world citizen out of the culture inequality in a world of partners
that were not really partners. We can produce evidence from Eric Williams,
Joseph Inikori, Selwyn Carrington and most recently Robert Beckford in his
documentary 'The Empire Pays Back' and even in Prime Minister Blair's
non-apology, and notwithstanding, Seymour Drescher, that our African ancestors
were fundamental to the industrial development of Europe. By his own admission,
Blair stated in 2007 that: "Britain played an active role in the trans Atlantic trade,
which had a profound impact on Africa and the Caribbean; and acknowledged that
Britain's present-day economic prosperity and rise to global pre-eminence was
due partially to its participation in the trade."'5
Whether reflected in the research on colonial, post-colonial or postmodern
Caribbean societies, our scholars have intervened in and destabilized the dominant
discourse that used to argue that the Caribbean was a place devoid of ideas and
intellectual thought. Political ideology and concepts of human rights were already
sophisticated in the political philosophies and ideologies of black abolitionists 51
long before the emergence of the philosophical teachings of Marcus Garvey, Aime
Cesaire, Franz Fanon, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Chalkdust, Rudder
and Anthony 'B'.

Sadly, while Caribbean historians were trying to provide a more nuanced
view of the abolition campaign in 2007, the abolition story was still very much
following the traditional line in the UK, leading to complaints from the Black
community that Britain plans to "eradicate African freedom fighters from the
bicentenary ... celebrations". It was within this context that some frowned on the
presence of the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Right Hon, Owen Arthur, at the
official re-opening of Wilberforce House Museum in Hull to mark the bicentenary
of the passing of the Slave Trade Abolition Act.52 Toyin Agbetu, member of a
coalition of pan-African organizations in the UK expressed fear that "Africans in
Britain are subjected to the prospect of a culturally humiliating experience where
the education curriculum of the UK is to potentially incorporate 'slavery lessons'
and 'black history' where the story of Africans begins at enslavement and ends
with British abolition".
Still, despite the fact that Caribbean historians have spent the last 50 or so
years writing a more empowering history; and UNESCO has, since 1998,
embarked on an elaborate project to break the silence and address the issues of
shame and guilt surrounding the trans Atlantic trade and African enslavement,
especially among vulnerable children, ignorance and shame about the past persist.
New knowledge has not resulted in the transformation of our societies in
ideological, philosophical and psychological terms, small steps along the way
notwithstanding. From what Anne Bailey found in her investigation into Jamaican
public history in 2001 and 2002, when she tried "to determine how Jamaicans
remembered slavery in a contemporary context," knowledge about the past does
not appear to have to have transcended text and inhabited the public space.5 And
despite the evidence provided by slavery scholars about the brutality of the
enslavers, the feelings of'shame' continue to be attached firmly to the descendants
of enslaved people to the victims of the system rather than to the perpetrators.
The question for Caribbean historians now is: Can we really move the
history of slavery from text to public space more effectively than we have been
doing for the past 5-6 decades, especially in view of the belief that Caribbean
people are still trapped in the effects of cultural trauma as cultural process, in Ron
Eyerman's formulation? Cultural trauma refers to a dramatic loss of identity and
meaning; an event that has become ingrained in national consciousness and
collective memory; "a tear in the social fabric"54 As cultural process, trauma is
mediated through various forms of representation and linked to the reformation of
collective identity and the reworking of collective memory. Though not
experienced directly by today's African-descended people, the trauma of

enslavement has come to be central in our attempts to forge a collective identity
out of its remembrance. As reflective process, trauma links past to present through
representations and imaginations.5

Conditions like psychological trauma require medical treatment, say some.
Others believe that there is complementary, non-medical treatment, including
re-voicing the African experience through providing the descendants of enslaved
ancestors with tangible sites of memory as part of a larger project of iconographic
decolonization; if you will, with a way of inscribing the images of African people
on the cultural landscape especially within a region where an expanding tourist
culture is threatening to efface their black faces and keep their black bodies away
from tourist spaces or as 2007 reflected, from ICC controlled spaces. Some may
scoff at the idea as not being monumental enough a solution to a monumental
problem; but for those who claim that the trauma of slavery affects collective
memory and thus identity, some action is required; since for such individuals the
past becomes the present through their embodied reactions as they carry out their
daily lives.
This belief has inspired many countries in the region to build sites of
memory in honour of the enslaved Africans; and that project continued during the
bicentennial year. Many see monuments as a cathartic way to deal with the cultural
trauma that was slavery; as part of the process of completing that self-conscious
project of iconic decolonization started by post-colonial regimes in the first years
after independence, continuing to find agency in the lives and experiences of our
ancestors, and seeing the social transformative dimensions of their struggles. The
research on slavery has provided us with the data we need to create such liminal
spaces; with tangible proof of the existence of the people about whom Goveia and
other slavery scholars wrote: of their biography, history and proof of existence.
These could form prominent landmarks of the trans Atlantic trade in Africans;
spatial vocabulary to express the great drama between enslaver and enslaved.5
It was such data on slavery (specifically the names on the punishment list
from the 1831/32 Sam Sharpe-led emancipation war), that allowed the Jamaica
National Heritage Trust, starting from the standpoint that the tangible sites of
memory that have been showcased traditionally continue the silencing of the
voices of the African and Taino ancestors, to build and unveil a 'Freedom
Monument' in St. James to honour those anti-slavery activists whose names have
been previously buried in the Archives. The Monument reflects the brutality of
slavery and the horrors of its superstructure; but is also showcases the names of the
heroes and heroines whose agency should inspire us, make us feel proud. In

Barbados, a plaque was unveiled on March 25, 2007 during their bicentennial
observance at the Bay Street Esplanade. The plaque, to be shifted to the
Bridgetown wharf area where there used to be a Slave market, was said by Dame
Billie Miller to be "a tribute in honour and recognition of the efforts of those who
fought in the cause of the abolition of the Slave trade". It read, in part "as a tribute
to the strength and resilience of those African enslaved persons who were
transported across the Atlantic Ocean and . were sold as slaves to Barbadian
Slave masters"57. The 'Golden Stool" Administrative Building on the Cave Hill
campus will be yet another symbol of honour for the enslaved African ancestors.

As Goveia once remarked all those years ago in her reflective process:

The West Indians of today cannot justly deny their debt to these
rebels against the old subjection, though it might best be repaid in
works rather than in words.' "For their unwearied efforts first
created the possibility of a new, free and equal society in the West
Indies."5" "...there is much to be learnt from the experiences of
those who took part in these struggles for reform. ....who centred
what ought to have been seen as universal tenets of liberty and
equality and raised the fundamental question then ... as to whether
the rights of man should be recognized and respected in the West
Indies. 5

1. An earlier version of this essay was presented as the 24th Elsa Goveia Memorial
Lecture at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, on Tuesday,
February 27, 2007. Modified versions were presented as "Bicentennial Blues: at York
University, England, April 2007; at Warwick University in July 2007 as "Bicentennial
Blues", and at the 10th SOCARE/JNBC Bicentennial Conference in December 2007 as
"The Bicentennial Commemoration in Jamaica: Conflict or Consensus?"
2. Elsa Goveia, Introduction to the Federation Exhibition, 1959, Quoted in Woodville
Marshall, "Foreword', in Hilary Beckles, ed., Inside Slavery: Process and Legacy in the
Caribbean Experience (Canoe Press, Kingston, 1996), vii.
3. David Scott, "The Government of Freedom", in Brian Meeks and Folke Lindhal,
eds., New Caribbean Thought: A Reader ( Kingston: The Press, UWI, 2001), 429
4. Ibid., 428
5. Barbados Nation Newspaper, March 25, 2007
6. Tony Best, Barbados Nation Newspaper, March 25, 2007
7. Edward Scaga, "Some Shameful Sins of Slavery,' Sunday Gleaner. February 4,
2006, G3 and G6

8. Bridget Brereton, "A Social History of Emancipation Day in the British Caribbean:
The First Fifty Years", in Hilary Beckles, ed., Inside Slavery, 90
9. Daily Gleaner, 1888. I am grateful to Veronica Gregg, for bringing this extract to
my attention.
10. See Marcia Burrowes, "Despite Indifference: An Analysis of the Ideological
Tug-of-War Surrounding the Commemoration of the Jubilee of Emancipation in
Barbados", The Arts Journal, vol. 3 numbers 1&2 (March 2007), 203-204. Guest ed.,
Rita Pemberton.

11. Quoted in Brereton, "A Social History", in Beckles, ed., Inside Slavery, 93.
12. I thank Veronica Gregg for sending me this extract.

13. Brereton, "A Social History", in Hilary Beckles, ed., Inside Slavery, 93
14. I thank Veronica Gregg for this reference
15. Barry Higman, Writing West Indian Histories, (London: Macmillan
Education, 1999), 205. Years later, during Black History Month in 2009, the JLP
Government would host the King and Queen of Spain in the island. There was some
degree of outrage to this visit, based on the impact of Spanish colonization on the
indigenous Tainos and the failure of the government of Spain to pay reparation.

16. Larry Smith, Slavery and the Struggle to End It, TrackBack URL for this entry

17. Quoted in the Foreword of Beckles, ed., Inside Slavery, vii; see also Goveia, 'An
Introduction to the Federation Day Exhibition", 42

18. Quoted in Ashraf Rushdy, Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies in the Social Logic of a
Literary Form ( New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 13
19. Claude Robinson, Sunday Observer, March 19, 2006, 6
20. Ina Cesaire," To Each His Commemoration", in Gert Oostindie, ed, Facing up to
the Past (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2001), 57
21. Observer Editorial, March 13. 2006; Rex Nettleford, Letter to the Observer Editor,
March 14, 2006; Letter to the editor by Les Francis, "Do Not Deny Our History', Daily
Gleaner, March 27, 2006, A7, and Claude Robinson, Sunday Observer, March 19,
2006, 6
22. George McKenzie, Sunday Observer, April 2, 2006, 15:
23. See Andrew Holness' in Observer, Sunday March 19, 2006
24. Daily Observer, Monday March 13, 2006.

25. Les Francis, Daily Gleaner, March 27, 2006, A7
26. Holness, Observer, Sunday March 19, 2006, 7
27. For a support of this idea see Claudius Fergus "Real Date of Abolition", Daily
Express, January 1. 2008, 13

28. Richard Gott, "Britain's Vote to End its Slave Trade was a Precursor to Today's
Liberal Imperialism", Guardian, Wednesday Jany 17, 2007. Internet responses to his
article appeared on January 17, 2007
29. Achille Mbembc, 'The Subject of the World", in Gcrt Oostindie, ed, Facing up to
the Past, 26
30. Anne C. Bailey, Voices of the trans Atlantic Slave Trade (Kingston: lan Randle
Publishers, 2007), 3
31. Many of these views were expressed by callers to radio programmes such as
'Running African', a pan-African programme on Irie FM, hosted by Andrea Williams.
32. Higman, Writing West Indian Histories, (London: Macmillan Education, 1999),203

33. Nicolette Bethell, Slavery and the Struggle to End it. (Bahama Pundit, 2006)
34. Observer of Sunday October 22, 2006. It read in part, "Seven months after
rubbishing a proposal for the celebration of next year's 200''' anniversary of the abolition
of the British trans Atlantic Slave trade, the St Elizabeth Parish Council has agreed to be
part of a planning committee to mark (not celebrate, they were quick to add), this event'.
35. Mario Jacoby, Shame and the Origins ofSelf-Esteem (London & New York:
Routledge, 1994), viii
36. Ibid., 1-2
37. Ron Eyerman, Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American
identity, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)
38. February 6, 2006. Private member's motion (by Mike Henry).
39. The diverse responses to the idea of remembering and commemorating slavery are
not confined to Jamaica. Ina Cesaire identifies at least 8 responses in a typological matrix
reflecting the opinions in Martinique about anniversary of the abolition of slavery
(Oostinde, ed., Facing, pp 56-57), from the 'naive response' to the 'outsider response'/
40. Larry Smith, "Bahamas Commemoration of the trans Atlantic Slave Trade",
(Bahama Pundit, November 29, 2006)
[http://www.bahamapundit.com/2006/1 l/commemorating t.html#more]
41. See Guardian Unlimited, February 15, 2007 and Belfast Telegraph, February 16,

42. Daily Gleaner, February 3, 2004
43. See Verene Shepherd, "Roots of Routes:, in Shepherd, I Want to Disturb Mv
Neighbour (Kingston: lan Randle, 2007), 54-72
44. Petrina Dacres, "Monument and Meaning", Small Axe, No. 16 (September 2004),
149. See also in the same volume, Carolyn Cooper, "Slave in Stereotype: Race and
Representation in Post-Independence Jamaica", 154-169
45. Bill Ashcroft, et. al, eds., The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, (London& New York:
Routledge, 1995), 1

46. This was discussed in Dani Nabudere, "Development Theories, Knowledge
Production and Emancipatory Practices", 50th Anniversary Conference Reviewing the
First Decade of Development and Democracy in South Africa, Durban, October 2004.
See also, Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1992)

47. Elsa V. Goveia, A Study on the Historiography of the British West Indies to the
end of the 19'h century, (Mexico: Intituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, 1956)
48. See Bailey, African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade
49. See Depestre's discussion in Kathleen Balutansky & Marie-AgnCs Sourieau, eds.,
Caribbean Creolization: Reflections on the Cultural Dynamics of Language, Literature
and Identity (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1998) as well as the editors'
summary; and "Les Aventures de la creolite ", in Ralph Ludwig, ed., Ecrire la parole le
la nuit: La nouvelle literature antillaise (Paris: Gallimard, 1994).
50. Bicentennial Watch, #1 Sunday Herald, January 7, 2007
51. See for example, Denis Benn, The Caribbean: An Intellectual History, 1774-2003
(Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2004); O. Nigel Bolland, The Birth of Caribbean
Civilisation: A Century of Ideas about Culture Identity, Nation and Society (Kingston:
lan Randle Publishers & Oxford: James Currey, 2004); Meeks and Lindhal, eds., New
Caribbean Thought; Veronica Marie Gregg, Caribbean Women: An Anthology of
Non-fiction Writing, 1890-1980 (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005)

52. In fact, after officially re-opening the Museum, Mr. Owen Arthur delivered a
Wilberforce Lecture at Holy Trinity church, where William Wilberforce was baptised.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/humber/content/articles/2007/04/02/wforcc_houpd feature.shtml
53. Bailey, African Voices of the Atlanticnslave Trade, 6

54. Eyerman, Cultural Trauma, 2
55. Ibid., 1
56. See David G. Nicholls, "African Americana in Dakar's Liminal Space", in Joanne
Braxton & Maria I. Diedrich, eds., Monuments of the Black Atlantic: Slavery and
Memory (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2004), 141-150 for how the
house of slaves on Goree island has provided such a space for others.
57. Trevor Yearwood "No More", Barbados Nation, March 26, 2007

58. Goveia, A Study on the Historiography ofthe British West Indies, 338
59. Ibid

Commemorations in Jamaica: A Brief History of

The conflicts about how, why, and what aspects of the past should be
remembered have a very long history of their own. The selections in this section
provide a template by which to trace some of these conflicts in order to better
understand, in terms of memory, history, and historiography, the conflicts
surrounding the 2007-2008 commemoration that marked the bicentenary of the
ending of the trans Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans. It is worthy of note that
during the intense debates that led to eventual abolition of the trade in Africans,
there were in Jamaica commemorations and monuments designed to reinforce the
planters' deep commitment to law, liberty, and property as their absolute rights as
transplanted Englishmen. The slave colony's value to Britain, they emphasized,
resided in the wealth of the planters. There were others who shared this view.
During efforts to rebuff the French invasion in the Caribbean in 1782, Admiral
George Bridges Rodney sent a letter to Jamaican Governor Dalling:
I have written to the commander-in-chief of his Majesty's ships,
on your station, to send me constant intelligence of the situation of
affairs in your island, that I may send speedy succours should
occasion require it, being fully convinced that Jamaica cannot be
taken while I have the honour to command a large fleet in these
seas, and animated with a spirit firmly determined to support its
preservation at all events, and that numbers may not be wanted to
defend so important a jewel from being wrested from the crown of
Great Britain, I have given orders that one hundred stout seamen
with proper officers, from each of the line-of- battle ships, may be
disciplined and trained to small arms, to act as soldiers on shore,
should there be an occasion for their landing. ... I mention these
particulars only to convince the gentlemen of your island how
much and sincerely I have its preservation at heart, and how much
my attention has been taken up towards so desirable a purpose."'
The following year the House of Assembly voted to erect a marble statue to
Lord Rodney, "as a mark of gratitude and veneration for his gallant services, so
timely and gloriously performed for the salvation of the island in particular, as well

as the whole of the British West India islands." The Jamaican House of Assembly
memorialized Rodney by erecting the statue in 1790.

