Some 37.1 per cent of these women had given birth 352 times in all, but live births had totalled only 275. . Slavery, Childhood, and Abolition in Jamaica adds considerably to our understanding of how amelioration altered the actions of slave owners in fundamental ways. Jamaica’s largest towns, Port Royal and Kingston turned into the centers of slave trade. “I felt that was an important point to make even though I don’t go into it.”. The merchant and planter William Shand, who had interests in various Jamaican properties, reported in 1832 that ‘long weaning . The problem of creating a self‐reproducing slave population after the ending of the British Atlantic slave trade in 1807 meant that the fecundity of slave women became central to the viability of plantation slavery in the British Caribbean. 137–9, and, more circumspectly, by Michael Craton, Searching for the Invisible Man: Slaves and Plantation Life in Jamaica (Cambridge, Mass., 1978) [hereafter Craton, Invisible Man], pp. A modern sociologist has underscored these contemporary views to suggest that abortion was widely practised in Jamaica.8282 Although planters often complained of slave women's ‘obstruction of the menses’, they had no awareness of its underlying nutritional causes. Data from three sugar estates indicate that many pregnancies either never reached term or resulted in the birth of chronically weak infants. Thomas Winterbottom, An Account of the Native Africans in the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone (2 vols., 1803), ii. Thus, for instance, very little is known about the extent of sexual intercourse among adult slaves or about the resumption of intercourse by slave women after delivering children. This article explains the failure of the Jamaica slaves to reproduce naturally in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Impressionistic reporting for Amity Hall plantation, in Vere parish, suggests that half the pregnancies on this sugar estate also ended in miscarriage.101101 William Beckford, Remarks upon the Situation of the Negroes in Jamaica (1788), pp. 1494 Christopher Columbus lands in Jamaica. Another, albeit more cautiously, has argued that ‘many [slave] women may have taken steps to avoid conception’ and that slave motherhood was restricted by ‘the potential impulse women may have felt to interrupt . But it was not just slave women's habits of dress that excited white racial prejudice; customs were also criticized. In spite of these slights to slave women's morality, observers in fact noted low incidences of venereal disease among British Caribbean slave populations, and the West Indian variant of syphilis – often non‐venereal – was less contagious than the strain found in Europe. Planter attempts to improve delivery conditions for slave mothers with lying‐in rooms seem infrequent and ineffective, and midwives appear to have been more caring than planters realized. The veteran planter Long, exposing his familiarity with racial theories of the Enlightenment that romanticized ‘noble savages’ by likening them to ‘natural’ creatures, wrote that ‘their women are delivered with little or no labour; they have therefore no more occasion for midwives than the female oran‐outang or any other wild animal. The Unitarian minister Thomas Cooper, hired by the absentee planter Robert Hibbert to convert the slaves on his Georgia plantation, in Hanover parish, attributed the low birth rate on the estate to the morally degraded condition of the slaves and, in particular, to promiscuity, prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, though he acknowledged that hard work and severe punishment were additional contributing factors.5252 [Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZC4-4988] Jamaica is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean.For much of its modern history it was a colony of Great Britain, from which it gained independence in 1962. One modern historical hypothesis to explain the poorer reproductive record of West Indian slaves compared with their North American counterparts argues that these fertility differentials can be explained, at least in part, ‘by the differences in the period of childspacing’, and that ‘the latter were partially determined by lactation practices’. Golden Grove sugar estate, in St Thomas‐in‐the‐East parish, had similarly low incidences of female death in and after childbirth: only four out of fifty‐two slave women (under 8 per cent) who died there between 1817 and 1832 are known to have given birth within three years before their deaths.104104 National Archives, CO 139/147, act no. . Slave diet was monotonous and deficient in thiamine, calcium and vitamin A, but estimates of quantities of rations provided by masters are patchy.1616 Bush, Slave Women, pp. 273–6. With reference to maps and views in the King's Topographical Collection, Miles Ogborn investigates these communities of escaped slaves and their attempts to retain their freedom in a landscape of slavery. The arrival of the first captives to the Jamestown Colony, in 1619, is often seen as the beginning of slavery in America—but enslaved Africans arrived in North America as early as the 1500s. Paul Edwards (1989), p. 8. Many of them had devastating effects on pregnancies. In 1792 the Jamaican Assembly also exempted any slave woman who had six children alive from field labour and relieved her owner of any taxes otherwise owing upon her.108108 Higman, Slave Populations, p. 312; Kiple, Caribbean Slave, pp. Ibid., p. 108. Edward Long, A History of Jamaica (3 vols., 1774) [hereafter Long, History of Jamaica], ii. Mathison, Notices Respecting Jamaica, pp. Sheila Lambert (145 vols., Wilmington, Del., 1975) [hereafter Lambert, Commons Sessional Papers], lxxxii. African women used certain herbs and infusions for contraceptive purposes. Higman, Slave Populations, pp. Planters commonly designated infirm and elderly women as hospital and children's nurses. To some extent under‐registration of births may exaggerate the bleak prospects for fertility as calculated from reported births. Page, H. J., ‘The Post‐partum Non‐susceptible Period: Development and Application of Model Schedules’, Population Studies, xxxiv (1980), 143– 69. Ward, British West Indian Slavery, p. 130. but this modern finding would scarcely have applied to eighteenth‐century Jamaica. Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia, Pa., 2004) [hereafter Morgan, Laboring Women], p. 114. Dr John Quier, an experienced doctor based at Worthy Park for fifty‐five years, highlighted ‘abortions, which he thinks to be rather frequent amongst them’ as the cause of their ‘lack of breeding’.7575 The best studies of obeahmen deal with their presence in Barbados, though they were also part of black society in Jamaica: see Handler, Jerome S., ‘Slave Medicine and Obeah in Barbados, circa 1650 to 1834’, New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, lxxiv (2000), 57– 90; and Handler and Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller (Athens, Oh., forthcoming). Please check your email for instructions on resetting your password. 108, 115, 121–2, 129, 200. Given the prevalence of physical brutality, malnutrition and disease and the fact that most infants died soon after birth, it is clear that pre‐natal circumstances were lethal and that most of the infant mortality was attendant on birth rather than healthy births and post‐natal circumstances leading to deaths among infants born healthy.9696 The source material used in the analysis consists of contemporary observations by doctors and planters, evidence produced by modern demographic, economic, social and cultural historians, and the findings of biologists and students of third‐world fertility. Dirt eating was general in British Caribbean slave society: slaves regularly ate baked clayey cakes (called ‘aboo’) as a natural, if unconscious, response to nutritional deficiency. Verene Shepherd and Hilary McD. Modern analysis suggests that this was not simply a prejudiced view. 167–84. Slaves deficient in thiamine would have been unable to utilize riboflavin and niacin, which would have upset metabolization of all the B vitamins.2020 Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves, pp. Among the many causes of low reproduction among Jamaican slaves, the material circumstances of overwork, dietary deficiencies and physical punishment provided a lethal cocktail. Demographic evidence for women whose age groups had the highest fertility in the British Caribbean as a whole shows that creoles were everywhere almost half again as fertile as Africans.4040 Physical punishment of severe proportions must also have been harmful to fertility, particularly against the background of the demands that sugar cultivation placed on women's bodies.4141 Slave women would thus deliberately have asserted control over their reproductive capacity, both in inducing or obtaining self‐abortion and, in particular, in allowing children they could not prevent being born to die to frustrate the planters’ desire to breed slave children.8585 Lesson Summary. This legislation recognized that biological reproduction among Jamaican slave women derived as much from healthy delivery and caring for a child during its first year of life as from problems of conception. Williams, Baumslag and Jelliffe, Mother and Child Health, pp. Possibly revealingly, ‘Monk’ Lewis made no mention of the practice of abortion on his Jamaican estate. House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Given this extensive testimony, it is unsurprising that numerous abolitionist critiques drew attention to the severity of flogging pregnant slaves.4747 It wasn’t just a handful of Jamaicans; Brown points out that large numbers of South Sea Islander people were kidnapped too, and brought to work on the sugar plantations in Queensland. 347–78; Ward, British West Indian Slavery, pp. John Wedderburn, a planter who had lived in Jamaica for more than a quarter of a century, made the same point to a committee of the House of Commons in March 1790. Williamson reported in 1817 on the ‘considerable difficulty experienced, to persuade female negroes that on approach of labour pains they would be better accommodated, in every respect, by removing from their own houses to the lying‐in rooms’. Note that Patterson provides no contemporary evidence to support his argument about slaves’ refusal to reproduce. James Thomson, a doctor who practised medicine in Jamaica and the author of a book on the diseases of black people there, wrote in 1820 that ‘women who indulge [in dirt eating] soon lose their monthly period’.2222 Robert Dirks, ‘Resource Fluctuations and Competitive Transformation in West Indian Slave Societies’, in Extinction and Survival in Human Populations, ed. Dadzie, Stella, ‘Searching for the Invisible Woman: Slavery and Resistance in Jamaica’, Race and Class, xxxii (1990), [hereafter Dadzie, ‘Invisible Woman’], 21– 38; and studies by Orlando Patterson, Selwyn H. H. Carrington, Jennifer L. Morgan, and Verene A. Shepherd, cited in nn. On the other hand, botched self‐abortions may well have been recorded or regarded as miscarriages and spontaneous miscarriage was so common that it must have enabled abortion to be concealed.8686 Wood and Clayton, ‘Jamaica's Struggle’, 303. Douglas Hall, In Miserable Slavery: Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica, 1750–86 (1989), pp. Whether self‐abortion, abstinence or infanticide were political strategies pursued by slave women in Jamaica cannot be verified from surviving evidence. Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land "Xaymaca", meaning "land of wood and water". Event Date: October 25, 2014 How We Were Made Slaves and Why We Are Still Not Free Excerpt of the explosive lecture presentation by Master Amaru Ka'Re . Continuing high mortality, especially among ageing African slaves, contributed significantly to this fall. The exact relationship between these factors, however, is recognized as difficult to determine.1111 Some evidence cited below was written by absentee owners who never visited Jamaica; their views were therefore circumscribed by common assumptions and prejudices about the personalities and behaviour of slaves. Dunn, ‘Sugar Production’, p. 56. Extended lactation and taboos against post‐partum intercourse may have contributed to wide child‐spacing, but they may equally have represented desperate measures taken by mothers to protect their malnourished infants and themselves under the deprivations of slavery. Thomson pointed to the ‘early and unbound indulgence in venereal pleasure [as] a common cause of sterility. They were rarely issued shoes or stockings and consequently were prone to cuts and bruises, which could turn into septic sores or gangrene. Enter your email address below and we will send you your username, If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username, I have read and accept the Wiley Online Library Terms and Conditions of Use, ‘Searching for the Invisible Woman: Slavery and Resistance in Jamaica’, ