slavery in jamaica documentary
Jamaican Maroons fought two major wars against the British during the 18th century. SLAVERY: ANNUAL BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SUPPLEMENT (2006), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-229X.2006.00365.x, The author thanks Joseph C. Miller for excellent advice about the shape and content of this article and the anonymous reader for. 218. Her alleged incapacity for self‐regulation justified her sexual and economic abuse in the name of responsible discipline. The arrival of the first captives to the Jamestown Colony, in 1619, is often seen as the beginning of slavery in America—but enslaved Africans arrived in North America as early as the 1500s. Living Costs, Real Incomes and Inequality in Colonial Jamaica. Statistics gathered from these sources show the extent of the demographic problem. The evidence suggests that Caribbean slave rations had low levels of protein and fat content, which could have disrupted several reproductive functions of slave women, including a delayed age of menarche, irregular ovulation and early menopause.6969 Ward, British West Indian Slavery, pp. 108, 115, 121–2, 129, 200. Beckles (Kingston, 2000), p. 706. Pregnant women worked in the cane fields until six weeks before expected delivery.3535 A Short History of Slavery and Sugar Cane in Jamaica. Long, among others, blamed the ‘unskilfulness and absurd management of the Negro midwives’ for much of the maternal and infant death.113113 205; Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves, p. 36. Planter attempts to improve delivery conditions for slave mothers with lying‐in rooms seem infrequent and ineffective, and midwives appear to have been more caring than planters realized. Rose Price's information on births and miscarriages at Worthy Park in May 1795 provides uniquely precise, if limited, information on the extent of miscarriage. Robert Dirks's data suggest that the average plantation food allowance amounted to 1,500–2,000 calories and approximately 45 grams of protein per day.1717 Thomas Thistlewood, an overseer in Westmoreland parish, though a notoriously extreme example, regularly flogged slaves of both sexes and hired out his pregnant women at the full rate of pay for field labourers until they were within two or three months of delivery.4242 Consequently, the views of slave women in Jamaica cannot be presented. 97–8, 410 n. 20. Bush, ‘Hard Labor’, p. 197. Thus, until knowledge improves about the ways in which Jamaican slave women controlled their own fertility, it remains tendentious to suggest that they opposed breeding as a form of political resistance to the injustices of their enslavement, as some historians have suggested.117117 In severe cases, when women lack a good blood supply and their uterus fails to contract properly, the risks of a difficult birth increase. Robert Dirks, ‘Resource Fluctuations and Competitive Transformation in West Indian Slave Societies’, in Extinction and Survival in Human Populations, ed. Robert Dirks, The Black Saturnalia: Conflict and its Ritual Expression on British West Indian Slave Plantations (University of Florida monographs, Social Sciences no. He owned 240 female slaves at the time, of whom 72.5 per cent had reached or passed through their childbearing years. National Archives, CO 139/147, act no. The psychological support provided by slave midwives must have been a comfort for their patients, even if it did not save their newborns or their own lives. B. W. Higman, Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807–1834 (Cambridge, 1976) [hereafter Higman, Slave Population and Economy], p. 154; B. W. Higman, Montpelier, Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom, 1739–1812 (Kingston, 1998), p. 39; Ward, British West Indian Slavery, pp. Chang, M. C., ‘Demographic Aspects of Lactation and Postpartum Amenorrhea’, Demography, vii (1970), 255– 71. BBC World Service Podcast. 205–6, 209–10. People from such a background viewed kinship structures as essential parts of inheritance and succession, which accorded a high status to fertility and opprobrium to barrenness.9191 Richard B. Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves: A Medical and Demographic History of Slavery in the British West Indies, 1680–1834 (Cambridge, 1985) [hereafter Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves], pp. Monteith is Senior Lecturer, Department of History and Archaeology, the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. 116–18; Bush, ‘Hard Labor’, p. 202. It is now known that dirt‐eating can be beneficial for those suffering from thiamine deficiency.2525 They fought against separation from their children and for the right to suckle them. Slave diet was monotonous and deficient in thiamine, calcium and vitamin A, but estimates of quantities of rations provided by masters are patchy.1616 So many documented material and epidemiological factors contributed to the low reproductive capacity of slave women that self‐induced abortion or abstinence is unlikely to have contributed significantly. . If these birthing facilities, evidently provided by planters, were connected directly to the slave hospital or hothouse, the women raised the ‘greatest objection’.110110 Golden Grove sugar estate, in St Thomas‐in‐the‐East parish, had similarly low incidences of female death in and after childbirth: only four out of fifty‐two slave women (under 8 per cent) who died there between 1817 and 1832 are known to have given birth within three years before their deaths.104104 273–6. Dunn, ‘Sugar Production’, p. 66. Number of times cited according to CrossRef: Tracing “Gay Liberation” through Postindependence Jamaica. 