Even as the slave trade debates were being waged in England and in the
Caribbean, the planters understood that their 1795 war with the Maroons posed an
even more direct threat to their way of life. At the conclusion of the war the House
of Assembly voted seven hundred guineas for the purchase of a sword to honour
the Earl of Balcarres, as a mark of their gratitude to him for the preservation of
their liberty, civil rights, and property:

"This great and important event must be productive of substantial
benefits and salutary consequences to the country, in every point of
view in which it can be contemplated: tranquillity and the
enjoyment of our civil rights, are restored; public credit, so
essential to the support of government, and to the prosperity, if not
to the very existence of the country, is re-established, and our
internal security greatly increased and confirmed. From all these
inestimable advantages, we look forward with confidence to the
augmentation of the value of property, which is likely to take place;
and which, in time, we trust will compensate all the losses and
expenditure of treasure unavoidably incurred in the prosecution of
the war."3

Understandably, after the slave trade and slavery itself were abolished
questions of homage, commemoration, and memory became even more complex
and fraught. In 1839, the Black members of the Falmouth Baptist Church
congregation in the parish ofTrelawny planted a tree as a way of remembering and
commemorating slavery and freedom. The tree was meant to stand as a symbol of
nature, renewal, freedom, past, and future. Their effort was destroyed. Once that
desire was thwarted, the formerly enslaved decided instead to create a monument
and plaque. They passed a resolution that read as follows:

"That, as the lovers of slavery, and the haters of our race, have
destroyed the tree which we planted in commemoration the
glorious day which made us men, a monument be erected in this
chapel to perpetuate this delightful event; so that our children and
our children's children, while they worship the God of their
fathers, may, with gratitude and love, view the memento of the
temporal freedom which it pleased the Eternal to bestow on their

The year 1888, the Jubilee Year of Emancipation, marks a decisive
moment when the descendants of the formerly enslaved consciously and
deliberately intervened in the system of knowledge and the ways of thought
through which Jamaica was being constructed (See Dingwall and Gordon in this
volume). These writers are emblematic of a black tradition of political thought and
cultural activity that had sprung up since slavery. Their contributions directly
confront the question of commemoration, intellect, thought, and memory in Black
people's fight for freedom and for their right to commemorate the past. Another
example of this initiative appeared that same year in the Gleaner. (It is less
articulate but no less determined, although the publication of the unedited letter
was meant to mock the letter writers.)

"We the Loyal subjects ... do this day humbly beg of you as our
Representative to our Gracious Queen Victoria on our part in
rejoicing the memory of our emancipated family on the Jubilee the
first of August. We desire to enjoy that day with every mark of
respect. We therefore humbly beg you will grant ... free privilege
of enjoyment of all kind without the molestation of any public
officer, unless for undue course as murder. We, your honour,
humbly beg your special answer, at the same time we are your most
humbly servants".5

The plea to be left in peace to commemorate their ancestors' freedom
marks an ironic awareness of the hostility they faced, as can be seen from a letter
titled, "Let the Dead Past Bury Its Dead."' There were also suggestions that such
commemoration would bear hatred against the' white' race and do nothing for the
'black' race. These interventions in the late-nineteenth century were all the more
significant because it was a period shaped by such powerful and conflicting forces
and events as the Morant Bay Rebellion, and its aftermath; as well as the American
Civil War, Reconstruction, the end of Reconstruction, and the extension of US
imperial ambitions in the Caribbean. It was also the period of the European
scramble for Africa, the rise of Social Darwinism, and the Jubilee of Queen
Victoria.7 This era also saw an intense focus on anthropological studies of Black
folklore, Black folktale, as well as West Indian manners and customs. There was
also an interest in travel writing alongside the growth of the subgenre of the
colonial romance. The latter half of the nineteenth century was also the period of
religious revivals, the evolution of popular Black consciousness, and the
propagation of popular cultural and religious movements, in particular, the advent

of the figures of Harrison "Shakespeare" Woods and Alexander Bedward of the
Native Baptist Church.
The growth of Pan Africanism, and especially the work of J. Robert Love,
played the most decisive role in the conflicts about commemoration. In 1894 Love
organized the People's Convention to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of
the ending of slavery; it became an annual event. The occasion was also used to
discuss popular education, land distribution, voter registration, and citizenship.
The newspaper that he founded, the Jamaica Advocate, argued for self
-government as a birthright, and Love and other members of his association
maintained a focus on the political representation of Blacks. Love also published
in full the proceedings of the 1900 Pan African conference, which helped to
publicize it in Jamaica. Equally important in the first decades of the twentieth
century, were the efforts at creating both a civil society that included Blacks and
the founding of organizations such as the National Club and its journal, Our Own.
Marcus Garvey, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA) would expand the political and cultural efforts, and would move the
struggle for Black self-assertion to an international level, even as their political
and cultural contributions continued in Jamaica. In 1934, for example, the
Universal Negro Improvement Association organized what was described as one
of the biggest processions ever witnessed to commemorate Emancipation Day.
The previous year in England, Harold Moody had been invited to speak at a
commemoration in honour of William Wilberforce. He used the occasion to both
praise Wilberforce and indict the efforts to deny the humanity and agency of the
Black people of the past and the present. In the decades of the thirties,
Pan-Africanism created trans Atlantic intellectual and cultural spaces and
opportunities for Black Jamaican intellectuals to read and respond to the work of
their counterparts in other areas of the African Diaspora. This development
influenced writers such as Amy Bailey, who in her 1938 article, included here,
meditates on the meanings of the past for the present.
By the 1940s and 1950s, the still powerful colonial and imperial forces,
both inside and outside of Jamaica, responded to the growing assertion of Black
thought and memory and the resistances upon which they depended and helped to
forward. For example, in 1942, one day before the celebration of Emancipation
Day, Canadian and US troops were ordered out on parade. "The marching troops
were a tacit warning that Jamaican police are backed by armed forces." 10 The
show of force indicated the growing US role, in particular, in the Caribbean. In
Jamaica itself, the ideological ground had shifted (or perhaps, had reasserted

itself). The thrust by intellectuals, writers, and activists to shape a history that
focused on the centrality of African descendants would now be challenged. Other
Jamaican intellectuals and opinion-makers, fighting a rearguard action, insisted
that Jamaica was a multi-racial society, and that the focus on blackness was
wrongheaded and even racist. The historian, novelist, and man of letters, W.
Adolphe Roberts who was one of the protagonists in the struggle for
self-government, argued: "It is full time that we stopped celebrating the abolition
of slavery (see his essay in this volume).
The debates about the meanings of Jamaica and about memory and
forgetting were dramatized most effectively by the moves to commemorate the
tercentenary of the English colonization in 1955. Those who argued against the
commemoration of Emancipation Day eagerly supported the 3001h anniversary of
English colonization as a celebration; and did so on the eve of national
independence. Emancipation Day, it was asserted, was "racial" and included only
Black people, the celebration of the English conquest of Jamaica was "multiracial"
or "nonracial" and inclusive and therefore more national, and more representative
of Jamaica. Wycliffe Bennett as organizer of the cultural event, was determined
that it should not be a celebration of English conquest but as an occasion for taking
stock of the country's checkered history, and the resistances, as a means of
preparing the way for nationalism. He chose his words very carefully (see essay in
this volume) Like Harold Moody before him, although in a different register,
Bennett refers, ironically, to the uneven progress of Jamaican history, which
included the abolition of slavery, the surrendering of the Constitution in 1865, the
birth of national consciousness in the 1930s, and the new constitution in 1944. He
pointedly argues then that the recognition of English colonization of Jamaica
should not be a celebration, but should be an occasion for reflecting on the
"strength of the past behind us and the benefit of experience we have gained."
This, he attests, is the real reason for Jamaica 300. Scholars such as Howard
Johnson and Linnette Vassell have given us insights into the cultural significance,
conflicts, misalliances, and transvaluations that characterized the planning and
discussions of Jamaica 300.

The decade of the fifties ended with the emergence of Claudius Henry, the
self-declared "Repairer of the Breach."'" In explicitly identifying himself and his
organization with the question of reparation (which is implied in his appropriation
of the term "Repairer") Henry linked the dispossession of Black Jamaicans to the
history of the slave trade, slavery, and racism. In 1959 the African Reformed

Church celebrated the Emancipation Jubilee, even though it was largely ignored
by mainstream Jamaican society.

In the 1960s, at a national level, the commemoration of Emancipation Day
was suspended, replaced by Independence Day. Paradoxically and inevitably, the
political, intellectual, and cultural conflicts over commemorations and Jamaican
identity did not cease; rather, they intensified during this period. The historical
narrative on the Morant Bay Rebellion dominated the thinking during its centenary
commemoration, revealing the profoundly political context of collective memory.
The debates about the questions of memory and monument brought together, in
contention, the various strands of the history of Jamaican society. Edna Manley's
sculpture of Paul Bogle and Sylvia Wynter's play A Balladfor a Rebellion (1965),
which were commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the Morant Bay
Rebellion, underscored the tensions that clustered in the Jamaican society around
questions of race, Jamaicanness, and most especially, the past. A contributor,
"Political Reporter," articulates some of the dimensions of the conflict:

"The public controversy now going on about Paul Bogle and the
1865 events in Morant Bay is, perhaps, an indication of Jamaica's
desire to let bygones be bygones.
I have been told that the Government is wasting taxpayers' money
in carrying through these centenary ceremonies. I have been asked
to agree. Needless to say I have disagreed. I have always
considered that the 1865 events laid the basis of Jamaica today;
but for Paul Bogle and his determined band of African Jamaicans
we might have had a different society today and we could not
aspire as now do to our Motto: "Out of Many, One People...."

Ansell Hart, considered one of Jamaica's preeminent interpreters of the
past posed the question: "Why Celebrate 1865 and All That?' He also put forward
a counter-argument:

"Jamaican History is being falsified. I [am]referring to the
advancement of Paul Bogle to the rank of local Patriot and Hero,
spearheaded, I think, by Frank Hill. Jamaican leaders do not as a
rule exhibit a sense of history. Paul Bogle, far from being, as
claimed, a pioneer in political reform was, alas! typical of the worst
characteristics of Jamaican indiscipline and irresponsibility. This
should not be held up to admiration or emulation. The event was a
shameful example of violence and murder. "Daddy" Samuel

Sharpe of 1831, George William Gordon of 1865, twentieth
century Marcus Garvey, Yes; but Paul Bogle, certainly No. "7

The challenges about commemorations continued to be played out in
several ways during this era. Marcus Garvey's body was returned, and he became
the country's first national hero. Once the question of identifying and honouring
national heroes became central, as another aspect of commemorating the past, the
battle over memory and representation was joined yet again. Sylvia Wynter, who
was asked to produce the intellectual justification for National Heroes, Alexander
Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley, in her pamphlet and articles,
simultaneously produced an argument for the commemoration of the Jamaican
people whose heroic efforts made possible the Jamaican nation that could in turn
create the Jamaican heroes:

"The trajectory of Jamaican history can be defined as the struggle
of the majority of our people to transform ourselves from being the
object of the history of other nations, into the agent and creative
subject of our own." This rationale links the twentieth- century
commemorations of individual heroes to the anonymous enslaved
people, who through their religious and cultural beliefs, challenged
the logic of the Middle Passage.
Jamaica... began its passage from bondage to freedom at a time
when its future nationhood could only be conceived by its total
negation; when the majority of its people began their sojourn in
their new land as commodities. As such they were the negation of
the men who comprise a nation....The aim of our history has been,
is and will be the almost improbable and impossible task of the
negation of the negation.

[The] former African, later Afro-Christian cults, were the cultural
and religious accompaniment to the numerous slave revolts that
took place from the moment our African ancestors set foot in the
New World. That is to say, the historical origin of these cults
shows them as the principle of revolt, the basic revolt of men
against their being made into merchandise.""

It would not be until 1997 that Emancipation Day would once again be

In terms of Jamaica, two antipodal ideas, the one a strong refusal of the
other, condition our attitudes to the past: On the one hand, there is the argument

that there is too much focus on the specific condition of slavery; its deleterious
effects too often made an excuse for black people's manifold social pathologies.
On the other hand, there is the view that there is too much silence about the past, in
part because it has been shrouded in romance, misrepresentation, dehumanization,
and too little understanding of the events, effects, and meanings that lie therein.
These deep conflicts define the conceptual limits within which the society was,
and is, formed even as they help to shape forms of Jamaican subjectivity or
identity. They remain our most enduring legacies and inheritances from the past.

What then holds Jamaica together? Is there a body of historical myths that
can bind'? Or, are there only intermingled dissonances? Excavating the
archaeology of the concepts and ideas that have shaped in irresolvable ways the
Jamaican imagination and mindscapes, and exploring the zone of consciousness
that contains the interaction of history and legacy, is what connects the first part of
this issue to the second. When we commemorate, or remember, which Jamaica
and West Indies, and whose pasts, do we unearth? If we choose to forget, what do
we forget or bury?

An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 25"h March 1807

"....Be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty,
by and with the advice and Consent of the Lord's Spiritual and
Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled,
and by the Authority of the same, That from and after the first day
of May, one thousand eight hundred and seven, the African Slave
Trade, and all manner of dealing and trading in the Purchase, Sale,
Barter, or Transfer of Slaves, or of Persons intended to be sold,
transferred, used, or dealt with as Slaves, practiced or carried on,
in, at, to or from any Part of the Coast or Countries of Africa, shall
be, and the same is hereby utterly abolished, prohibited, and
declared to be unlawful; and also that all and all manner of dealing,
either by way of Purchase, Sale, Barter, or Transfer or by means of
any other Contract or Agreement whatever, relating to any Slaves,
or to any Persons being removed or transported either immediately
or by Trans-shipment at Sea or otherwise, directly or indirectly
from Africa or from any island, Country, Territory, or Place
whatever, in the West Indies, or in any other part of America, not
being in the Dominion, Possession, or Occupation of His Majesty,
to any other island, Country, Territory or place whatever, in like

Manner utterly abolished, prohibited and declared to be

Source: An Act.o6r the Abolition ofthe Slave Trade (London: George Eyre & Andrew Strahan,
Printers to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, 1807), Cap. XXXVI

Address of the Marquis of Sligo to the Slaves of Jamaica, 1834

My friends,

Our good King, who was himself in Jamaica a long time ago, still
thinks and talks a great deal of this Island. He has sent me out here
to take care of you, and to protect your rights; but he has also
ordered me to see justice done to your owners and to punish those
who do wrong. Take my advice, for I am your friend- be sober,
honest and work well, when you become apprentices, for should
you behave ill and refuse to work because you are no longer slaves,
you will assuredly render yourselves liable to punishment.

The People of England are your friends and fellow subjects- they
have shown themselves such by passing a Bill to make you all free.
Your masters are also your friends, they have proved their kind
feeling towards you all by passing in the House of Assembly the
same Bill. The way to prove that you are deserving of all this
goodness is by labouring diligently during your apprenticeship.

You will on the Is' August next, no longer be slaves; from that day
you will be apprenticed to your former owners for a few years, in
order to fit you all for freedom. It will therefore, depend entirely
upon your own conduct, whether your apprenticeship be short or
long, for should your run away, you will be brought back by the
Maroons and Police, and have to remain in apprenticeship longer
than those who behave well. You will only be required to work four
days and a half in each week, the remaining day and a half in each
week will be your own time and you may employ it for your own
benefit. Bear in mind that everyone is obliged to work-some work
with their hands, others with their heads, but no one can live and be
considered respectable without some employment. Your lot is to
work with your hands. I pray you, therefore, do your part faithfully,
for if you neglect your duty, you will be brought before the
Magistrates whom the King has sent out to watch you, and they
must act fairly and do justice to all by punishing those who are

badly disposed. Do not listen to the advice of bad people, for
should any of you refuse to do what the law requires of you, you
will bitterly repent it; for when at the end of the appointed time, all
your fellow labourers are released from apprenticeship, you find
yourselves condemned to hard labour in the workhouse for a
lengthened period, as a punishment for your disobedience.

If you follow my advice, and conduct your selves well, nothing can
prevent you being your own masters, and to labour only for
yourselves, and your wives and your children, at the end of four or
six years, according to your respective classes.

I have not time to go about to all the properties in this Island and tell
you this myself. I have therefore ordered this letter of Advice to be
printed, and ordered it to be read to you all, that you may not be
deceived, and bring yourselves into trouble by bad advice or
mistaken notions.

I trust you will be obedient and diligent subjects to our good
King, so that he may never have cause to be sorry for all the good
he has done for you.

Your friend and well wisher,


Governor of Jamaica

Source: Jamaica House of Assembly Voles. 1834

Editorial: Falmouth Post, 1838

The Is' of August has at length arrived; the day of Jubilee is come!
Jamaica is freed from the curses of Slavery and Apprenticeship;
and sincerely do we hope that the great boon of Liberty will be
justly appreciated; that our fellow men who have just merged from
a state of bondage into one of unrestricted freedom, will realize all
the fond anticipations of those friends who have for so many years
toiled with unwearied perseverance on their behalf; in the words of
our esteemed Governor we would say "Let all past differences be
forgiven and forgotten; and let the new system be commenced in a
spirit of conciliation and friendship."

