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

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By Richard S. Dunn

Forty years in the past, after book of his pathbreaking booklet Sugar and Slaves, Richard Dunn started a radical research of 2 thousand slaves residing on plantations, one in North the United States and one within the Caribbean. Digging deeply into the files, he has reconstructed the person lives and collective reports of 3 generations of slaves at the Mesopotamia sugar property in Jamaica and the Mount ethereal plantation in tidewater Virginia, to appreciate the starkly diversified types slavery might take. Dunn’s attractive success is a wealthy and compelling historical past of bondage in very assorted Atlantic international settings.

From the mid-eighteenth century to emancipation in 1834, lifestyles in Mesopotamia was once formed and stunted through lethal paintings regimens, rampant affliction, and dependence at the slave exchange for brand spanking new employees. At Mount ethereal, the place the inhabitants always increased till emancipation in 1865, the “surplus” slaves have been offered or moved to far-off paintings websites, and households have been generally 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 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, get away, and kin breakup. the main points of people’ lives permit us to know the total adventure of either slave groups as they worked and enjoyed, and eventually turned free.

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Additional info for A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia

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Twenty-two new slaves were purchased in 1756 and 1759, but by 1760 the population had dropped to 270. In 1758 Barham sent a man named Daniel Barnjum, who seems to have been a poor relation, to check up on the situation at Mesopotamia, and when overseer Daniel Macfarlane died in 1760, attorney Pool appointed Barnjum as the new overseer. Joseph Foster Barham complained to Daniel Barnjum that the records he was receiving from him were not full enough. Anxious to keep his job, Barnjum constructed an expanded inventory in December 1761 that listed the age and condition of each slave.

In 1781–1782 there was serious threat of invasion when the French fleet sailed to the Caribbean after Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, but Admiral Rodney came to the rescue by defeating the French at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782. During the war Barham’s oldest son, Joseph, arrived to fi nd out what was going on at his father’s two plantations, and he stayed in Jamaica for two years. During his visit young Joseph bought twelve slaves for Mesopotamia from the estate of Daniel Barnjum, who had died in 1778.

The reason for this huge disparity is demographic. The Africans who were landed in North America expanded their numbers through natural increase, whereas the Africans brought to the Caribbean died off and were continually replaced with new slaves. Thus, the slaves in Jamaica and Virginia— the two largest American slave societies established by the British—had dramatically different population histories. 5 Despite this huge importation, the attrition rate in Jamaica was so high that in 1807 there were only about 385,000 people of African origin living on the island: 355,000 slaves and 30,000 free colored.

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