Tag Archives: Slavery

A Bit of Barbados History: 1855 letter to W.W. Somerville, 69th Regiment of Foot in Barbados

barbados letter 1855 front  (click photo for large)

by Cliverton

There was a time on this rock when governments, both colonial and post-independence, did everything they could to erase every vestige of our origins. It was almost as if some people thought we could progress only if we forgot about the past. What foolishness!

Our government left gorgeous plantation houses and noble public buildings to rot – forgetting (or maybe not forgetting) just who built these structures: slaves and the children of slaves. Not satisfied with destroying historical buildings, they also let the humidity, salt air and rot take care of books, letters and historical objects. The destruction was so long term and widespread that it simply must have been deliberate.

It is true to say that much of Barbados history has faded away irrecoverably – gone forever.

So it is that when I see a tangible bit of Bajan history I get excited, because I know that with a little bit of work on the internet I will discover so much more about this piece of soil where my navel string is buried.

Today’s discovery is offered by Scotia Philately – a letter to Medical Doctor W. W. Somerville of the 69th Regiment in Barbados, West Indies postmarked September 2, 1855 at Plymouth and stamped received in Barbados on September 21, 1855. That’s nineteen days from England to Barbados, a distance of 3504 nautical miles for an average speed of 7.5 knots postal stamp to postal stamp. Meaning that the Royal Mail sailing vessel probably averaged over 10 knots on the journey. Clippers (fast sailing vessels on the mail and opium runs) could easily make 13 or 14 knots and maintain that speed in all but the worst weather.

Who was Doctor Somerville and why was the 69th Regiment of Foot in Barbados? (or “Barbadoes” as it was then called.)
Continue reading

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How Bridgetown built the economic foundation of the British Empire – only to be discarded when the profits were gone.

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Slavery Reparations have never interested me because I know that whatever we receive will never be enough for the victims class, and that anything we do receive will be stolen by the political class. No reparations will ever touch my hand. No amount of reparations will provide a steady flow of clean water from my pipes or establish a modern sustainable economy.

Britain could pay us 10 billion pounds and not one new hospital bed or surgery will appear at that slum we call the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – or anywhere else. A trillion pounds will not erase the arrogance of government employees towards citizens, nor will it cure the ‘Island Time’ syndrome that makes foreign business investors run like mad from the Caribbean once they get over the rum, sun and sand.

Barbados is incapable of receiving and delivering reparations honestly and effectively for the general good.

Whose fault is that? I’m not sure, but I do know that at one time Barbados was the driving economic force and secure military base that built and maintained the British Empire.

Whatever Tristram Hunt has written in his new book Ten Cities that Made an Empire, he’s probably 50% correct and 50% nonsense. After all this time, who can say?

But I look forward to the read.

Cliverton

Ten Cities that Made an Empire by Tristram Hunt, review: ‘enthralling and compelling’

A fascinating account of 10 cities that were shaped by, and helped shape, British rule

Bridgetown, Barbados has always held a particular appeal for the British. The legacy of empire is all too apparent, and is, indeed, exploited for tourists. The series of historical attractions based on Plantation House present, as Tristram Hunt writes, “a sepia version of the colonial past”. Nostalgia for cricket, rum cocktails and the old plantation lifestyle trumps the blood-drenched history of slavery on the island. Bridgetown is a modern city, but the colonial memory continues to reverberate.  Continue reading

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Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, Economy, Human Rights, Slavery

Barbados government sells Four Seasons to investors from slave nation Qatar

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Qatar is a slave-nation in the 21st Century

Barbados Today is reporting that the government is selling the abandoned Barbados Four Seasons hotel project to a Qatar-based investment group.

Qatar, of course, is dependent upon slave labour to keep its economy and building boom rolling along. The Qatar slavery horror stories are legion. There is no question, no argument against, no misunderstanding. Qatar is a slave state in the 21st Century. (However, being a Muslim nation, Qatar knows that contemporary slavery is both sanctioned and ordered by the Koran, along with abductions and forced-conversions to Islam.)

So let there be no misunderstanding about this either: The descendants of Bajan slaves are happy to do business with modern day slavers.

Money trumps human rights on this rock, and we’ll do anything to get more.

Slavery reparations for Bajans? What a joke. Will Qatar slaves come after Barbados some day for reparations? As we’ve said here from the beginning: Spend any reparations payments to free current slaves.

There are more slaves today than at any other time in history; yet Barbados is about to shake hands with Qatar slave owners.

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Filed under Barbados, Human Rights, Slavery

Qatar FIFA World Cup built upon slavery

“Qatar is a slave state in the 21st Century…”

“I am trapped here. The main office will not give me back my passport…”

“How many people are going to have to die so that this World Cup can take place?”