By some, it may be asked "what are the declared sentiments of
Government with regard to the future policy to be pursued in our

colonies?" In answer to this question, we would direct attention to
the following passages of recently published official documents.
"The House of Commons," says Lord Glenelg in his Circular dated
31" May 1838 "fully partakes of the deep solicitude felt throughout
England for the permanent welfare and interests of the Negroes,
and it will, readily interpose its authority, if necessary, for securing
to them the full possession and enjoyment of those rights to which
they will shortly become entitled in common with every class of
Her Majesty's subjects."

This is a declaration of what they are ready to do; in diffusing
equal liberty all classes of the British Empire.- Now, with regard
to the support to be given to those who shall aid in this effort to
make liberty a real, and substantial blessing, by securing its full and
free enjoyment, let us reflect on the Earl of Durham's sentiments
respecting Canada-"The honest and conscientious advocates of
reform says his Lordship, "and of the amelioration of defective
institutions, will received without distinction of party, race or
politics, that assistance and encouragement which their patriotism
has a right to command from all who desire to strengthen and
consolidate the connection between the parent state and these
important Colonies; but the disturbers of the public peace; the
violators of the law, the enemies of the Crown, and of the British
Empire, will find Government determined to put in force against
them, all the powers, both Civil and Military.

What Lord Durham here says with respect to Canada, is in fact,
precisely, what Government has most unequivocally said it will do,
in all its colonies, where reforms and the amelioration of defective
institutions have been, or are to be, carried out by legislative
enactments. We confess that we see in these declarations of
defiance as those which were lately uttered in the Protest of the
Jamaica House of Assembly.

We augur future disasters, and as coming events throw their
shadows before, let us look at them; whilst war is here proclaimed
against those who in opposing reform, maintain the partiality and
prejudice of defective institutions....."

Source: Falmouth Post, Editorial. August I, 1838

Editorial, Gleaner, 1888

" Fifty four years ago, the Imperial Parliament decreed that all
slaves in the colonial possessions of Great Britain should be
forever free, and the "peculiar institution" from that moment
ceased to exist as an "institution." The Act of Emancipation,
however, was accompanied by a condition prescribing a state of
apprenticeship for the term of six years from the date of the Act, for
field hands or agricultural laborers and four years for household
servants, and it was not until May, 1838, that a second Act of
Parliament was passed making Emancipation absolute and
determining the state of apprenticeship at once and forever. It is,
therefore, fifty years since the bonds were struck from the limbs of
311,000 slaves in Jamaica, and the proud boast could be truly
made, that under the British flag, wherever it floated, "there never
treads a Slave ." It is true that the French nation claims the honor of
having been the first to abolish the hateful system of slavery, and it
is indeed true that the French Revolution with the destruction of all
social order and distinction also destroyed slavery. It cannot be
denied, however, that the British was the first thoroughly stable and
organized Government to decree the abolition of slavery as an
institution by regular legislation.
It was not to be expected that the destruction ofa of a system, which
had formed a part of the social life of all peoples, from the earliest
historic times, could take place without the most determined
resistance on the part of slave owners, and those whose interests
were involved in the existence of slavery, and it must even be a
source of devout thankfulness that the great change took place in
the British Empire fifty years ago, with so little bloodshed and
social disorder, more especially when we consider that thirty years
later in the great Western Republic the same question caused the
most terrible and bloody civil war of this or any other age, and that
hundreds of thousands of lives were sacrificed in that awful
struggle to secure the freedom of the black race in America. Of
course we did not escape stateless [unscathed], and came very near
open rebellion and a servile war. The different communities,
however, in which the abolished system had flourished were too
small and isolated to offer any serious resistance to the great central

power, and in the course of a few years the bitter feelings induced
by what was considered to be an unwarranted act of spoliation died
until it would have been difficult to find in the whole country a
hearty defender of the degrading institution that received its death
blow by the Act of Emancipation. Since this great act of abstract
Christian justice, country after country has followed the lead of
England. Alexander of Russia, emancipated the serfs of his
Empire, Abraham Lincoln decreed the freedom of the bondsmen of
the United States, Spain has followed slowly and reluctantly in the
same path, and little more than two months ago the only great
slaveholding Christian State, the Empire of Brazil, removed this
stain from its escutcheon and bestowed the gift of freedom upon,
upwards of two million of slaves.
It is now only in the eastern nations that slavery is recognized, and
the efforts of the more civilized western nations, who have
received the blessings of free Christianity, are now directed, and
with some success to stamp out this antique but barbarous custom.
There can be little doubt that, before many years have passed the
Christian nations will have, either by moral suasion, or actual
force, destroyed slavery, root and branch, from the face of the
Globe, except perhaps in the interior of that dark Continent that
may yet bid defiance for generations to the efforts of the Explorer
and the Missionary. It is somewhat late in the day to make an
eloquent attack upon slavery. It is so universally condemned that it
does not need the fiery denunciations of the enthusiast to complete
its utter discredit. In ages past the great minds, whose thoughts
have preserved to us, have denounced the barbarity and injustice of
a system that made one man the thing and chattel of another.
Aristophanes, Socrates, and Plato were severe in their
condemnation as Pitt, Webster, and Wilberforce.
It would, indeed, be difficult these days to find anyone to
pronounce publicly, with Albert G. Brown, a senator of South
Carolina in 1861: "I regard slavery as a great moral, social and
religious blessing-a blessing to the Slave a blessing to the
Nor will many in these days endorse the opinion of Featherstone of
Mississippi: "Slavery is the natural, the proper condition of the

African, one that is advantageous to his master and a great blessing
to himself." Jas. P. Holcombe of Virginia who only died in 1878
declared that "African slavery is an adjustment of the social and
political relations of the races, consistent with the purest justice,
commended by the highest expediency, and sanctioned by a
comprehensive and enlightened humanity."

With such sophistries has it been possible for reasonable men to
comfort their consciences and lay the flattering unction to their
souls, that in enslaving their fellow men they were obeying the
promptings of the eternal and changeless principles of right and
So, throughout the British Colonies to-day, we celebrate the
jubilee anniversary of that grand act of National Humanity and
Justice, the setting free of the hundreds of thousands of human
beings who up to the year 1838 had been considered but as beasts
of burden, condemned even by the Almighty himself; to eternal

Throughout the Island of Jamaica the anniversary will be kept as a
period of general rejoicing and will be celebrated by religious
services of thanksgiving by all denominations of Christians, and as
the ideas of men have so changed with regard to slavery within the
last fifty years, so may we hope that many wrongs under which the
human race suffers through ignorance, prejudice and
misunderstanding, may finally be swept away, as slavery was, by
the development of knowledge, and the spread of the true
principles of morality, truth and virtue."
Source: Gleaner, August 1 1888, 2
"The Emancipation", Contributor, Gleaner, 1888

"[T]here is a strong feeling in the West Indies generally that the
celebrations are to be deprecated. It is only common sense to
decide that no greater obstacle could be placed in the way of the
real progress of the Negro than the constant reminder of his
condition in the time of slavery. The true friends of the African
would not encourage such reminiscences. They should look
forward and not backward.
Source: Gleaner, September 10, 1888, 2

R. Dingwall, Preface, Jamaica's Jubilee, 1888
" For fifty years we have enjoyed the privileges and advantages
of Freedom; and it is but reasonable that we should by some effort
of this kind endeavour to examine ourselves as to how we have
profited by them, as well as give the world an opportunity of
forming a correct opinion of us, the emancipated people of Jamaica
and these British West Indies in general. Once and again have
others had their say about us, surely the world will not count us as
presumptuous if, for once,-on an occasion so highly momentous,
so deeply interesting-we venture to ask permission to speak for

One of our main objects is to show-directly, by the well-weighed
statements herein made, and the facts herein recorded; and
indirectly, by the fact of our being now able to supersede the
necessity of having any longer another advocate to plead our cause
before the world, or another hand to portray us on canvas-that
fifty years of freedom and missionary effort have done something
for Jamaica. This too is the reason why, in the compilation of so
small a book, we have chosen to distribute the task among five,
instead of delegating it into the hands of one.
We claim, we desire, no such honourable distinction as to be
thought exceptions-comets, so to speak-in the Negro firmament
of the West: no, we rejoice to be able to affirm that there, in Jamaica
and other British West Indian islands to-day, scores of men of our
race, who might have performed this task fully as well-perhaps
better than ourselves. And we rejoice, too, to see in hundreds of the
younger generation promising omens of still greater things!

It will be noticed that a good deal of what is said by the writers is
more apologetic than exultant in tone. On this we have to say,
"Suffer it to be so now." We hope, however, that the next Jubilee
of Emancipation shall chronicle an improvement so marked, that
we shall be able as a people to reject "Apologetics" as an officious
and insulting superfluity-we shall need no "Nigrorum
Defensor. "

We make bold to say that it is a book every one should read, and no
Jamaican leave unopened; so we launch it forth upon a considerate
public, in the earnest hope that it will in this Jubilee year of our

country's Emancipation, awaken in the bosoms of our friends in
Britain and Jamaica a still livelier interest in us, and evoke still
more persistent and hopeful efforts on our behalf; while we trust
that the wholesome advise, the faithful admonitions, and the
encouraging facts contained in it, will produce their legitimate
effect on ourselves, the struggling children of Africa in the West.

Source: R.Dingwall, Jamaica's Jubilee, 1888, 7-10

Reverend R. Gordon, "Glance at the Past" 1888
"For centuries the track of the slave-ship across the Atlantic was
unquestionably marked by blood, by a species of suffering then
first developed, by shark in his scent for human flesh, by
degradation and death, by blasphemy braving the heavens, by
consummation of misery never told, and never to be revealed till
the depths of ocean shall speak, and the records of God in the
miseries of the damned shall be read in that great day, when those
who were actors in the tragedies of the slave-woes of the notorious
"middle-passage," shall cry out their eternal agonies.

Mercy in the human heart, shadowing forth dimly there the impress
of Jehovah, seemed, as if by the decree of God, to be forever turned
away from Africa's poor, unhappy children. "If God be against
them, who can be for them?" was the principle that appeared to
guide the policy of the times: hence, for generations none pleaded
for them, none felt for them. They might, with justice, have
appropriated the language of Israel's sweet bard in his hour of
trouble and dejection: No man cared for my soul," no man cared for
their lives, no man cared for their spirits, no man cared for their
bodies- their spiritual weal, their temporal comfort and prosperity,
their social happiness, their national elevation stood far from the
thought of any. And as century after century rolled away in the
cycles of time, bringing to other nations the amelioration of their
condition, in the removal of wrongs, the expulsion of ignorance,
the eradication of evil, and thus their intellectual, moral, and social
improvement, the darkness appeared to increase in density over the
forlorn and forgotten race. Men from civilized countries had made
their discovery of the "Dark Continent"; but, instead of bringing a

blessing, they went away, and soon returned with manacles, and
chains, and prison ships, and greed that succeeded to freezing up at
once every genial current of the soul, and developed a cruelty
known only in the history of the traffic in human flesh. Yes, Africa
and her children seemed to be under sentence of exclusion from
mercy, sympathy and love. Found in any part of the world, the ban
of degradation and scorn was thrown over them.
Nay, we are assured that the race is but begun; that the eyes of our
people are but beginning to perceive the privileges held out to, and
conferred upon them by emancipation; that there must yet be many
a sharp and fierce struggle with conflicting influences for the
assertion of our rights,- many a wearying, but persistent and
self-denying effort, ere we reach that distinguished and valued
position of unquestionable usefulness and universal respect, from
which we may look backward with satisfaction and pride, and
Forward with certainty and assurance,- a position in which our
defamers shall be constrained to acknowledge us, as, with
themselves, the common denizens of a common world, the children
of a common Father, the subjects of a common King the servants
of a common Master; possessing the same rights, entitled to the
same privileges, claiming the same regard and affection, and
having the same destiny."
Source: Jamaica's Jubilee, 1888, 14, 20-21

Robert Love "The People's Convention" 1901

The first of August, the anniversary of the great day, when, to the
African bond-slave, in the British West Indies, the blessing of
personal liberty was given not by act of Parliament only, but in
reality, is approaching; and, as in years past, it is the intention, as it
is the duty of the People's Convention to celebrate the day in a
manner befitting the event and the obligations of the children of the
emancipated. For the last three years the observance of this
anniversary has taken place in Spanish Town, which was the
Capital city of the Colony when the stirring scenes and acts which
preceded, attended and immediately followed the mighty event
were parts of the lives of many who are to be numbered among the
greatest and truest philanthropists the world has ever seen.

The celebration this year will be held in the same ancient and
historic Town so closely associated with the memory of the
eventful past. We have so often spoken of the duty of observing the
Day in a manner worthy of the great principle, which was
vindicated sixty three years ago, and of the pregnant future which
awaits those who are most deeply interested in the act...

We have had to combat the stupidity put forth by certain imposters,
who pretend to have an unnecessary care to society, and an
unnecessary fear that our motive, or the results of our movement,
would unhinge the sealed order of peace and goodwill.... If we did
not know the character and aims of these objectors, we would have
valued their objections. As it is, their idle prattle is of no value; and
whenever a Race, or class, anxious to improve, is met by
opposition to its attempts at advancement, it should resist such
opposition and laugh to scorn the specious arguments employed to
turn it aside from the pursuit of its high purpose.

That the first of August is the Red Letter Day in the history of the
British West Indian Negro cannot be questioned and that he ought
to make the day an inspiration of good and is just as
unquestionable. Even the Negroes of the United States, who have
no immediate connection with the day, celebrate it, on account of
the influence which its great Event exerted on their own destiny.
True men everywhere worship at the shrine of liberty.

The People's Convention decided to make the celebration of their
day an occasion of intellectual and patriotic improvement, and so it
ought to be. It is a day on which to recall the history of our Fathers,
and to contemplate the destinies of our children. It should be
utilized to the end that the Negro subjects of the British Crown will
eventually rise to the full dignity of their national privileges, and
enjoy without any distinction, the "full" political manhood
embraced in British citizenship. And all these must he deserve by
the practice of such lessons as will be taught him in the People's
But in order to accomplish this, the People's Convention must not
only be a speaking body; it must act as a solid and united whole. It
must do something. Hitherto, it has spoken and made some attempt
to be heard locally. Henceforth it should act as a living body and

endeavour to put itself in touch with forces and influences outside
of Jamaica, so that the cause which it pleads, and the interests
which it represents, may be known as well abroad as at home.

Let the loyal descendants of the Emancipated Race, and the
members of the dominant Race (for whom there is ample room on
our platform) assemble on the 1s" of August, and "let us reason
together." "
Source: Jamaica Advocate, July 27, 1901, 2

C.A. Wilson "Progress of the Race" 1914

"The anniversary of Emancipation will not pass this year as tamely
as it has of late. A committee of representative and intelligent
citizens has been carefully working out plans for a suitable
celebration of the day; and one of the important events of 1914 is
booked to come off on the 2nd and 3rd August.

To-day we can look at Emancipation from the proper perspective.
We regard it as one of the more important milestones in the march
of civilization, one to which mankind many look back with
gratitude. It is not proposed to rehearse the harrowing cruelties of
slavery. The man, who attempts to use Emancipation Day to raise
racial feelings, would soon find he was riding a dead horse. The
British West Indies began a new era in 1838. On the first of August
in that year their Slave inhabitants were acknowledged to be men,
and new responsibilities were imposed on the several communities
under more auspicious relationships. Emancipation made it
possible for the coloured man to climb to the point of vantage on
which his white brother stood. It allowed the white man a freer
hand in the uplifting of his less favoured brother. In the upward
struggle, splendid work has been done. The stronger has doubtless
stretched forth a helping hand which has been graciously grasped;
and in spite of obstacles and grave setbacks, the coloured man is
well on the road of attainment and may honestly be proud of his
advancement. Although there is room for improvement we present
in Jamaica, an object lesson in the method of solving the racial

Is it not fitting that the day which commemorates the changes of
relationship should be kept green by wise efforts to draw closer the

different sections of the community in co-operation for the further
amelioration of our social and economic conditions? And what can
serve the purpose better than a united religious service, so far as
this is possible; a Children's Demonstration; a show of our
products, our school works; arts and crafts, and a concert? And
will it not be fitting to face facts and plan for the future in a large
representative conference? Is there aught in such a celebration for
any to be ashamed of:, anything to be frightened at? Cannot the
committee of ministers, teachers and business men of varied hue
look to the general public for enthusiastic support?
Here is the proposed programme for the celebration.

Divine service in the Theatre on Sunday 2nd August at 3:30p.m.

Children's demonstration in the Theatre on Monday 3rd at 8a.m. in
which the Boy Scouts have been asked to take part.

Show in the Technical and Continuation School Monday 3rd in
Saint George's School room 1 la.m. to 7p.m.

