Slavery in Jamaica

analytical Essay
4438 words
4438 words

Jamaica has been a land exploited and oppressed by white nations for much of its history. First colonized by the Spanish and then the British, it seems hard to imagine a time when it was just the native people living in peace and harmony with the land. Many years after the white man first jammed himself onto the beaches of Jamaica, reggae music was born. A continuing tradition, this easy-to-groove-to music style originated as a voice against this oppression; it was the peaceful islanders way of finally communicating their plighted history to all who would listen, or all who could appreciate a good beat. Much of this oppression came in the time of slavery; a period of nearly two hundred years where those of a dark skin were considered property of the light skinned ones, inferior in all ways. Most of their labor was on sugar plantations, an export that Jamaica was supplying much of the world with. Later in their history, it would be bananas that the British would learn to exploit.

Until the philosophy which holds One race superior and another inferior Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned That until there are no longer first class second class citizen Of any nation. Until the color of a man’s skin Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes That until their basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, Without regard to race.

That until that day, The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship And the rule of international morality Will remain but in a fleeting illusion To be pursued, but never attained… -Haile Selassie

Even as slavery was finally abolished at the beginning of the nineteenth century, these views and the oppression brought on by them continued. Without the thousands of hands wor...

... middle of paper ...

...o the plight of the Jamaican people; the methods employed by Parliament and local estate owners showed how far they were willing to go to ensure they stayed in power.


1) Holt, Thomas C. The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938.Johns Hopkins University Press; Baltimore. 1992

2) Ragatz, Lowell Joseph. The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean

Octagon Books, Inc; 1963.

3) Walvin, James. Black Ivory; A History of British Slavery. Howard University Press, Washington, D.C.; 1994.

4) Petras, Elizabeth McLean. Jamaican Labor Migration: White Capital and Black Labor, 1850-1930. Westview Press, London; 1988.

5) New International Magazine. ‘Battle of the Bananas’.; Oct., 1999.

6) Anadol, Sinan. ‘Caribbean Soul’.; May, 1998.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that jamaica has been oppressed by white nations for much of its history. reggae music originated as a voice against this oppression.
  • Opines that the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is permanently discredited and abandoned until there are no longer first class second class citizens of any nation.
  • Opines that the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, and the rule of international morality will remain in a fleeting illusion.
  • Explains that jamaica believed that one race was superior and all others inferior and that the "superior" race had the right to own the lives of people of a different skin tone.
  • Explains that the slaves were treated as objects, not as humans. they were forced to farm their own food and work in the plantations all day.
  • Explains that the british parliament realized that change must be quickened, not avoided, and in 1833 declared an end to this legal ownership.
  • Explains that jamaica's sugar supply was in danger of being obliterated even before slavery was abolished.
  • Analyzes how the abolishment of slavery didn't mean that the freed jamaicans ran into the woods and slept beneath a banana tree. the number of peasant estates increased twenty times from 1840-1845.
  • Explains that the land sold to them by the english was often too small and the soil too hard to grow a great number of crops on.
  • Analyzes how the british parliament predicted the west indies islands after the abolishment of slavery. they believed that white races were superior to the black and the brown, and that human differences were racially determined.
  • Explains that reggae music laid the groundwork for the oppressive feelings and voice expressed in the music. the british economic stranglehold on the island and the quashee belief of white superiority frustrated the native islanders.
  • Explains that jamaica's economy prospered during british colonization, and agriculture continued to bring the island much revenue.
  • Explains that the coffee industry suffered severely as a result of the abolishment of slavery, and the small settlements were cashing in on this as well.
  • Analyzes how the british needed the hands of the peasants, but knew that they could be easily exploited.
  • Explains that withdrawal from estate residency came more gradually, and in the context of the freed people's struggle to define the proper limits of their former masters' authority.
  • Explains that the british were fired up at this lack of control over the jamaicans, and began to look for power over them in new ways.
  • Explains that jamaica's economy slipped into further depression due to the decrease in the sugar industry and exports.
  • Opines that no laborer likes to live on estates, nor will he do so unless necessity constraints it, for fear of being turned off when any dispute arises.
  • Explains that as the economy sunk further into depression, more peasants were forced to move back onto the plantations and work part time for the estate owners, mostly british.
  • Analyzes how the casual attitude of the jamaicans was misconstrued as laziness by the overworking british government.
  • Analyzes how the planter paid them low wages and sometimes no wages. as landowner, he charged them high rents or kept them out of possession of land for themselves.
  • Explains that the rebellion began at a courthouse, as that is the root of the british's control over the peasants.
  • Explains that fruit became jamaica's single most important export by the end of the nineteenth century, partly due to the increase in american purchasing of jamaican exports.
  • Analyzes how a handful of enterprising jamaicans and americans facilitated the switch from domestic bananas to an export crop.
  • Describes how lorenzo baker used his fleet of caped cod fishing vessels to ship bananas to the us, naming his company 'united fruit'.
  • Explains how baker converted independent peasant banana growers into wageworkers by monopolizing the market and buying out other companies.
  • Explains that peasant producers were more like wage workers paid at a piece rate than independent contractors, deprived of autonomy in the production process.
  • Describes how one multinational corporation crushed the formerly independent peasant cultivators, pushing them back to slave labor and oppression, a period they had worked so hard to advance from.
  • Describes how an english chap named john w. grace was requested to come to jamaica and assist his brother, michael sheffield grace, in running his banana shipping company.
  • Narrates how alicia and katherine spent twenty-two years in jamaica, arriving at age eight. they asked their great-aunt if she could recall some of the details of her life there.
  • Analyzes how united fruit relied heavily on the labor of the peasants. alicia said that they had a friendly relationship with the jamaicans, but it was never intentional exchanges.
  • Narrates how the servants lived in the hills of the blue mountains, and most had about a mile walk to the plantation every day.
  • Explains that peasants would harvest fruit and prepare it for shipping, while others would work on upkeep of the grounds. they had five indoor servants, whom the family would interact with more than any other worker.
  • Asks alicia if there were tensions between them and the jamaicans, who had been oppressed by their country for so long. if this attitude were truth, it would be a shame to think that they had given up their dreams of once again being self-sufficient.
  • Analyzes how alicia comes from a very proper english lifestyle, and eventually married an english count. her view can be considered narrow minded, perhaps even racist, due to this protected lifestyle.
  • Explains that the company grew from 50 to 2,000 employees during the time that john ran the business, from 1920 until 1942.
  • Opines that w.r. grace throws a large, weeklong party every ten years, the last one being in 1992, and the next in 2002.
  • Opines that jamaica's political freedom from england and the formation of two major political parties, the jamaican labor party and people’s national party, ensured the rights of the working class.
  • Opines that jamaica's economy relies heavily on tourism and the visiting of white people with money to spend on their island, but they are visiting, and not staying.
  • Explains that the british had to find ways of stomping down the success of the jamaican peasants, who weren't eager to return to the slave fields they had just gained freedom from.
  • Explains that even when bananas became successful overseas, the peasants were monopolized, this time by an american company with the help of british boats.
  • Explains that studying jamaica from several viewpoints was fascinating. a living relative's account of life in jamaica showed how ignorant the british were to the plight of the jamaican people.
  • Introduces holt, thomas c., ragatz, lowell joseph, walvin, james, and petras, elizabeth mclean.
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