A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica by Richard S. Dunn

By Richard S. Dunn

Forty years in the past, after ebook of his pathbreaking ebook Sugar and Slaves, Richard Dunn all started a thorough research of 2 thousand slaves residing on plantations, one in North the United States and one within the Caribbean. Digging deeply into the data, he has reconstructed the person lives and collective studies of 3 generations of slaves at the Mesopotamia sugar property in Jamaica and the Mount ethereal plantation in tidewater Virginia, to appreciate the starkly diverse types slavery may well take. Dunn’s wonderful success is a wealthy and compelling historical past of bondage in very varied Atlantic global settings.

From the mid-eighteenth century to emancipation in 1834, existence in Mesopotamia used to be formed and stunted by means of lethal paintings regimens, rampant disorder, and dependence at the slave alternate for brand new employees. At Mount ethereal, the place the inhabitants continuously improved until eventually emancipation in 1865, the “surplus” slaves have been offered or moved to far away paintings websites, and households have been often damaged up. Over 200 of those Virginia slaves have been despatched 8 hundred miles to the Cotton South.

In the genealogies that Dunn has painstakingly assembled, we will be able to hint a Mesopotamia fieldhand via each degree of her bondage, and distinction her harsh therapy with the fortunes of her rebellious mulatto son and shrewdpermanent quadroon granddaughter. We tune a Mount ethereal craftworker via a stormy lifetime of interracial intercourse, break out, and kin breakup. the main points of people’ lives permit us to understand the total adventure of either slave groups as they worked and enjoyed, and finally grew to become free.

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Sample text

They were filtered into Mesopotamia in small groups of ten or a dozen every few years. The great majority of them were males, which did nothing to redress the gender imbalance, but most of these newcomers were strikingly young, aged ten to fi fteen, which suggests that Pool and Barnjum were trying to lower the age level of the population. As with the 1762 inventory, one may question the accuracy of the age estimates for these new Africans, but I reckon that even a Mesopotamia bookkeeper could observe the adolescent growth changes of pubescent boys and girls with some accuracy.

But there is scarcely any human dimension to their heavily quantitative accounts. 38 And here I think that my intergenerational study of the slaves at Mesopotamia and Mount Airy may have relevance. Two of the most striking recent black biographies are Jon Sensbach’s life of Rebecca Protten, an evangelist for the Moravian Church on the island of St. 39 Sensbach and Nathans have combined informative sources with meticulous research in order to flesh out the lives of two obscure mulatto women and narrate their adventures in fascinating detail.

At Mesopotamia there were 331 more recorded slave deaths than births between 1762 and 1833, and the owners— Joseph Foster Barham I (1729–1789) and his son Joseph Foster Barham II (1759– 1832)—continually brought in new slaves in order to keep the place going. At Mount Airy there were 293 more recorded births than deaths between 1809 and 1863, and the owners— John Tayloe III (1771–1828) and his son William Henry Tayloe (1799–1871)—took full advantage of this population growth. They moved their surplus laborers to new work sites or made money by selling them.

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