Conference to consider economic conditions. Monday 3rd in Saint
George's School room from I to 4 p.m. Concert in the theatre at
Source: Gleaner, June 18, 1914, 18

Negro Elector "Anniversary of Emancipation" 1918

Permit me to put the following questions to those of your writers on
the subject of Emancipation Day who hold that it should not be a
public holiday or thanksgiving day.

If the people of the United States of America are entitled to
observed July 4"1' "Independence Day" as a day of national
rejoicing and thanksgiving for deliverance from the oppression of a
party of English politicians, without any feeling of animosity, as is
evidenced by the fact that they are now fighting side by side as
brothers, on the fields of France, with the descendants of the
oppressors of their forefathers; why cannot the descendants of the
Negro slaves celebrate the Is' of August "Emancipation Day" also
as a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for deliverance from the

thraldom of the English slave-owners without any feeling of
Are they not also fighting side by side, as brothers, with the
descendants of those same lave owners on the battlefield of Europe
for freedom and right? When any of these writers whom I have
mentioned can answer these questions, I shall be glad to write
further ....

I am, etc.

Negro Elector

May Pen P.O.Aug. 21, 1918"

Source: Letter to the Editor, Gleaner, August 24, 1918, 4

Reverend T. Gordon Somers "President's Address" at the
Annual Conference 1918

"We look back over a period of 80 years with its lights and
shadows, alternately illuminating and darkening the pages of the
history of these years. We rejoice in and are thankful for the
progress made by our people, we mourn over the evidence of
stagnation or retrogression that are noticeable here and there.

Emancipation Day should mean a great deal to Jamaicans. The
pretence of trying to forget it is the result of a false conception of
the fitness of things. The great epochs in a nation's life ought never
to be forgotten. Their anniversaries ever form a vantage ground
from which a people look backwards and forwards. Jamaica needs
constantly to do this.

Eighty years ago this land came to birth, more than half its people
naked and empty handed from the womb of slavery. The start for
life began and its progress has been through years of desperate
struggle. Appreciable progress has been made, but much remains
to done, and the forces that make for advancement, for true liberty,
for righteousness, must continue their beneficial work until the
backward section of our people are brought forward to take their
God appointed place. In this work the Jamaica League desires to

take part and if given the support it deserves, may contribute very
largely to certain aspects in the development of our communal life.

...No one section of a community can do without the other, and any
policy that ignores the training and reformation of the masses is
suicidal. That country truly rises, that people truly makes progress
that pays attention to the education and general training of the

How does Jamaica stand in this respect? Speaking generally and
speaking of the labouring population it could hardly have been
worse if over 60,000 were not being spent in elementary
education. Thousands of children never see the inside of a school
room. Thousands of children die in infancy and many of them from
preventable causes.

Thousands of them roam about in town and country without home
care, without school training. Whose fault is it? Is there no
remedy? Must such a condition of things continue forever? What
will become of the country in the next generation? It must never be
said that 95 per cent of the peasant children of this country are only
fit to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. "
Source: Gleaner August 3, 1918, 17

Marcus Garvey Speech Delivered by on Emancipation Day at
Liberty Hall, New York City, January 1, 1922.

"Fifty-nine years ago Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation
Proclamation declaring four million Negroes in this country free.
Several years prior to that Queen Victoria of England signed the
Emancipation Proclamation that set at liberty hundreds of
thousands of West Indian Negro slaves.

West Indian Negroes celebrate their emancipation on the first day
of August of every year. The American Negroes celebrate their
emancipation on the first of January of every year. Tonight we are
here to celebrate the emancipation of the slaves in this country.

We are the descendants of the men and women who suffered in this
country for two hundred and fifty years under that barbarous, that
brutal institution known as slavery. You who have not lost trace of
your history will recall the fact that over three hundred years ago

your fore-bears were taken from the great Continent of African and
brought here for the purpose of using them as slaves. Without
mercy, without any sympathy they worked our fore-bears. They
suffered, they bled, they died. But with their sufferings, with their
blood, which they shed in their death, they had a hope that one day
their posterity would be free, and we are assembled here tonight as
the children of their hope.
I trust each and every one of you therefore will realize that you
have a duty which is incumbent upon you; a duty that you must
perform, because our fore-bears who suffered, who bled, who died
had hopes that are not yet completely realized. They hoped that we
as their children would be free, but they also hoped that their
country from whence they came would also be free to their
children, their grand-children and great grand-children at some
future time. It is for the freedom of that country-that Motherland
of ours-that four and a half million Negroes, as members of the
Universal Negro Improvement Association, are labouring today.
This race of ours gave civilization, gave art, gave science, gave
literature to the world. But it has been the way with races and
nations. The one race stands out prominently in the one century or
in one age; and in another century or age it passes off the stage of
action, and another race takes its place. The Negro once occupied a
high position in the world, scientifically, artistically, and
commercially, but in the balancing of the great scale of evolution,
we lost our place and someone other than our self occupies the
stand we once held.

God never intended that man should enslave his fellow, and the
price of such a sin or such a violation of Heaven's law must be paid
by everyone. As for me, because of my blessed past, because of the
history that I know, so long as there is within me the breath of life
and the spirit of God, I shall struggle on and urge others of our race
to struggle on to see that justice is done to the black peoples of the
world. Yes, we appreciate the sorrows of the past, and we are
going to work in the present that the sorrows of our generation shall
not be perpetuated in the future. On the contrary, we shall strive
that by our labours, succeeding generation of our own shall call us
blessed, even as we call the generation of the past blessed today.

And they indeed were blest. They were blest with a patience not
yet known to man. A patience that enabled them to endure the
tortures and sufferings of slavery of two hundred and fifty years.
Why? Was it because they loved slavery so? No. It was because
they loved this generation more-Isn't it wonderful?
Transcendent? What then are you going to do show your
appreciation of this love, what gratitude are you going to manifest
in return for what they have done for you? As for me, knowing the
sufferings of my fore-fathers I shall give back to Africa that liberty
that she once enjoyed hundreds of years ago, before her own sons
and daughters were taken from her shores and brought in chains to
this Western world.

No better gift can I give in honor of the memory of the love of my
fore-parents for me, and in gratitude of the sufferings they endured
that I might be free; no grander gift can I bear to the sacred memory
of the generation past than a free and redeemed Africa-a
monument for all eternity-for all times.

As by the action of the world, as by the conduct of all races and
nations it is apparent that not one of them has the sense of justice,
the sense of love, the sense of equity, the sense of charity, that
would make men happy and God Satisfied. It is apparent that it is
left to the Negro to play such a part in human affairs-for when we
look to the Anglo-Saxon we see him full of greed, avarice, no
mercy, no love, no charity. We can go from the white man to the
yellow man and we see the same unenviable characteristics in the
Japanese. Therefore we must believe that the Psalmist had great
hopes of this race of ours when he prophesied "Princes shall come
of Egypt and Ethiopia shall stretch for her hands unto God."
If humanity is regarded as made up of the children of God and God
loves all humanity (we all know that) then God will be more
pleased with the race that protects all humanity than with the race
that outrages the children of God.

And so tonight we celebrate this anniversary of our emancipation,
we do it not with regret, on the contrary we do it with an abiding
confidence, a hope and faith in ourselves and in our God. And the
faith that we have is a faith that will ultimately take us back to that

to that ancient place, that ancient position that we once occupied,
when Ethiopia was in her glory."
Source: Amy Jacques Garvey, ed., Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvev
(Athenaeum: New York 1977), 1922, 79-82

Harold Moody, Wilberforce Centenary, Hull, England, 1933

"Let me first emphasize the fact that if, in the course of the years
which have run, my race had not fully justified the sacrifice and
work of our liberators there could have been no celebrations here
to-day. The very fact that I am here, and I am but a poor
representative of a very noble band, proves that Wilberforce did
not live in vain.
I would next like to remind you that emancipation would never
have been possible had my ancestors not fully demonstrated the
fact of our innate humanity and that we were made in the image of
God to enjoy the full liberty for which He had created all human

In the third place please do not lose sight of the fact that that
Wilberforce's work was made essential, not on account of the sins
of my own people, but mainly or entirely because of the sins,
selfishness and short-sightedness of your own people-sins from
which, as a race, you have not, even yet, altogether delivered
yourselves. Had you not abolished slavery-slavery would have
long since abolished you.

It is well in this age of sweepstakes to recall the fact that this
wealthy society darling soon found the faming table unsatisfying
and unendurable; that he had the courage to yield to his
convictions, thus to shock his many friends and set a noble example
to the world for all time, by surrendering the gaming table for the
service of man and God, in which service, this frail but determined
and sincere man found the fullest expression for those heroic
qualities with which nature had so richly endowed him. All sorts of
abuse were showered upon him, but no one could ever call him
Wilberforce's call to the service of my people came as a result of a
conversation which he had with his bosom friend, the Prime

Minister Pitt, in Pitt's own garden. In reply to the suggestion that
he should tackle the slave-trade, Wilberforce is reported to have
said, "The cause of the slaves at once made a strong appeal to me,
here if you like is a big cause on which depends the welfare of
thousands of human beings. Here is a challenge which no Christian
can evade."

For nine years, a period which would have broken many a lesser
man, the tenacious Wilberforce continued his human efforts,
demonstrating the while the horrible cruelty of the trade as
"violating the dictates of conscience, the principles of justice and
the laws of God...."

As I seek to pay this tribute to the life and work of one of the
noblest of England's sons and Hull's citizens, I recall that I have
heard it said and I have seen it written that the coloured people
themselves would sooner not be reminded of their ancestors. I
must confess that there is a certain amount of truth in such
statements, and that I myself at one time shared this feeling. It is
also true that even to-day some of the leading people of my own
race in the British colonies are anxious to forget their associations
their own race and their own racial characteristics and to become as
much English as possible in the expression of their life.
Some of you have heard the following crisp definition of the
several inhabitants of the British Isles:-"The Scotchman keeps
the Saw both and everything else he can get; the Irishman does not
know what he wants is and is ready to die for it ; the Welshman
preys upon his knees and upon his neighbours; the Englishman is a
self-made man and worships the creator." I would draw your
attention to the last part of this definition and would most
respectfully remind you that the Englishman is so proud of himself
and of his achievements and has such a consciousness of race
superiority that he will do and does do everything in his power to
establish this fact-the one fact on which the whole of his existence
seems to depend. Therefore the principle he adopted in the
education of my people, and there was no one else to direct such
education, was the principle of suppressing all that was noble and
good in my race and expressing what a great race was his, how
noble and how good, why, you even delivered us from slavery and

gave 20 million of your own hard-earned money to prove the
sincerity of your motive, all the while cleverly suggesting to
yourselves and to us that it was not who enslaved us and that money
came to us and not to our enslavers. Your used your authority to
suppress facts. I do not say that his was maliciously done. You
simply could not help yourself.
Is it any small wonder that one brought up in this atmosphere
should have felt ashamed of his ancestry? Now that 1 know the
facts, now that I know the part they played in their own liberation,
now that I can fully appraise the value of their rich and unique
folklore, now that I know of their rapid and unparalleled strides
since emancipation I feel proud of my heritage and want to do
nothing to render the life and sacrifice of my forefathers of no
avail. I believe that it is in this spirit alone that my race will achieve
her great destiny in the world.

My Lord Mayor, my lords, ladies and gentlemen the coloured
peoples of this British Common wealth want to pay their full tribute
to our great liberator by emancipating themselves from all that now
prevents them from giving the fullest expression of their lives to
this world and thus enriching the world with their own God-given
heritage and we want you here in Hull to pay your full tribute to
Wilberforce, your great citizen, not so much by emphasizing his
life and work as by starting here a crusade for carrying on this work
to completion and thus seeking to emancipate yourselves from any
Slave mentality which still exists and to emancipate us from the
results of such Slave mentality. In my opinion such practical issue
is the only one which would delight the Great Wilberforce."
Source: The Keys, 1933 Available at

Hugh Clarke, "The Sooner Slavery Is Forgotten, the Better"
"The Editor:
... There is [a] matter worth discussing just now, namely the
celebration of the Centenary of Emancipation. In my humble
opinion, it is a great mistake to do so. The sooner slavery is
forgotten the better. It is a matter that every right thinking white

man is ashamed of, and I am sure that no black man desires to be
reminded of it. I prophesy that the meetings are going to fall flat.
Nobody wants them.
I am, etc.

Source: Letter to the Editor, Gleaner, July 21 1934, 12

E.E. Campbell, "What Jamaica Has Done in the Past Century of
Freedom" 1935
"What has Jamaica done in the past century of freedom? This
question was put to hundreds of St. Thomas people gathered in
Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Ville, recently, to celebrate
Emancipation Day, which was previously postponed because of
inclement weather. Mr. E.E. A. Campbell, Barrister of Kingston,
asked the question in a rousing speech in which he urged the people
of St. Thomas especially to wake up and emancipate themselves
educationally; emancipate themselves from the stupid and foolish
notion of imitating other people and emancipate themselves from
being content with a smattering knowledge of agricultural
education. He was supported by the Rev. T.J. Gallimore, Baptist

Why celebrate Emancipation Day, was asked by Mr. Campbell.
"The day should be blotted out from memory, but for the fact that
we had men like Buxton, Wilberforce and others who had the
Christian spirit to stand up for our forefathers," he declared. "The
day brings to our minds the brutality of human beings unparalleled
in history.""
Source: Gleaner, September 17, 1935, 20-21

Amy Bailey, "Now and Then" 1938

"On August 1, 1838, our forefathers laid by forever the shackles of
slavery. Four years before, the Emancipation Act was passed, and
this was met with a great lack of sympathy by the planters. They
resented this action by England as an infringement of their rights:
The right to traffic in human flesh, and get wealthy at the expense
of a weaker people.

Due to the efforts of such great humanitarians as Knibb,
Wilberforce, Phillippo. public opinion impelled Parliament to
remove the ugly blot of slavery from the escutcheon of Great
Britain, one whose poets said "slaves cannot breathe in
England...they touch our country and their shackles fall."

As the joy bells pealed forth from the memorial church in Falmouth
or Montego Bay, a great shout of rejoicing went up from the throats
of those who for over 200 years had endured the lash of the
slavemaster, as they toiled unceasingly to put wealth into the
pockets of the very ones who treated them so cruelly. Shouts of joy
rent the air, but could they have seen their true position, the scene
would have been changed.
Why were they so joyful? Because they thought they were forever
free from the bondage which made them little more valuable in the
eyes of their masters than the beasts of the fields. They rejoiced at
the thought that their groans and prayers has at last been heard by
Him who while on earth emphasized the brotherhood of man. They
rejoiced that Queen Victoria had graciously given her assent to
their freedom.
So much so for their rejoicing, but what else did they get out of the
entire transaction save their freedom? Their masters has been
rewarded and compensated for their loss by the gift of twenty
million pounds from Parliament. It was only right, said those who
were against the abolition of slavery, that this compensation should
be made. There was some amount of justice in the arrangement
from the viewpoint of investment, despite the fact these Slave
owners also possessed the lands. As an investment therefore, these
Slave owners had nothing about which to complain. They had (at
any rate, the majority of them) become wealthy during this
"glorious time." Their expenses had been the minimum, as you can
well imagine, and the end of this "glorious time" saw them twenty
million pounds richer.
How were the slaves compensated for being torn from their native
land against their will; for enduring the brutality and cruelty that
were necessary ingredients of this slavery; for toiling as hard as
they did so that Jamaica should be one the leading sugar producing
countries; for the degradation of mind, and the deterioration of

character that followed in the trail of slavery. How were they
compensated for all this? By being given their freedom, nothing

We know what they had lost during these hundreds of years. The
innate culture of their African forefathers, the spirit of manhood
and independence which to a great extent had to go under the whip
lash of their masters, their code of morality which they had been
accustomed to adhere to strictly, and which was replaced with
promiscuity. Those were some of the losses. What did they gain?
Do I really mean gain? The ability to cringe and to fawn on those
who are their masters; the distrust of each other, the envy and
jealousy of those who were in a better position than they; the
despising of everything that is black-were not their masters white,
and did not the offspring of the union of their masters with some of
their women folk fare better than the black ones? The despising of
manual labour, which the ladies and gentlemen, their mistresses
and masters, did not do; the eagerness to do as little work as
possible; the tendency to drift along. These were some of what
they gained.