The Guardian: Qatar’s World Cup Slaves

“The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar. In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects.

There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International

 

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Infanticide by Barbados slave mothers – an expression of resistance?

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It is truly disturbing to think that Bajan mothers murdered their own newborns as an act of rebellion to deny human slave assets to their captors and owners.

We know that as the Atlantic slave trade and supplies of new slaves dried up due to the efforts of abolitionists, plantation owners in the Caribbean and USA placed the emphasis on breeding new stock. The record is clear that some plantation owners thought it their right to impregnate their slaves with white blood for ‘better product’.

It is difficult to think that captive human beings were treated as property to this extent, but that was the reality of the day. The master had all rights, the female slave had none.

As you read the following article, just remember this…

There are more slaves held in captivity today than at any other time in history.

The obvious response to slave infanticide is to conceptualize it as an act of desperation, a sad act, or an act of altruism, in the sense that it was intended to save enslaved children from a life of hard labor, degradation, and physical, sexual, and mental abuse.

But what if slave infanticide, in all its horror, was an expression of resistance? To conceptualize it this way places agency back in the hands of the slave women who killed their children, because it assumes that their decision was actively, discursively antagonistic and insurrectionary.

… from Infanticide as Slave Resistance: Evidence from Barbados

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Anti-gay laws undermine CARICOM’s slavery reparations demands

Execution Blacks Gays Lesbians Slavery

Homosexuals executed in Iran, Blacks lynched in USA

Human Rights are Human Rights: whether denied upon skin colour or sexual orientation

by Sean Macleish
Caribbean Alliance for Equality

Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, the current chair of CARICOM (Caribbean Community Secretariat) along with other Caribbean leaders who are continuing to cultivate and place a high discount rate on the lives of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens are helping to mortgage the region’s future with atrophy, by retarding the growth of their nations in exchange for power by majority rule. Social inclusion, equality and open diversity foster environments where everyone can bring their best to the table and feel valued without incurring the costs associated with repression.

In 2014, 12 of the 15 CARICOM member states still criminalize homosexuality.

Suriname is one of the remaining member states that has legalized homosexuality since 1869. Social economics has many costs and the archaic philosophy of legalized oppression is counterproductive to investing in a nation’s greatest asset; it’s people. In February, referring to the costs of homophobia, President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim stated, “Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Culture & Race Issues, Human Rights, Slavery

“Cumba” – the story of one slave woman owned by Captain John Burch, Christ Church. From Africa to Barbados to England

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“Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a breed of Negroes, and therefore seeing she would not yield by perswasions to company with a Negro young man he had in his house…”

… from John Josselyn as recounted in Two Voyages to New England, published 1674

One story of millions

by West Side Davie

“Cumba” was her name. She died a slave in Romford, England in April, 1668 – the property of John Burch and his wife Margaret of Hogsty Plantation. (I’m not sure whether Captain John Burch of Barbados is also referred to and is the same as Colonel John Burch of Barbados, but this family history and other websites seem to say it is the same man. I remain open for correction!)

Today, Cumba is remembered as Havering’s first black resident in an excellent article by Professor Ged Martin just published in the Romford Recorder:

It was 350 years ago this year that a fabulously rich couple, John and Margaret Burch, arrived in Romford.

They’d made their money in Barbados, exploiting slave labour to produce the bonanza crop: sugar.

In 1664, they retired to England, buying Romford’s biggest estate, Gidea Hall, then usually called Giddy Hall. The mansion, demolished in 1930, stood just east of Raphael Park.

Madam Burch, as she was fawningly called, brought her personal maidservant from Barbados, the ultimate status symbol.

Cumba was Havering’s first black resident. A slave, a piece of property, Cumba survived the English climate just four years.

But when she died, in April 1668, somebody had the humanity to record her name in the register of Romford’s St Edward’s church. “Cumber, a ffemale Blackamore servant from Guyddy Hall, buried.”

Today, “blackamore” is an offensive term. But in 1668, when “black” was used to ­describe complexion, it was an attempt to identify Cumba with some dignity. The double “ff” ­indicated a capital letter.

… read the entire article Cumba: Havering’s first black resident remembered on the 350th anniversary of her arrival.

We know very little about Cumba, but we still know far more about her than we do about millions of other people who were enslaved with her and since. We know about the times in which she lived, and we also know a little about the socially-condoned cruelty of slave owners. I believe that much of history has been ‘cleansed’, but not all of it. What passed for ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ when Cumba lived gives us some idea of her personal circumstances, what she probably saw even if she was not herself subject to all of the abuses. We simply don’t know the details of her life, but we know the times.

So to learn more about Cumba, we will talk of the people around her: the powerful elites of society at the time… Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Human Rights, Race, Slavery