61, 70. Consequently, the views of slave women in Jamaica cannot be presented. 353–4. Ibid., p. 81; Hubert Carey Trowell, Non‐infective Disease in Africans (1960), p. 127. No testimony from the women themselves either supports or denies their white masters’ widespread accusations with regard to abortion. Cultivating sugar was more physically demanding than growing any other plantation crop, and sugar cultivation and high slave mortality have been connected on nineteenth‐century Louisiana sugar plantations as well as in their Caribbean counterparts. C.358, John Blyth to Joseph Foster Barham, 14 Sept. 1811, Barham Papers. A modern sociologist has underscored these contemporary views to suggest that abortion was widely practised in Jamaica.8282 Excessive labour also contributed to low slave natality. ‘Monk’ Lewis stated that ‘white overseers and bookkeepers . The nakedness in which masters left their female slaves also encouraged this inaccurate image of wanton lust. Reproduction among West Indian slave women was higher among those who undertook domestic work rather than field work. The records for Mesopotamia show that three mothers out of seventy‐two (just over 4 per cent) died in childbirth.103103 Buchanan took part in the 1831 Slave Rebellion led by Samuel Sharpe, and this was ultimately why he was sent to Australia as a convict. The main focus of these historians is on prolonged lactation practices lengthening intervals between pregnancies and on taboos against the resumption of intercourse after giving birth. 163–89, and Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and his Slaves in the Anglo‐Jamaican World (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2004); Verene A. Shepherd, ‘Gender and Representation in European Accounts of Pre‐Emancipation Jamaica’, in Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader, ed. Not only does malnutrition disrupt the regular menstrual cycle, but it can also delay the age of menarche and hinder post‐partum recovery, thereby depressing fertility and thus limiting further pregnancies.2626 Bilby, Kenneth M., ‘On the Early Use and Origin of the Term “Obeah” in Barbados and the Anglophone Caribbean’, Slavery and Abolition, xxii (2001), 87– 100. 205, 212, 217, 237. 347–78; Ward, British West Indian Slavery, pp. Dr John Quier, an experienced doctor based at Worthy Park for fifty‐five years, highlighted ‘abortions, which he thinks to be rather frequent amongst them’ as the cause of their ‘lack of breeding’.7575 Dunn, Richard S., ‘A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life at Mesopotamia in Jamaica and Mount Airy in Virginia, 1799 to 1828’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., xxxiv (1977), 59– 64. Whether self‐abortion, abstinence or infanticide were political strategies pursued by slave women in Jamaica cannot be verified from surviving evidence. Craton, Invisible Man, p. 87. Klein and Engerman, ‘Fertility Differentials’, 358, 368; Mathurin, Lucille, ‘The Arrivals of Black Women’, Jamaica Journal, ix (1975), [hereafter Mathurin, ‘Arrivals of Black Women’], 4; Handler and Corruccini, ‘Weaning among West Indian Slaves’, 111–17. Kiple, Caribbean Slave, pp. They continued this work so long as they continued to breastfeed.3636 A battle between masters and slaves over the respective benefits of home delivery and lying‐in rooms raged from the late eighteenth century through to slave emancipation. A third type of interpretation also places emphasis on slave agency in reproduction but with no overt political emphasis. Williamson, Medical Observations, ii. The crude birth rate remained low in all of these islands except Barbados, which was the one British West Indian slave society that had a majority of women from the early eighteenth century onwards.2929 Dirt eating was general in British Caribbean slave society: slaves regularly ate baked clayey cakes (called ‘aboo’) as a natural, if unconscious, response to nutritional deficiency. Brown originally intended to write a more academic book, but fiction gave her the freedom to depict William’s life through his own eyes. Lesthaege, R. J. and After taking part in the 1831 rebellion that catalysed the end of slavery in his country of birth, Buchanan’s tragedy was that he never got to reap the benefits – instead he was imprisoned and sent as a convict to Australia, never to return. A second line of interpretation emphasizes the agency of slave women in resisting biological reproduction as a political statement against the system of slavery. Gilbert Mathison, Notices Respecting Jamaica in 1808–1809–1810 (1811) [hereafter Mathison, Notices Respecting Jamaica], p. 12. B orn a slave on Jamaican plantation in 1800, William Buchanan’s life was remarkable. “I don’t think people realise, if you’re walking along Macquarie Street for instance, all of those colonial buildings … they were all built by convict labour.”