Behold them then on that first day of August 1838 in the square at
Spanish Town and throughout Jamaica, free men and women,
unable to read or write, with no lands, very little money if any,
regarded with resentment by their masters who had "lost" through
this Emancipation Act. Behold them in their bodily freedom, but
mental and economic bondage.
They fared off much worse than the Jews who left their slaves
masters robbed of much jewellery and other spoils, this in an
economic sense, and they fared much worse off in a spiritual and
intellectual sense for they had no Moses among their own people at
the time to lead them out of the bondage and thraldom of slavery
into the Promised Land of Plenty.
It is a point worthy of note that it took the Jews forty years from
their departure out of Egypt to their entry into Canaan. A journey
that could have been made in a few months at most. Why was this?
So that during that period they could be disciplined and educated to
the standard that was required for the possessors of Canaan. It was
but a remnant of those who hankered after the flesh pots of Egypt

who were privileged to see the Promised Land. They could not
have appreciated it. They were not worthy of such a country.
We are a hundred years march on from that 1 of August 1838. Are
we ashamed of the road over which we have trod? The milestones
have been many, the feats accomplished much. We point with
pride to our eminent barristers, judges, lawyers, doctors,
clergymen, inspectors, teachers, businessmen, merchants,
engineers, contractors etc. etc. We occupy high places in the
Legislature and the Civil Service. We can be found holding our
own in every field of activity in the island. We can think with pride
of illustrious Jamaicans now dead, who were the sons or grandsons
of slaves. Dr. Love, Alexander Dixon, David Corinaldi, Alexander
Barclay, George L. Young, Gordon Somers, Wm. H. Plant, D.
Theo Wint-these are but a few of the many who have gone on
before. Truly a noble army! We can point with equal pride to the
many now alive who have gladdened the hearts of their forefathers
were they alive to see them, (we believe, however, that their spirits
look down and are satisfied.)

Our records in the realm of music, poetry, and the arts, bear
testimony to the fact that the liberators of our forefathers did not
toil in vain; nor did those missionaries of blessed memory for
whose self-sacrificing efforts and devoted services, we can never
be too grateful. Truly we may say-
"Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget."

We have gone far materially and educationally, the vanguard of us,
for which we are both proud and thankful. But what of the great
majority? Are we satisfied that they have made the progress that
they should? We cannot be, if we taken an interest in our
There is a vast number of us who are still economic slaves because
in an agricultural country we have no lands. Many there are who
have not even a half acre on which to maintain themselves and
family. There is another vast number and they are to be found in all
classes who are still slaves mentally after one hundred years. There
are those who are ruled by fear-fear of being men and women of
backbone, who prefer cringers to real men, who rob others of their

self-respect so as to be able to keep their jobs, who judge you
according to the colour of your skin, and not your ability and
character; who are afraid to act on principles for fear of displeasing
their apparent masters; who bow and scrape hat in hand for
favouritism. These are some of the forms of slave mentality that we
see around us day after day, and from which we must be
But this emancipation must come from ourselves. We cannot
depend upon philanthropists or missionaries from across the seas to
liberate our minds, they began the good work, we must carry on.

There is still much to do, the work is but begun. Our social and
educational systems are far behind what they should be in this year
of grace 1938. A large majority of our people are illiterate-there
being no compulsory education. There is too little industrial and
agricultural training, as compared with the purely academic.
Malnutrition, bad housing, the high rate of 71%
illegitimacy-these are some of the social evils that have roots in a
bad economic soil. Limited markets and poor prices for our
products are at present the gigantic problems that have to be
overcome. And they can only be overcome by the cooperation of
the best brains in the country.
There are English men and women who have for the past forty
years made Jamaica their home, and who through love of the
country, and interest in the welfare, devoted their lives to its
betterment. For this, we who are truly Negroes owe them a debt of
gratitude to which we now pay tribute. There are also those of
other nationalities who have done likewise and to them we also pay
tribute. The great human race is interdependent.., and each new
decade but serves to prove this more so. White, Yellow, Negro, or
Indian, we all have our special contribution to make to the sum total
of human misery or joy. And now one hundred years of
emancipation should make us Negroes whether we be fair, light,
brown, dark, or black realize that our future welfare lies in unity
and integrity. May we never forget the past, but may we press on to
future high endeavours."
Source: Public Opinion July 1938, 10

Wycliffe S. Bennett, "Why Celebrate?" 1954
"Posterity will look probably back upon the year we are about enter
as an important milestone in the history of Jamaica. The planners
of Jamaica 300 are doing everything they can to make the year
1955 a touchstone by which future achievements in the several
departments of our island's life might be judged and evaluated. I
sense that all the rays of our country's destiny are gathering to a
By planners, I mean not only the small committee set up by His
Excellency the Governor at the instance of the Hon. Donald B.
Sangster, Minister of Finance, whose brainchild the whole idea of
celebrating the Tercentenary is, but all these
organisations-industrial, agricultural, commercial, cultural,
educational, and sporting-who have accepted Jamaica 300 as a
challenge are extending themselves in an effort to make the
yearlong, island-wide celebrations in 1955, a fitting climax to the
period that we are about to leave behind, and a glorious beginning
for the era that is about to commence.

For the Tercentenary is to be no mere official celebration, with
everything undertaken and done by the Government. It has been
conceived as a spontaneous national offering, in which all sections
of the community will be able to play a great part. And our people
are rising to the occasion magnificently. They are using their
various organizations and agencies to give expression to the
national feeling. Even societies which have not been very active
during recent years have accepted the Jamaica 300 challenge, and it
is in this spirit of adventure and cooperation that we go forward.

So we find the term "Jamaica 300" occurring with increasing
frequency in the press, over the radio and in conversation.
Everybody is thinking and talking in terms of Jamaica 300, the
name given to the celebrations being planned for the whole of 1955
to mark the three hundred years since Jamaica has been a part of the
British Commonwealth of Nations.

Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables landed at
Passage Fort, across the harbour from Port Royal on the 10'h May
1655, and captured Jamaica from the Spaniards, who had been here
ever since Columbus discovered the island in 1494.

The checkered history of our country does not reveal exactly when
the people who live in Jamaica were first referred to as Jamaicans.
What we do know, however, is that it is the period that began on the
10"h May, 1655, that has produced the great majority of
us-Negroes, Whites, Indians, Chinese, and the subtle admixtures
of these races-who make up the Jamaican people. True it is that
our ancestors came at different times from lands as distant and as
different as Africa, Europe, India and China. It is from their
meeting and living together in a common habitat during the past
three centuries, suffering the same heartaches and reverses and
sharing the same joys and accomplishments, that they have
developed a common point of view, a common outlook, a common
way of thinking, that is the very essence of being a people.

Our uneven progress since 1655 includes the Abolition of Slavery
in 1838; the surrendering of the constitution in 1865; and the New
Constitution with universal adult suffrage in 1944. The great
advances in our national development began in 1838, and it is the
period beginning in the 1930's that witnessed the birth of national
consciousness, the development of industry, the founding of a
university and the advancement of knowledge, the growth of
artistic expression and the flowering of literature, and outstanding
achievements in the field of international sport. All culminating in
the fact that today we are on the very threshold of
self-government-self-government within the framework of the
British Commonwealth of Nations, and as a proud member of the
English-speaking world.

1955 seems, therefore, a fitting time not only to celebrate the
progress that has been made in the several departments of our
national life, but with the strength of the past behind us and the
benefit of the experience we have gained, to make such further
plans as are likely to lead to greater advancement and to dedicate
ourselves anew to the task of building a better Jamaica.

This, then, is a real reason for Jamaica 300."
Source: Pepperpot Volume 4, (1954), 8

W. Adolphe Roberts, "National Holidays", 1956
"It is natural for a country to commemorate an important event in
its history by proclaiming a public holiday. France has its Bastille
Day, the United States its 4"' of July. But sometimes the action
taken is excessive, because the date in question has less lasting
significance than it seemed to have in the first flush of ardour.
Thus, Armistice Day (11 h of November) was supposed to mark the
ending of the Twentieth Century's one tragic experience with
global warfare. Another and greater war occurred in twenty years,
and victory did not conveniently come on the 11 th of November.
The holiday remained-an anomaly since it celebrated a minor

I am afraid that this criticism applies to our Constitution Day. On
the 201' of November, 1944, a halfway Constitution for Jamaica
was announced. The gain was the ending of the humiliating Crown
Colony system, and a special day of rejoicing would have sufficed.
We must needs make it an annual holiday, action which should
have been reserved for the day when Jamaica becomes fully
self-governing, as a Dominion or otherwise. The 1944
Constitution was in fact broadened as early as 1953. Now
Federation of the British Caribbean looms. We hope that soon
thereafter effective independence for the region will be established.
What are we to do? Is there to be a Federation Day, perpetuating
the festivities of the 2nd of August this year? And later on a
Dominion Day? Almost certainly neither of these will fall on the
20'h of November. The latter, anyhow, will have lost much of its
meaning. Too many public holidays inspired by changes in the
form of government would be undignified. I suggest that we refuse
to be bound by the calendar. Let us choose a single National Day,
which could well be the 1st of August. It is full time that we
stopped celebrating the abolition of slavery. Most peoples have
been enslaved at some period of their history, and when they shook
of the condition they no doubt held fiestas for a few years. But it is
a sign of arrested development to go on treating bodily
emancipation as a miracle.
The "' of August should include memories of our struggles and
overtones of our triumphs. It should also be Patriots' Day, when

we observe not only anniversaries of autonomy but remember the
men and women who made the progress possible.

In the meantime, the 20'h of November serves its purpose as a
Source: Pepperpot Volume 6 (1955), 24

"Let Freedom Ring", Gleaner Editorial 1997
"Today is Emancipation Day. Once more the people of Jamaica are
celebrating the end of that shameful period in the island's history
during which some of the early inhabitants were subjected to the
horror of slavery.
When Jamaica achieved nationhood in 1962, the significance of
the abolition of slavery as the beginning Jamaican freedom was lost
in the euphoria over independence. Emancipation Day
disappeared from the national calendar and, with it, a nationwide
appreciation of what the great event of August 1, 1838, meant in
the proper perspective of Jamaican history.

As a result, many modern-day Jamaicans have been unaware of the
deep significance of First of August as a national signpost.
Happily, this will no longer be the case. The renewed celebration
of Emancipation Day should create greater appreciation of the
significance of the abolition of slavery as the beginning of a
people's journey from freedom to independence.

When the slaves were set free, one of their principal needs was
land on which to settle, to grow crops, to start a new life. It is
therefore an almost symbolic gesture that, to mark Emancipation
Day 1997, the Government has decided to divest land at discounted
prices to those Jamaicans in the lower socio-economic groups. We
salute the symbolism even as we acknowledge the probable
political benefit from the gesture.

While the legacy of slavery is still with us in some ways, as the
Leader of the Opposition told Parliament, one of the benefits of
celebrating Emancipation Day will be the reminded that out of the
crucible of that cruel experience came the first free Jamaicans.

They it was who led the way towards the full freedom which ours to
enjoy today. It is fitting that we should remember them and honor
their memory with pomp and pride."
Source: Editorial, Gleaner, August 1, 1997, A4

Rex Nettleford, "The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery:
The Psychic Inheritance", Speech to the United Nations, 2007
"I come from that part of the Americas the Caribbean which is
arguably the living laboratory of the dynamism of the encounters
between Africa and European foreign soil, and both with the
Native American who had inhabited the real estate of the Americas
time out mind, during periods of conquest and dehumanization
along with the corresponding process of struggle and resistance.
For these purposes, North-East Brazil with its iconic centre in
Bahia, New Orleans and all of that Eastern littoral of North
America, referred to as Plantation America, constitute along with
the island-Caribbean the geocultural area that houses a civilization
with its own inner logic and inner consistency.
The advent of later arrivants into the Caribbean after the abolition
first of the trade in Slave Africans and later of slavery itself did not
save them from labour exploitation. But those new arrivants did
enter as free men and women into a society which by then had the
promise of decency and civility informing human, if not an
altogether humane, existence. This has been made distinctive by
the catalytic role played by the African Presence (author's
capitalization) in social formation within a psychic universe a
great part of which has been plunged, wittingly and unwittingly,
into subterranean and submarine silence to mix a metaphor.
Mixed metaphors are, in any case, masks to hide real visages,
audible decibels to mask the ultra-sound or mute-buttons to impose
that threatening silence which Jimmy Cliff the reggae superstar and
talented lyricist characteristically described thus: "You stole myv
history/Destroyed my culture/Cut out my tongue/So I can't
communicate/Then you mediate/And separate/Hide my whole way
of life/So myself I should hate ".

It is fitting that ones like us in the CARICOM Caribbean should be
concerned with breaking the silence, that second most powerful act
of oppression which the African Presence in the Americas has
suffered for the past 500 years along the Slave Route which
UNESCO has wisely placed on its agenda of concerns with a
resolve to have action follow intention through efforts like this
very Special Assembly of the parent body. Such are the acts that
define the journey by those who having been severed from
ancestral homelands and suffered in exile on plantations but have
survived and continue to struggle beyond survival.
The quest for delivery to humanity of the truth of what has evolved
over the past half a millennium is all part of the exercise. It is a form
of co-ordinated social action and an effective way of tackling what
has been arguably the greatest scourge of modern life. I refer to that
which may well have been the culmination of some four centuries
of obscenities perpetrated in the pursuit of material gain, fueled by
greed and the lust for power, and often under the guise of carrying
out a civilizing mission said to be divinely ordained and even
earlier sanctified by Papal Edict.
The fight for land space leading to wars and rumours of wars over
time but starting with the occupation of newly "discovered" spaces
which as we know were there before the Genoan Wanderer and his
marauding successors, armed with papal papers, claimed the
Americas and continued with the enslavement of millions torn
from ancestral hearths and bulk-loaded across the Atlantic. This
was followed by the systematic dehumanization of a horrendously
exploited labour force in the production of commodities for
commercial profit as well as by the psychological conditioning of
millions into stations of self contempt bolstered by an enduring
racism, underlying rigid class differentiation, and ending up with
the habitual violation of human rights. These are but a few of the
blots on human history that have left all of us legacies of the
deepest concern in humankind's journey into the 21st century.
However, there are other legacies legacies that are relegated to
silence, but which in stubborn defiance speak, often through the
intangible heritage of nonverbal communication, to the
invincibility of the human spirit against all odds, to the ability of

the human mind to exercise the intellect and imagination creatively
for the advancement of human knowledge and aesthetic sensibility,
to the refinement of ideas about individual rights and collective
freedom giving rise to civil society and democratic governance,
and to the exploration of the learning process to produce in the
human being higher levels of tolerance in dealing with each other
manifested in mutual respect, human dignity, caring and
compassion, despite temptations to embrace selfishness,
dissembling and even strong doses of mean-spiritedness evident
among ones of us. The contribution of the African Presence to all
this is without hubris or rancour deserving of bold assertion
supported, to be sure, by painstaking investigation, critical analysis
and decisive programmed dissemination all part of the mission of
UNESCO's Slave Route Project.
For all of us who tenant the Americas are the creatures of that
awesome process of 'becoming' consequent on the historic
encounters between diverse cultures from both sides of the Atlantic
in circumstances that, for all their negative manifestations, have
forged tolerance out of hate and suspicion, unity within diversity,
and peace out of conflict and hostility. The ongoing struggle by
those who seek recognition and status in human terms demands
from all with the gift of knowledge and insight, the commitment of
self in the continuing development of humankind. For stronger
than war, which dehumanises, humiliates and destroys, is indeed
the love of life. And the African Presence on the route continues to
speak of those gone, those living and those yet unborn a
celebratory incantation of a philosophy of life and of the
hope-in-despair which has sustained survival in defiance of the
trans-Atlantic Slave trade and slavery.
What we have learnt from history will have sharpened insights
about ourselves in the process of cross-fertilization which is the
great art of humankind's 'becoming' out of the dynamism of the
synthesizing of contradictions. For this is the story of
Africa-in-the-Americas for the past half a millennium. This, from
ancient times to this day, is indeed the source and stuff of great
literature, great art, and great social structures, of sturdy crucibles
of human understanding, of great intellectual achievement in

science and the humanities. And all of this has taken place along
the Slave Route of which we speak! And all of this has taken place,
indeed, despite the stubborn persistence of the rules of
representation which decree the denigration of things African, as
well as a debilitating racism against all who carry the stain of
Africa in their veins.

Lest we forget, that Presence, that African Presence, informed the
ancestral pedigree of ancient Greece and Rome which Western
civilization has hijacked into its history with monopolistic fervour.
In that Mediterranean crossroads civilization the treasures of
cross-fertilization gave to humanity the sort of creative energy
which guaranteed humankind's capacity to live, die and live again.
Within historical memory we again see that Presence playing its
catalytic role in the Iberian Peninsula when the cross-pollination of
cultures (the one from Africa included) gave rise to an
expansiveness of thought that resulted in the so-called "discovery"
of the Americas and our own flowering into the vital source of
'crossroads' energy that this Hemisphere has been for modern
It is good for us to remember that the moment the European
Iberians expelled the Moors and the Jews, Spain declined having
lost its intellect and its imagination as someone pungently and
wickedly remarked. The enslaved and colonized Americas
provided, as it were, a new arena for experimentation inhuman
exploitation admittedly but it was the relegation of hordes of
humanity (themselves sources of creative energy) to margins of
silence that was to render the Americas more impoverished than
she might be. Thanks, however, to the resistance of those who
would be silenced, the vitality and energy of the Hemisphere was to
benefit. Neither total physical expulsion nor ethnic cleansing has
been possible (since both modes of liquidation would have been
unprofitable for slave owners and metropolitan masters) and the
W. Adolphe Roberts, W. Adolphe Roberts, African Presence
continues to make the impact where it most matters in the enduring
areas of language, religion, artistic manifestations and even kinship
patterns, as well as in areas of ontology and cosmology rooted in
the creative diversity that is now the global reality of our Third

Millennium and has been the lived reality of the Caribbean and the
wider Americas of which the Caribbean is an iconic integral part.
This is something that invites understanding and acknowledgment
from the countries of modem Europe which have been colonized in
reverse and their extension, white North America, where
homogeneity has been considered a virtue among the
power-structures but which is now threatened by heterogeneity
following on the breakdown of geographical boundaries with the
advent of migrant hordes of different hue as well as a textured
sensibility via galactic spheres. But alas, the legacy of slavery and
its fertilizer of a trade in African labour, continues.
I agree with the notion that "there comes a time when the past
ceases to be an alibi, and [that]....at the turn of the 20th century [we
had] surely reached that point"2 but what I cannot agree with is the
shrouding of critical elements like the brutality of the trade in
enslaved Africans in a silence that would deny to hordes of
humanity the fullest possible participation in all discourse that
would attempt to define, determine and delineate the destiny of said
hordes of humanity long relegated in that past to stations of
humiliation, would-be psychic despair and non-personhood.
Indeed, those who dare to ignore their history are doomed to repeat
it. And the UNESCO Slave Route Project in helping to prevent
this is clearly designed to identify all the deep social/cultural forces
which have successfully conspired to prevent any such repetition at
least on the scale of that past or to deny history and us the long
memory of that past. Hence the CARICOM Caribbean's deep
involvement in the operations of the Project ever since its inception
in 1994 and still today in its revitalized and re-structured form. And
that vision is what now fortuitously brings us here to challenge the
validity of such past obscenities.
I have long had reason to address such obscenities elsewhere but in
the context of the responsibilities of the African Diaspora which
has helped to seminally shape the Americas but which is still being
denied its historic and historical role in the growth and
development of this Hemisphere and of elsewhere. The African
Diaspora cries out for recognition and status in the new
dispensation that goes by the name ofglobalization which from the

perspective of ones like us in the ex-slave post-colonial Caribbean
threatens to be a calculus of inequality rather than an opportunity to
make a last dash towards universal human dignity and individual
freedom in praxis.

Such dignity and freedom in praxis must continue to be on the
agenda of concerns and positive action for the African Diaspora in
the new Millennium. Crossing the boundary of thought to
programmes of action that will benefit the millions that tenant the
African Diaspora is itself an imperative. Hence the need to
incorporate designs for social living and a positive sense of self
into the mainstream development strategies of the newly globalised
world. The aim for

Diasporic Africa must be to help determine the mainstream and
not merely to float along with the currents wherever they may take
one. The age-long struggle "to be" and the working solutions
providing life skills for survival and beyond should be utilized to
the hilt in sustaining the strengths of the Diaspora and eliminating
the weaknesses that have come to systematically plague progress
and development.

So one 21st century challenge for the African Diaspora is to
have the new globalization veered away from inherited obscene
habits ofracialized division of the world into the rich industrialized
North and the poor non-Caucasian South, the developed civilized
world versus the two-thirds underdeveloped world, [misnamed]
the Third world. That this is best done by the manifestation of
achievement through the Diaspora's exercise of the creative
intellect and creative imagination is impatient of debate. But it
must help replace the Cartesian driven thought-system that
declares that the show of emotion is a "decline from thinking to
feeling with the Diasporic reality that genuine creativity and
intellectual rigour are not mutually exclusive and that the
harmonization of the two may well be the hope of a third
millennium world.

The abolition of the Trade for all the reasons, including those
outlined in the Caribbean scholar Eric William's seminal
Capitalism and Slavery, could not help but facilitate the
re-humanization of the offspring of the millions involuntarily and

inhumanely lured/dragged from West Africa and the Congo across
the Middle Passage. The mind, as the African Diaspora has long
known, can be a passionate organ too.
This is arguably a main point of the Reparation advocacy by no
means seeking a hand-out of 500 pounds sterling per person to
descendants of the oppressed but rather positing serious investment
by countries which have been enriched by the heinous crime of the
Slave Trade and Slavery, in the human resource development of
countries that suffered, preferably through the education and
preparation of their young to enable them to cope with the
inheritance of a continuing unjust world. And above all, for them to
be able to understand their own history and help plug the
knowledge gap which the Honourable Representative from St.
Vincent and the Grenadines so eloquently emphasized in the UN
debate of last November. For as a well-known African proverb
goes "until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt
will always glorify the hunter".
To cross the boundaries of hate, intolerance, discrimination,
racial arrogance, class exclusivity, intellectual snobbery, and
cultural denigration, which constitute the legacy of that horrific
past, the African Diaspora must continue with its time-worn
strategies of demarginalisation, re-enforcing the intensity of the
creative work in the expansion of communication arts serving
humankind. Caribbean kweyol, sranan tonga of Suriname, and
Jamaica Talk, all legitimately speak to the African diasporic reality
and help to substitute voice for the imposed silence of oppression.
The choice of one's Creator whether it be the Jah of the
Rastafarians, Pentecostal versions of Jesus, or African-American
versions of Mohammed and Islam, the Orishas of Cuba's santeria,
Brazil's candomble and Trinidad's shango, or the oguns of Haitian
vodun must insist on the legitimacy accorded Christian and other
Orthodoxies in the spirit of that ecumenism which has forced the
ritual of apology from Rome to Judaism and has the Graeco
/Judaeo / Christianr eligious-cultural complex acknowledging the
rightful existence of Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism, the great
religions of the East. Heterogeneity as a guiding principle of

human organization is here the desired framework for peace -
global, regional and local.
The gift of the grasp of the plurality and intertextuality of
existence, though not exclusive to African diasporic experience, is
the primary feature of that experience. The 21st century and the
new millennium which, through the accessibility by each segment
of Planet Earth to every other at a moment's notice by way of
internet, e-mail, (and electronic media), could benefit
tremendously from such sense and sensibility to get the
millennium's hopes for peace, security and the improvement of the
social capital, fulfilled. Can the world without anguish accept itself
as part this, part that, part the other but totally human without one
part of it trying to dominate the other? The idea of the Caribbean
person being part-African, part-European, part-Asian, part-Native
American but totally Caribbean is still a mystery to many in the
North Atlantic which has been spoiled by the very hegemonic
control it has had over empires and far-away real estate for half a
millennium and with the indulgences of a trade in slaves, slavery
and colonialism acting in tandem.

It is the full grasp of the creative diversity of all of humankind that
provides the source for tolerance, generosity of spirit, forgiveness,
respect for the Other, that the new millennium will require if it is to
house the brave new world with the human being as centre of the
cosmos. It is the source, as well, of the patience which is needed for
the human-scale development which all the grand objectives of
United Nations declarations envision. That patience is honed in the
habit of the African diasporic tenants who have had to negotiate
their space over time and to find form on a playing field that has not
been level, not since 1492 when Spain's Cristobal Colon lost his
way to Japan; not since 1562 when England's John Hawkins traded
some surrogate beasts of burden (enslaved Africans) to the Spanish
West Indies; not since 1807 when a mix of capitalistic self-interest
and humanitarian impulse drove the British Parliament to enact the
first step on the journey to restore decency to human life and living.

The African Diaspora is for this reason more than equipped to enter
the dialogue among civilizations having seeded the germ of a
civilization itself, as if with the beneficence of retributive justice.

Such dialogue, after all, is all about the quest for peace, tolerance,
justice, liberty, sustainable development, trust and for respect and
human understanding and should not be seen as a threat but rather
as a guarantee for peace.

Yet, even while I recommend this to our African Diaspora and to
the world as the guarantee of a safe and meaningful future, the
experience of ages drives me back to some wise words uttered on
February 28, 1968 which have been immortalized in the Bob
Marley musical setting ironically entitled "War" even while it
hankers after peace:

'Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another is
finally and permanently discredited and abandoned,/Until the
colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of
his eyes, /until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all
without regard to race... /Until that day/The dreams of lasting
peace, world citizenship and the rule of international morality/
will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained!'

Such, distinguished delegates, are the many boundaries, left by the
Slave Trade and Slavery. Many rivers are indeed yet to be crossed,
to take us all over to the right side of history and away from the
obscenities of the Slave Trade and of Slavery, as well as from the
vile consequences that continue to plague far too much of
humankind, depriving us all of decency, and threatening our innate

I. Jimmy Cliff, Song: The Price of Peace, from Album: Unlimited. 1973
2. Fergal Keane: "Time to Wake up to the false dawn of Africa's renaissance" in The
Independent (London) Weekend Review 13/3/99 p.3
3. Eric Williams, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (1956-1951), author, and
4. Bob Marley. regarded as the King of Reggae, internationally acclaimed Reggae singer and
musician. The words of War were taken from the speech to UN made by Emperor Haile Selaisee in

Source: "The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: The Psychic Inheritance",
Speech made at the United Nations, March 26, 2007. Available at


African Caribbean Slave Mothers and
Children: Traumas of Dislocation and
Enslavement Across the Atlantic World


Early European accounts of the West Coast of Africa provided
representations of the fecundity of women and the high value placed on
motherhood. African mothers were central to transmitting family memory and the
culture and values of their communities and enslaved women carried this
knowledge through to the plantation. Mother Africa is evoked by Yemoja, an
Orisha of the Yoruba religion, the essence of motherhood and the protector of
children, and other similar deities relating to female fertility who travelled with
Africans across the Atlantic. The historian, Basil Davidson, used the term 'Black
Mother' to evoke Africa as a source of enslaved people and Mother Poem by the
Caribbean poet, Kamau Braithwaite, symbolised continuity of this maternal
imagery across the Atlantic world.' Such imagery highlights the extent to which
the fecundity of African women was vital to ensuring the flow of new enslaved
people for the internal and the trans Atlantic tradem in Africans. Yet slavery, in
Africa and the Americas, deeply compromised women's reproductive role.
The mode of reproduction, argues Claude Meillasoux, is a defining
characteristic of slavery as the African enslaved woman's womb was constrained
by her essentially productive role. Enslaved women were 'stripped of their sex'
and denied motherhood and mothers had their children taken away as captives.
The African enslaved class was born of 'a womb of iron and gold', symbolising
capture by for force of arms, and the gold generated by purchase in the
marketplace.2 Orlando Patterson conceptualized this aberrant 'mode of
reproduction' in the harsher context of chattel slavery in the Americas as 'natal
alienation', the denial of enslavesd person's rights to future and past through
ancestors and children.3 Not surprisingly, slavery and the gendered body, and
questions of production and reproduction, including the legacy of slavery, have
focused prominently in African-American and Caribbean women's fictional
writings. The harrowing aspects of motherhood, sexual abuse and violence, are
most dramatically evoked in Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, inspired by the true

story of a runaway, Margaret Garner, who in 1856 killed her own three-year old
daughter rather than see the child returned to slavery.'

In the African diaspora in the Americas, all enslaved women gave birth and
raised children in unique and often traumatic conditions. In contrast with the low
fertility rate of enslaved females in the Caribbean, in the American South,
women's fertility was normal. Common to all American regimes, however, was
the denigration of the enslaved mother and prioritisation of her productive role
with serious implications for pregnancy, lactation, childrearing, and female
strategies of resistance. As Kimberley Brown observes, the exigencies of slavery
demanded a counter representation to African women's fertility, an 'unmothering
motif contingent on the essential productive role of the enslaved women in the
plantation economy and her lack of rights over children that problematized the
bond between mother and child. One doctor to enslaved peoples with experience
of Caribbean plantations put it aptly; the life of a enslaved mother was "upheld by
no consolation, animated by no hope ... her troubled pregnancy ending in the birth
of a child doomed like herself to the rigours of eternal servitude"6. There are thus
few positive images from the Caribbean of motherhood and healthy fecundity
among the enslaved.
A number of seminal studies have addressed childbirth and motherhood in
American plantation societies.7 In contrast, argues Jerome Teelucksingh, the child,
has remained 'largely invisible' in slavery studies until recently.8 To date, medical
and demographic aspects of reproduction among the enslaved have received the
most attention and socio-medical aspects of childbirth and the reasons for the low
fertility of Caribbean enslaved women continue to be debated.9 What interests me
here are the cultural meanings and practices of childbirth, motherhood and
childrearing in African societies, the ways in which these were interpreted by
European observers, and the impact of thetrans Atlantic trade and slavery on the
most fundamental relationship in human societies, the bond between mother and
child. Firstly, 1 review European accounts of motherhood and childrearing during
the era of pre-enslavement in the African cultures of origin. Secondly, I address
the traumas of dislocation and enslavement during the Middle Passage. This is
followed by some insights into the experiences of women and children in
Caribbean plantation societies where I argue that, despite the harsh conditions,
African-derived conceptualisations of motherhood and parenting endured. I
conclude with a brief consideration of the reverberations of slavery into the post
slavery era, specifically in relation to European attempts to change
African-derived practices.

Fertility, Motherhood and Childrearing in African Cultures of Origin
In order to understand the ways in which the lives of African women and
children were transformed through the traumas and dislocations of the Trans
Atlantic trade in Africans, we need some insights into the experiences of
motherhood and childrearing in the African cultures of origin. What evidence we
have comes primarily from European accounts and must be filtered through a lens
of distorted perceptions shaped by contemporary racial discourses. European
ideas of savagery and civilization that emerged from the Renaissance denigrated
African cultural beliefs and this intensified as the Trans Atlantic trade in Africans
and slave production expanded.
African women did not fit the European ideal of beauty which was bound up
with fairness, delicacy and physical frailty and from the earliest encounters,
Europeans emphasized black women's muscular, masculine build and sub-human
traits. As Jennifer Morgan points out, this led to assumptions of African women's
'monstrous and fecund bodies' that emphasized their inferiority to European
women.'0 The alleged nakedness and primitive nature of African women fostered
comparisons with the animal world. William Towerson, writing in the 1550s of
the Africans of the Sestro River on the Grain Coast (now Liberia) claimed that
"men and women go so much alike, that a woman is only known from a man by her
breasts, which are mostly long and hanging down like the udder of a milch goat"''
Other travellers observed that African women's breasts were 'pendulous' as a
result of'childing' and of such an 'unseemly length' that, allegedly, some "could
suckle over their shoulders [literally throwing their breasts behind]".2
Emergent stereotypes of a homogenized 'African woman' relating to
sexuality, pregnancy and motherhood denied class, ethnic and regional diversity
(carefully observed in some firsthand accounts) and justified enslavement. These
perceptions were based more on fantasy than fact and considerable plagiarism
exists in travellers' accounts. As the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans developed
and more business and social contact with coastal Africans occurred, women
focused more prominently in European writings and the powerful image of the
sexualized 'Sable Venus' contrasted sharply with that of the fecund, desexualized
'mother'." Such stereotypes were reiterated by those with only superficial
knowledge of Africa, infused with plantocratic racist discourse, and negatively
impacted on African women's experiences of labour and reproduction as enslaved
mothers in the Americas.'4
These evolving racialized discourses confirmed European cultural
superiority and justified their power over 'inferior peoples' but were also riddled

with internal contradictions. Allegations of negligent parenting, for instance,
conflicted with testimony to the tenderness of mothers towards children. What,
then, do such contradictory representations reveal about the intimate domestic life
of eighteenth century Africans? We cannot generalize about numerous, ethnically
diverse, African societies but fragmentary contemporary evidence outlines some
of the central aspects of motherhood and childrearing common to sub-Saharan
African societies that have also been described in modern studies. These include a
world view and family structure that links the child to a complex network of
relationships embracing ancestors and the spirit world as well as living kin;
attitudes to pregnancy and childbirth as dangerous physically and spiritually, and
thus associated with complex rituals; a high value placed on children, male
potency and female fertility; precocity of infants in motor development and
personal-social behaviour resulting from childrearing practices, and a long
breast-feeding period followed by a "final birth... when the child is finally weaned
from the mother's breast and body".'5
As in all pre-industrial peasant societies, fertility and motherhood were
central to the African cultures of origin of captives taken to the Americas. Lucille
Mathurin Mair has argued that in a society centred on ancestor worship the woman
was at the centre of a kinship web, guaranteeing its endless proliferation as the
'carrier of roots'.' The explorer, Mungo Park, observed that in all parts of Africa
"reverence for mothers prevailed [and]... the greatest affront which could be
offered to a Negro was to [insult] her who gave him birth". This he attributed to
the fact that 'filial duty and affection' was 'less ardent' towards the father as
polygamy divided his attachment among children of different wives.1
Motherhood was the fulfilment of female adulthood and fertility the African
woman's greatest gift. "The fruitful woman is highly valued whilst the barren is
despised", wrote the Dutch trader, Willem Bosman, of Benin. A pregnant wife in
the Gold Coast, he continued, was 'much respected' by her husband and 'waited
upon'. A first pregnancy was clearly an important rite of passage for women
marked, according to Bosman, by "ridiculous ceremonies ...[when] rich offerings
were made to the [gods] to obtain a safe delivery".18

