Importance of Slavery to the Caribbean Essay

Importance of Slavery to the Caribbean Essay

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Importance of Slavery to the Caribbean

The significance of the role played by slaves in the history of the Caribbean cannot be overemphasized. Nearly everything that defines the Caribbean today can be traced back to the advent of Africans to the sugar plantations several centuries ago. For this reason it is impossible to ignore the issue of slavery when studying the history of the Caribbean, as we are doing in this class. Through our numerous readings on the status of slaves and their treatment by the societies in which they lived, we have learned much about the sufferings and ordeals of these people. The following is an attempt to organize my own particular feelings and reactions, which I have previously posted on-line throughout the course of the semester, to the readings on this subject and to the reactions of other students as well.

Imperialism, Plantation Slavery and the Slave Trade: 16th-18th Centuries

It is interesting to note the ever-increasing reliance on slaves as the transition to sugar plantations not only occurred but also proceeded to become the main form of economic activity in the Caribbean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. When the main crop out of the Caribbean was tobacco products in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the slave trade was non-existent. But when this crop failed, in addition to ginger, coffee and others, the inhabitants began to try sugar. This, of course, took off immediately, and the need for slaves became imperative. Thus began the true slave trade from Africa, which would forever alter the demography of the Americas.

Also interesting to see are the two forms of non-exploitation society that thrived (contrary to European desire) in the Caribbean: the Maroons ...


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...e, no present-day obstacle could stand in their way. The religion, skin color, music and culture of the Caribbean are all based on the difficult past of its people. Despite the rampant poverty that still plagues the region today, many of the people seem strangely content and remain optimistic. This alone speaks volumes about the strength of character these people project. It is a lesson for the rest of the world to learn from. Happiness is far more important than any material goods or trivial pursuits that we will ever pursue. It is certainly something that I will take away from this class, and I hope others do as well.

Sources

Beckles, Hilary and Shepherd, Verene. Caribbean Slave Society and Economy; The New Press (New York, 1991).

Knight, Franklin W. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (2nd ed.); Oxford University Press (New York, 1990).

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