. Syphilis, yaws and elephantiasis, complaints common in the Caribbean, all increased the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth. In addition, plants such as okra and aloe were transported to the Caribbean where they were used as abortifacients.7474 But even though the absentee owner of this estate encouraged humane treatment of his female slaves, they were chronically overworked and failed to achieve good reproductive rates.3232 Overseers were charged to treat slave mothers with tenderness and to provide them with every comfort.109109 Jamaica has a vivid and painful history, marred since European settlement by an undercurrent of violence and tyranny. Alvin O. Thompson (Kingston, 2002), p. 24. Ibid., pp. Williamson, Medical Observations, ii. Please check your email for instructions on resetting your password. John Williamson, Medical and Miscellaneous Observations relative to the West India Islands (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1817) [hereafter Williamson, Medical Observations], ii. Her publications include Depression to Decolonization: Barlclays Bank (DCO) in the West Indies, 1926–1962; West Indian Business History: Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (co-edited with B.W. Such mortality is sometimes referred to as endogenous death, i.e. It was particularly effective in preventing the dangers under slavery of pregnancy soon after a mother gave birth. and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. Inadequate nutrition was the constant predisposing factor in the background of slave women's lives in Jamaica. “Psychologically, I can’t imagine. Interestingly, the toughest journey was to Jamaica, the last stop on the slave trail. The people suffered unthinkable acts of brutality such as rape, whippings, torture and murder. but this modern finding would scarcely have applied to eighteenth‐century Jamaica. Engerman, Stanley L., ‘Fertility Differentials between Slaves in the United States and the British West Indies: A Note on Lactation Practices and their Possible Implications’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., xxxv (1978), [hereafter Klein and Engerman, ‘Fertility Differentials’], 357– 74; These practices, it is argued, stemmed from African cultures and served as carry‐overs brought by slaves to Jamaica via the transatlantic slave trade.1313 Ward, British West Indian Slavery, p. 188; William A. So, too, is fighting back. 2. Between 1801 and 1831 on Mesopotamia estate in Westmoreland parish the 130 slave women aged between twenty and twenty‐nine spent 88 per cent of their working time in these gangs, mostly the great gang that prepared the canebreaks and harvested the mature cane.3030 Many biological obstacles to reproduction and cultural practices limiting fertility lack convincing evidence, given the intimate nature of the subject. Modern analysis of two Jamaican sugar estates and one livestock pen between 1817 and 1832 shows that creole slave women at the height of their fertility, aged 25 to 29, bore 112 babies per 1,000 woman‐years, while African slaves bore 64 infants per 1,000 woman‐years. “There would have been always a power struggle within those communities because obviously everyone’s wanting to survive … Everyone’s wanting to get as much power as they can to keep their family safe, which would have set up a terrible situation.”, Stripping someone of their humanity because of the colour of their skin, because they have a criminal record, because they were born into the wrong family – as much as Master of My Fate is a book about the past, its themes are disturbingly relevant. Power dynamics are a chief concern of the novel. Bush, Barbara, ‘Towards Emancipation: Women and Coercive Labour Regimes in the British West Indian Colonies, 1790–1838’, Slavery and Abolition, v (1984), 225– 6. Before 1807 British Caribbean slave‐owners regarded buying slaves rather than breeding them as a necessary practice. Malnutrition was common among the West Indian slave population despite these sources of food. Quoted in Higman, Slave Populations, p. 353. The Unitarian minister Thomas Cooper, hired by the absentee planter Robert Hibbert to convert the slaves on his Georgia plantation, in Hanover parish, attributed the low birth rate on the estate to the morally degraded condition of the slaves and, in particular, to promiscuity, prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, though he acknowledged that hard work and severe punishment were additional contributing factors.5252 Their descendants are still fighting for recognition. Some 37.1 per cent of these women had given birth 352 times in all, but live births had totalled only 275. Planters calculated the costs of purchasing adult and adolescent Africans as opposed to rearing children themselves and concluded that they would not encourage their seasoned women slaves to breed ‘as thereby so much work is lost in their attendance upon their infants’.33 Thus it has been argued that the practice of charging older women or young women in poor health with the responsibility for attending new mothers was an inadequate way of dealing with their health needs.114114 A similar comment appears on p. 201. in consequence of harsh treatment, are very common in Jamaica’.4646 Bush, Slave Women, pp. Sienna Brown came across his story while working as a guide at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks, which in the early days of colonial New South Wales housed convicts. Among the many causes of low reproduction among Jamaican slaves, the material circumstances of overwork, dietary deficiencies and physical punishment provided a lethal cocktail. 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