African women were assumed to be physically robust and allegedly gave
birth easily, with the same ease as animals and without much pain, an assumption
perpetuated in plantation societies. Senegalese women, observed, the French
sailor, Jean Barbot, "need neither midwives nor female attendants ...for they
deliver easy and without travail"; the 'common sort' had generally sufficient
strength after giving birth to take their babies to the nearest water to wash them. He

added, however, that "women from the neighbourhood who happen to be there"
gave the women in labour "all the help that they can".'9 In a similar vein, Bosman
wrote that, unlike in Europe, childbearing in the Gold Coast was:

... as little troublesome as [can be]; here there is no lying-in, no
expensive gossiping or groaning feasts...women go to wash
themselves in the sea[and] no provisions were made for linnen (sic)
or any necessaries for the new-born infant...yet limbs grow as
healthily as in Holland."20
Only seldom was a woman "obliged by illness to keep to her bed for some
days".21 Bosman's comparisons with Holland reveal how European observers
used only their own bourgeois milieu as reference points: mothers and children of
the European lower classes did not have such privileged treatment.
Assumptions about the ease of childbirth in African societies persisted into
the modern era. The medicalization of childbirth in wealthier Western societies
was contrasted with the 'natural childbirth' in African cultures characterized by
familiar surroundings, nearness of friends and relatives, absence of anaesthesia,
and attendance of a traditional birth attendant, all which reputedly had a
'considerable therapeutic effect'.22 In effect, African women today have some of
the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. In many West African peasant
cultures, pregnancy (particularly if the first) and childbirth are regarded as a very
dangerous and unpredictable times for the woman and associated with complex
rituals.23 Although we have little evidence, this would have been the case in
African cultures of origin. In plantation societies pregnancy and childbirth
remained as, if not more, hazardous, with a high incidence of gynaecological
complications, some the direct result of harsh labour and physical punishments.24
If they survived childbirth, new-born infants only had a tenuous hold on life
and contemporary accounts record a number of important neo-natal rituals with
commonalities across different regions. On the Gold Coast, wrote Bosman:
"The child is no sooner born than the Priest (here called a
Feticheer) is sent for, who binds a parcel of ropes and coral, and
other trash about the head, body and legs of the infant...[who] is
thus armed against sickness and accidents...".

Children wore these fetishes until they were seven or eight years old when
they received a 'lappett' or 'half an ell of [cloth]'. Of the inhabitants of the
Kingdom of Benin, he observed that when infants were seven days old the parents
made a small feast to prevent evil spirits from doing mischief and strewed 'all the

ways with dressed victuals' to appease them. 'Small incisions' were also made
over the bodies of infants and females were "more ordained with these ornaments
than [were] males".26 Mungo Park observed a similar practice at infant naming
ceremonies in the regions bordering the Senegal River. In Caribbean plantatation
societies important rituals were also performed nine-days after the birth and
similar rituals centred on the new-born persist in modern West Africa.27 In the
penultimate years of slavery such rituals were regarded as antithetic to the
civilizing mission and laws now stipulated that all 'owners and managers' were to
ensure all enslaved children had a Christian baptism 'within 6 months of their
birth' regardless of the wishes of their parents.2
Contemporary European sources generally ignored such hazards of
childbirth and emphasized what modern childrearing experts have termed the
'casual nurturance' of African mothers, characterized by a lack of anxiety. "The
children of these African women are all born strong and vigorous" observed
"The mothers never apply to them the precautions we take for our
children. Having washed them in the sea or the river, they are
content to wrap them in a little piece of cloth and then lay them
down on a rush matt (often on the ground) where they leave them to
sprawl and play as they please for a month or six weeks. After this,
she takes them and daily carries them, tied to her back from
morning to night, without leaving them, no matter what she does...
from the age of seven or eight months, [the infants] go around
naked, crawling on all fours like little cats, so that they lear to
walk and talk before they are one year old."29
But 'casual nurturance' is not the same as neglect: early infant nurturing was
reputably characterized by indulgence and a strong attachment between mother
and infant. The women of the Sestro Kingdom, added Barbot, were" outstanding
in their tender care for their infants" and as long as they were at the breast carried
them tied on their back 'in a kind of leather box' in which the baby sat. He noted a
similar level of care of Senegalese newly born. His observations had led him to
believe that "our swaddling and the great amount of attention from our mothers
make us largely subject to infirmities when we are adults".30 Infants were breast
fed for two to three years. There is evidence that elements of such practices
survived in communities of enslaved people in the Americas, in the New World,
in particular late-weaning of infants, a practice that enslaved women clung on to
tenaciously despite efforts of planters to curtail it.31

Barbot provides additional evidence to refute European allegations of
negligent mothering. "Although [mothers] behave towards their children so
casually" wrote Barbot, "yet they have no lack of tender affection for them. It
gives them great pleasure to care for them, and to attach to them various little
knick-knacks, to decorate them and make them look attractive..." 32 Writing at a
much later date, Joseph Corry commented that "infancy and youth are singularly
happy, and mothers attend their offspring with maternal feeling and delight".33
Similarly, Park wrote of the 'Mandingoes' that they were a 'gentle race' and
"maternal affection...is everywhere conspicuous among them, and, creates a
correspondent return of tenderness in the child". "Maternal solicitude", he added,
extended "not only to the growth and security or the person but also...to the
improvement of the mind of the infant..."

European observers thus acknowledged the existence of close bonds
between mothers and young infants but believed that the parenting of older
children left much to be desired. African children were represented as 'children of
nature' engaged in "sportive groups and infantine diversion" who accounted for
the muscular physiques and procreativity of the 'Negro race'.35 Observers in the
Caribbean also commented on the physical equality of male and female enslaved
children and adolescents, their nakedness and lack of 'modesty' or shame'.3 In
Benin, claimed Bosman, "almost all the children go naked bar the strings of coral
twisted around their middles", boys until ten or twelve, girls until "nature
discovers their maturity". On the Gold Coast, he continued, the men "never trouble
themselves in the least [to educate their children] nor the women much indeed...".
Children were breast fed for up to three years and then sent out to fend for
themselves "wherever it pleases in the market or learning to swim in the sea
...nobody looks after it". This, according to Bosman, implying negligence,
compared with 'our [Dutch] children' whose parents were "continually perplexed
with thousands of fears of some or other ill accidents befalling them."37
Modem studies confirm that in West African cultures children are expected
to forage for 'children's food'; nuts, wild fruits, grubs, termites, mice or small
birds, behaviour they learn from other children. But each culture has clear
principles governing childrearing that define the stages of childhood and the
behaviour characteristic of each stage. Additionally, the African child was/is part
of an extended family and, after the first few months is cared for by a number of
people including older siblings.38 Contemporary observers noted that children
were looked after primarily by their mothers until about ten years old when boys
were taught a trade, usually their father's, and girls were instructed in domestic

arts by their mothers. Gold Coast women wrote Barbot, were "...attached to their
housekeeping [and] take great care of their house and their children, and make
their daughters help in house-keeping and cooking as soon as they begin to grow
up".39 Children thus learned from interaction with parents, extended family and
other adults in the community. This is the origin of a concept that travelled to the
Americas with enslaved Africans, that it 'takes a village to raise a child'.
In addition to accusations of negligent parenting, Africans, women in
particular, were accused of lax sexuality, an enduring myth perpetuated by
Europeans throughout the era of enslavement and beyond. This allegedly resulted
in sexually precocious children. Gold Coast children, claimed Bosman, were
exposed daily to "such discourse as is not very proper for their ears" and thus
"children of eight or nine years know very well how the world is propagated, and
before twelve they generally reduce their knowledge into practice", an allegation
reiterated by expatriate doctors in the 1970s."0 Such claims were compounded by a
common Eurocentric belief that the tropical climate enhanced sexuality and thus
premature sexual development. There is, however, some slender evidence from
the Gold Coast and the Caribbean plantations that young girls were protected
from sex until mature enough.4'
In effect, sexuality was closely regulated; despite his allegations Bosman
conceded that the inhabitants of Benin believed it was "very improper to talk about
procreation" and the sexual act should be carried out in privacy.42 In many African
cultures of origin, sexual abstention was legitimized by religion and tradition.
There were also taboos on women having physical contact with male members of
the family during menstruation and pregnancy. Young girls were initiated into
female knowledge of adult gender roles, marriage, sexuality, fertility and
motherhood, during ceremonies organized by women's secret societies. Such
societies also closely regulated mature women's sexuality.43
Integral to rituals associated with the transition from puberty to adulthood,
pregnancy and motherhood were the spirits relating to female fertility such as the
Yoruba gods, Yemoja and Oshun. We can never know how much the secret
knowledge and related rituals surrounding fertility in the cultures of origin of
enslaved Africans survived the Middle Passage but, given the survival of other
cultural forms we can assume that elements of this knowledge informed attitudes
to sexuality, pregnancy and motherhood in plantation societies. African women
brought knowledge of herbal medicines and abortifacients with them from Africa
and, in Caribbean communities of enslaved people, priestesses, healers,
doctresses and midwives were the guardians of such knowledge.44 The durability

of such cultural knowledge is evidence of the eslaved peoples' ability to adapt to a
system of enslavement which severed the family and community relationships
discussed above, rendered relations between mothers and children insecure and
precarious, and consistently sought to eradicate or modify enslaved peoples'
cultural beliefs around mothering and parenthood.
Enslavement had a traumatic and disruptive effect on the kinship structures
within which birth, motherhood, and childrearing practices and rituals were
embedded. Emblematic here is the transformation in the African deities associated
with motherhood that crossed the Middle Passage with the enslaved captives. In
Haitian Vodun, the goddess Erzulie (Erzili) Dantor derives from the Erzulie Freda
of Dahomey, the spirit of love and beauty, femininity and compassion. However,
in Erzulie Dantor the goddess has been transformed into a warrior and fierce
protector of women and is often depicted as scarred and buxom women holding a
child protectively in one hand and a knife in the other. This transformation of
Erzulie Freda to Erzili Dantor arguably reflects the dramatic transformations in
African women's lives as enslaved people in the Caribbean and the persistent
poverty that has blighted their lives since freedom.45 Such transformations began
from the moment of capture but intensified during the Middle Passage.

Crossing the Atlantic: Transformations in the Lives of Women and Children
During the Middle Passage
African women and children were wrenched away from homes and families.
Women predominated in the internal trade in Africans but are estimated to have
comprised, on average, one third of captives to the Americas although there were
some important variations. Children constituted an estimated nineteen per cent of
captives shipped to Jamaica from 1764-1788 and children between ten and sixteen
constituted fourteen percent of those transported to the British Caribbean from
1683 to 1791.46 It was suggested that inland peoples sold their children into
slavery, but the ship captain, William Snelgrave, observed that he had never seen
people doing so except in times of 'extreme want and famine' and Park supported
this, claiming that African mothers were forced to take such measures because of
starvation.47 British and French traders did not want young children and allegedly
regarded the capture of women with smaller children as undesirable as the babies
and children took up extra room on ships. The instructions to the Royal African
Company factor, George Hingston, who purchased captives for the Arthur,
specified that 'slaves purchased did not exceed forty neither were they under

Alexander Falconbridge, a ship's surgeon turned abolitionist, observed that
coffle's sometimes included women "so far advanced in their pregnancy, as to be
delivered during the journey...to the coast [or] on board ship".49 However, if the
child was born before sale to the ship, its chances of survival were compromised.
In his testimony of his experiences as a surgeon aboard the Slave ship, Ruby,
James Arnold claimed that the captain refused to buy one woman "as she had a
child in her arms" and she was taken back to the shore; but, he continued, "the next
morning she was brought out again, this time without the child which had been
killed the night before by the black trader in order to [sell] the mother".50 The
reliability of such both these anecdotes is questionable. But they do highlight the
traumas women experienced through forced separation from their children, which
were mirrored by those experienced by children separated from their mothers and
There is little in the contemporary accounts of the experiences of African
women and children with the exception of the litany of deaths that captains had to
record. Their experiences of the Middle Passage have to be gleaned from limited
white written sources, rare testimony from those enslaved, or formerly enslaved,
such as Olaudah Equiano, and memories passed down through the generations. On
board ship "the rule was always observed to keep the males apart from the women
and children" and below decks women were crammed in the aft of the ship.5'
Women and children were not normally shackled and children, in particular, had a
free run of the boat. Barbot referred to "several fine little boys whom we mostly
kept to attend to us about the ship" and "like the women dancing on
deck...afforded us recreation." This relative freedom enabled children to act as go
between in plotting revolts. On the Danish ship Fredensborg some slaves banded
together to seize the sailors knives and kill all the whites. Three enslaved males,
two enslaved women and a boy who was allowed to run freely around the ship,
were allegedly behind the plot.2
Enslaved Africans s engaged in resistance together and shared common
miseries but the experience was also gendered. Women and had to care for
children: as Falconbridge observed, some were pregnant when they were
purchased at the coast and gave birth on board. We have virtually no evidence of
women's experiences of childbirth at sea although Barbot observed that when one
of the enslaved women gave birth on board his vessel she was helped by other
women, "as was the practice in Africa". After she had delivered, "she herself
carried her child to a tub of seawater which was at the extremity of the vessel, and
washed it there". An hour later "...she had resumed her usual work helping to

cook in the kitchen [and] kept the baby all the time on her back wrapped in an old
rag tied round her waist".

On shipboard women would not have been able to perform the birth rituals
of their cultures of origin discussed above. Stripped naked and shaved before
embarking they had lost the cherished fetishes that were fundamental to the belief
systems of their cultures of origin. Amongst other things, as Barbot observed, such
fetishes or gri gris, saved Africans from drowning at sea and protected women in
childbirth and their infants afterwards.54 Anne Caroline Bailey argues that the
enslaved Africans were unable to perform such rites of passage and this severed
links between the living and their ancestors, undermined sacred beliefs about
kinship and death, and compounded the 'psychological terror' of the Middle
Passage. As Falconbridge observed, the strains of ship-board, the disorientation,
disease, and punishment took a severe toll and many slaves became 'raving mad'
and died thus "particularly the women".55
Additionally, women may have stopped menstruating as a result of stress.
Under extreme conditions the desire and ability of women to have children is
reduced. Gynaecologists distinguish between 'emotional amenorrhea' which may
have occurred as a result of psychological disturbance, and 'secondary
amenorrhea' caused by illness or change in environment. On ship board, women
experienced conditions that increased their chances of developing both forms of
this disorder. Amenorrhea arguably persisted in the Caribbean, especially during
the seasoning process which may have contributed to the low fertility rate of
enslaved women who were African as opposed to Creole born. This
demonstrates how slavery attacked the most fundamental basis of African
women's identity their ability as a fecund mother to procreate the clan / lineage.
Women and girls were also vulnerable to sexual exploitation and rape. Male
European fantasies of the 'Sable Venus' travelled the Atlantic with the enslaved
captives, as did the heavy drinking and debauched behaviour characteristic of
European enclaves on the African Coast. At sea, in the surreal and oppressive
environment of the slavers, the limited checks and balances on extreme behaviour
that existed on the African coast evaporated. Officers were reputed 'to indulge
their passions among [enslaved women] at pleasure' and were 'sometimes guilty
of such excesses as disgrace human nature'. Common sailors were also allowed
intercourse with 'such of the black women whose consent they can secure'.5
In A Woman Named Solitude based on 'legends and fireside tales' of
'Solitude of Guadeloupe' (a female enslaved executed in 1802 for her part in a
major Slave rebellion), Andre Schwartz-Bart provides an imaginative fictional

recovery of the life of Bayangumay, Solitude's enslaved mother, a wildingg', an
'African she devil', raped on ship board by a French sailor. This is fictional
provenance of the mulatto, Solitude, who was born in Guadeloupe in c. 1774.
Troubled by Solitude's strange eyes, one green, one blue the old plantation
saltwater blacks, rich in experience told her that this was what happened when the
mixture of bloods takes place too quickly and without pleasure: in ditches, by the
roadside, and especially on Slave ships. 51

Solitude's mother, now renamed Bobette or Man (Maman) Bobette, became
a field hand and her child was immediately taken away from her to be brought up
in the Big House so she could be groomed 'to wait on the masters table.' But she
was soon returned as she had rejected "any breast other than that of black
Bobette...as though ... the umbilical cord had not been cut".9" Here the umbilical
cord symbolizes the strength of the mother / child bond but also continued bonds
with the African motherland. The novel thus provides a vivid and compelling
insight into the experiences of countless anonymous African women, who made
the journey of no return and whose lives we can only partially reconstruct from the
contemporary evidence. Such women who survived the sea journey, like
Bayangumay, had to raise their children in adversity and adapt to the irreversible
physical and cultural dislocations they had experienced.
Mothers and Children in Caribbean Slave Societies

Power relations between white men and black women established during the
Middle Passage set a precedent for African women's experiences in American
societies. The link between sex, violence and 'the unmothering' motif persisted
and younger enslaved females remained vulnerable to sexual exploitation and
rape, risking punishment if they refused the unwanted advances of white men. A
moving example of such sexual violation is Sally, a recalcitrant enslaved woman
of the Jamaican planter, Thomas Thistlewood. Locked up for stealing from the
cookhouse, she escaped but was caught in a provision ground where Thistlewood
asserted his droit de seigneur over her. Thus began a pattern of stealing, running
away, floggings and rape. In 1782, Sally had a miscarriage whilst she was having
her collar taken off.60 Such extreme 'insolence' may have been prompted or
exacerbated by psychological trauma and/rape. The abuse Sally suffered when
aged approximately fifteen, is clinically recorded by Thistlewood when he
punished her for running away:-
"Note her private parts is tore in a terrible manner, which was
discovered this morning by her having bled a great deal where she

lay in the bilboes last night. Being threatened a good deal, she at
last confessed that a sailor had laid with her while away".6
Thistlewood's response is to put a collar on her and rebrand her on the
cheek. The compassion comes from another enslaved female,, who 'undertook' to
doctor her. 62
Sally's harrowing experiences highlight an aspect of the slave regime that
is, as yet, under-researched, the sexual abuse of enslaved children. Thistlewood
also comments on how his neighbour, John Cole, a drunkard who was even
grosser in his sexual appetites than Thistlewood, kicked his wife out of bed and
"openly takes girls of 8 or 9 years old etc.".63 It was not until 1823 that a law was
passed in Jamaica protecting female children under ten and enslaved females from
rape.64 Ironically, the freedom of female children was opposed in Trinidad and
elsewhere on the grounds that freedom would have "the most pernicious effects on
the morals of the female part of the enslaved population", presumably a reference
to the fact that some free black and coloured women made a living as prostitutes
and tavern/ brothel keepers in the urban areas.6

Such contemporary evidence suggests that African childhood experiences in
the Americas were also gendered. Even when legislation was brought in banning
or mitigating harsh punishments it was accepted that 'the owner of a enslaved
female under twelve years' should not be prevented from 'correcting or punishing
such a enslaved for misbehaviour or misconduct, in like manner as free persons are
accustomed to chastise their children'.66 Several cases of cruelty towards enslaved
females were brought before the colonial courts. In one particularly brutal case on
Crooked Island in the Bahamas, a girl domestic, Kate, had red pepper rubbed in
her eyes whilst being punished in the stocks. (In their defence her owners alleged
that pepper was "used amongst the Negroes as a punishment for their children").
Kate was consistently flogged, allegedly also by her own father. Her death after
one such flogging resulted in the trial and subsequent imprisonment of her owners,
Henry and Helen Moss. Twenty-eight local worthies sent a petition to the
metropolitan government pleading for mitigation of the grounds that Mrs. Moss
was "the first lady of character and respectability that had ever been shut up in
Nassau" and had only intended to "chastise the girl for misbehaviour". The Moss's
also petitioned for reduction of their five month sentences citing Kate's
"persevering, obstinate disposition". The appeals were rejected; the Moss's had
overstepped the acceptable bounds.67
Abuse experienced by enslaved females' like Kate and Sally demonstrate
the problems faced by girls and women of childbearing age, including forced sex

with white men, miscarriage, deaths of children and separation from children
through resale or transportation. These are well documented in reports on the
conditions of enslaved peoples in the British Empire included in the House of
Commons Sessional Papers in the penultimate years of slavery. Such reports
reflected planter fears about the failure of the enslaved populations to reproduce
after the ending of the Trans-Atlantic trade in Africans and abolitionist concerns
to improve the conditions of the enslaved, particularly women and children. On
the plantation women aged quickly and there was no middle age. They were either
young women forced to combine production and reproduction or old women past
their sexual and productive prime. African women reputedly started childbearing
early, between ten and twelve years, and stopped childbearing earlier than
European women and were reputably only capable of bearing children for about
fifteen years as opposed to an average twenty-five years for European women.6
Given the problems experienced by enslaved women in combining labour
and motherhood, the grandmother role, expressed through fictive or blood kin,
became more central to childrearing. Planters forced mothers back to work soon
after birth and infants spent long hours in the care of 'nannies', usually old
women. An elderly female 'driver' also supervised the 'pickinny' gang comprised
of children between eight and thirteen, but sometimes as young as four, who were
engaged in light tasks such as weeding, collecting trash from the mill and feeding
animals. She was also responsible for administering discipline and ensuring young
children were socialised into plantation life.69 British government officials
recognized 'the excellent practice' of placing all the children on an estate "under
the charge of one 'matronly person' who cooked their food for them at
mealtimes".7" In the transition to emancipation schools were established and
children were instructed by 'elderly' black women. It was claimed that the 'infant
schools' in England, where "older women took care of children while their
mothers were at work in the fields' were 'but imitations of the like establishments
in the West Indies".71

Children were expected to earn their keep and also had to help out on family
provision grounds. Planters, however, complained about the costs of rearing
enslaved children and they protested (and flouted) legislation brought during late
slavery to limit hours young children under fourteen years could work to six in
twenty-four hours.7 Children were regarded as part of the enslaved population
(including the old and sick) deemed 'unproductive': a Berbice planter claimed
that 'on the generality of estates there are one-third effective, one third aged, and
one third children' this contrasted with 'former times' when a planter only

purchased adults when he went to market.73 Children had poor diets and, from age
five to ten years old, boys and girls typically received only half that of adults
although the colonial government in London recognized that "a healthy child from
his fifth, to his tenth year, needs very nearly, if not quite, as much nutriment as a
grown person".74 They also suffered from jiggers and other tropical parasites and
diseases and a 'good many little ones' died from 'dirt-eating'.75 Thus on the
plantation, infant and child mortality rates were high but this was blamed on
neglect on the part of adults who abnegated responsibility to their masters. In
particular, enslaved women were depicted as poor, negligent mothers who
shirked their maternal responsibilities for 'trivial pleasures' such as 'dancing and

Evidence suggests that, to the contrary, enslaved mothers adopted
numerous strategies to protect their children, including running away and entering
into concubinage relations with European men to give their children a better
chance in life and help to secure their freedom. As Mathurin Mair observes
enslaved mothers had grievances in common and 'the chorus of the "picanniny
Mothers" clamouring for redress was not easily subdued'. Additionally, enslaved
women remained strongly attached to their 'old customs' where childbearing and
rearing were concerned.77 Men and women, argues Judith Timyan, adapt their
childrearing practices and parenting skills from the starting point of their own
culture. Thus elements of African rituals centred on the new born, late weaning of
infants, and early childrearing practices clearly survived the Middle Passage.
Women continued to go about "with their Children on their backs and their Trays
on their heads".78

Dr. Pinckard, a military doctor attached to the garrison in Barbados, noted
that the practice of carrying children across the hip, common in African cultures,
was "a universal mode of nursing among negroes" on the island and was adopted
by the lower class of white women. He regarded it as better than the English
fashion of instead of seating babies on the arm and less injurious to the infant."0

The survival of women's 'old customs' is remarkable, given the pressures
on women and the forces constantly undermining family life. The persistence of
some African childrearing practices, particularly late weaning, interfered with
productivity and planters had little regard for the welfare of mothers and their
children until the supply of captives was cut off by the abolition of the trade in
1807. The burdens on women were heavy. A report on the measures taken to
improve the conditions of those enslaved observed that "[in] the present state of
the enslaved population, few families have any father, or reputed father, to take

charge of and cultivate the [provision grounds]... therefore this task must fall on
the mother"'. How, asked the author, was the mother of several infant children to
cultivate provisions to 'fill so many mouths?' 8' This alludes to the common
assumption in contemporary sources that any semblance of 'normal' family life on
the plantation was not possible. Planters blamed this on the licentiousness and
promiscuity of the enslaved, abolitionists on sales of enslaved peoples and the
debauched and cruel behaviour of planters. Both, however, prioritised the
mother-child bond and the matrifocal family headed by a dominant matriarchal
female as the as the only viable social relationship on the plantation, although even
that remained vulnerable to severance through sales.
In plantation societies, it was not possible to reproduce the family
compounds and gender roles and divisions of the African cultures of origin. Yet it
can be argued that African family forms were adapted to the constrained
circumstances of slavery, patriarchal relations persisted, and men retained
leadership positions.82 Recent archaeological excavations of villages have
provided additional evidence about the organisation of yards and houses and
household economies that confirm the viability of enslaved family life.83
Nevertheless, the exigencies of the slave regime demanded certain crucial
adaptations to African gender roles and relationships. A key example here is the
creation of female networks. As the treatment of Sally above indicates, enslaved
women provided psychic and material support for one another. Older women, as
midwives, healers and priestesses were at the hub of these female networks. As
Campbell, Miers and Miller point out female centred households and local
networks of quasi-'kin' had no significant precedents in Africa. Female networks
thus constituted "new and creative responses to the disabling conditions in which
[women] lived" which incorporated elements of the ritual and belief systems of
their cultures of origin."4 Such 'creative responses' to the cruel and unusual
conditions of slavery became central features of post slavery African diasapora

Figure 1: Bronze Woman*

After Slavery: Enduring Conflicts between European and African-derived
Cultural Practices.

This article has demonstrated how women of African origin survived the
traumas and dislocations of enslavement and creatively adapted some of their
fundamental beliefs and practices relating to family, motherhood and childrearing.
Yet after the ending of slavery, these fundamental beliefs and practices remained
subjected to white interventions. The moralization and domestication of women
and their transformation into good Christian mothers and wives was central to the
civilizing mission in the Caribbean. By the mid nineteenth century these visions

were abandoned as scientific racism, and the belief that racial traits were
immutable, replaced the abolitionist belief that ex- slaves could become civilized
through Christianity, monogamous marriage, patriarchy, industrious endeavors,
and education. The persistence of poverty resulted in a system of migratory labour
between islands that took men away from their homes. Women had to continue to
work in plantation labour and other manual jobs. This perpetuated the idea that
slavery had resulted in the 'pathological', mother-headed, black family
characterized by the absent, irresponsible black man and negligent parenting. In
effect, adaptations of African family forms and attitudes to marriage and
motherhood persisted: women, in particular, were associated with the 'primitive'
and resisted attempts to change their cultural beliefs, regarded by Europeans as
'bad African practices' that had undermined the abolitionist 'civilizing mission'.
White misconceptions about African-Caribbean attitudes to sexuality,
motherhood, parenting, and family thus proved highly durable and persisted
through the colonial era and beyond. Arguments about the matrifocal family were
strengthened by the fact that, after the Second World War, African Caribbean
women went as independent migrants to North America and Britain, leaving
children behind with grandmothers or other female relatives. The perceived
'social problems' created by black mothers and children in Britain served only to
confirm long standing white misconceptions of matriarchal families, irresponsible
fathers, indifferent mothers, and poor parenting.
The perceived aberrant sexual and family lives of the African-Caribbean
rural and urban poor were now cited as an explanation for persistent poverty in the
Caribbean and inability of Caribbean migrants to 'fit in' in Britain. Additionally,
the fecundity of the African-Jamaican woman was seen as a 'social menace' that
needed curbing through moralization and family planning."5 A government report
from 1946 claimed that 68 per cent of children were born 'illegitimate' in Jamaica
and, as many of the economic problems in Jamaica were 'social and even
spiritual', it was essential to promote 'stable, lasting family life'. It was now
assumed that African-Caribbean peoples had lost their cultures of origin during
slavery and this was cited as the root cause of the lack of a normal family life.
Irresponsibility and 'amorality' was 'a consequence of detribalisation' when
slaves were brought from Africa' and their 'tribal customs' were abandoned and
destroyed'."6 Government concern was reflected in a major West Indian Social
Survey conducted between 1947 and 1952, a study of three rural communities in
Jamaica, funded by the Colonial Social Science Research Council (CSSRC), and
headed by the white Jamaican researcher, Edith Clarke. This resulted in Clarke's

1957 controversial work My Mother Who Fathered Me.87 Such 'colonial
knowledge' about the intimate lives of men and women of African origin
adversely compared Caribbean peasant sexual mores and family life to the
'respectable' white British norm and influenced a racialized social policy for
African-Caribbean migrant families and children.
Poorer African Diaspora communities are still associated with mother
headed families and absent fathers. But how much is this related to poverty, the
pressures of modem urban life, and / or efforts to impose white Euro-American
domestic and sexual norms on to a different, African-orientated approach to
sexuality and motherhood? The cultural differences between African and
European parenthood and child infant care have continued to raise important
questions about the validity what is 'normal' in child care (usually associated with
Western middle class patterns based on academic studies of child development).88
From this perspective, the attitudes of Caribbean communities to sexuality,
marriage, gender roles and childrearing continue to reflect African-orientated
values that have survived migrations and the span of the centuries."
In contemporary African Diaspora societies the horrors enslaved African
women experienced remain a vivid part of the collective Diaspora memory. But
the African mother figure, as the pivot of the family also is a powerful symbol of
the 'survival stories' of Diaspora communities.90 African Diaspora women
concludes the Jamaican-born poet, Opal Palmer Adisa, need to acknowledge their
debt to those long dead female ancestors who tenaciously clung to their beliefs and
gendered cultural practices despite attempts of whites to claim total control over
their bodies."' Such women, who, together with their children, have been the focus
of this article, have now been given recognition in the commissioning of the
Bronze Woman (See Figure 1, p.85) as a memorial to the British Caribbean
community. This is the first monument of a black woman to be displayed publicly
anywhere in England and represents "the struggle of black women across the ages
as well as their spirit and courage". 92

* Photograph of Bronze Woman courtesy of Tanzeem Ahmed, Director- Olmec, UK
1. Basil Davidson, Black Mother: the Years of the African Slave Trade (London:
Gollancz, 1961); Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Mother Poem (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1977).
2. Claude Meillassoux, The Anthropology of Slavery: The Womb of Iron and Gold,
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press and the Athlone Press. Translated by
Alide Dasnois, 1991), 89-90, 126-7.
3. Orlando Patterson Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986), 25, 56-58.
4. Toni Morrison, Beloved: A Novel (London: Picardo in Association with Chatto &
Windus, 1987). For details of Margaret Garner see Steven Wicsenburger, Modern
Medea: A Family Story of Slavery and Child Murder from the Old South (New York: Hill
and Wang Publishers, 1998).
5. Kimberley Brown, 'Sealed Wombs and Severed Breasts: The Unmothering Motif in
Diasporic Imagery', (Unpublished paper given at 'Writing, Diaspora and the legacy of
Slavery', Fifth International Conference of Caribbean Women's Writing held at the
Centre for Caribbean Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, 27-28 April, 2007).
6. David Collins, Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of
Negro Slaves in the Sugar Colonies (London: Printed by J. Barfield for Vernor and
Hood, 1803), 35
7. For instance, Jennifer L. Morgan, Labouruing Women: Reproduction and Gender
in New World Slave Black Women in Production and Reproduction in Caribbean Slave
Society", in Londa Schiebinger, ed., Feminism and the Body (Oxford: (Oxford
University Press, 2000); Liese M. Pcrrin, "Resisting Reproduction: Reconsidering Slave
Contraception in the Old South", Journal of American Studies, vol. 25 (2001), 255-274;
Henrice Altink, "'Deviant and Dangerous: Pro-Slavery Attitudes to Slave Women's
Sexuality", Slavery and Abolition, vol. 26: 2 (2005), 269-96; Richard Follett, "Lives of
Living Death': The Reproductive Lives of Slave Women in the Cane World of
Louisiana," Slavery & Abolition, vol. 26 (August 2005), 289-304.
8. Jerome Teelucksingh, "The 'Invisible Child' in British West Indian Slavery",
Slavery and Abolition, vol. 27, no. 2 (August, 2000), 237. Recent studies include Paul
Lovejoy "The Children of Slavery: The trans Atlantic Phase", Slavery and Abolition, vol.
27: 2 (August, 2006), 197-217; Audra A. Diptee "African Children in the British Slave
Trade During the Late Eighteenth Century", Slavery and Abolition, vol. 27: 2 (August,
2006), 183-196. Also relevant is Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller,
eds., Children in Slavery around the World. Slave and Post-Slave Societies and
Cultures Series. vol. 2: Africa (Athens OH: Ohio University Press, 2007).
9. These are summarized in Kenneth Morgan, "Slave Women and Reproduction in
Jamaica, c.1776-1834", History, vol. 91, issue 302 (2006), 231-253. Polarised positions
have emerged on the question of gynaecologicall resistance', the idea that abortion and
infanticide could be construed as a form of female resistance to the Slave system (.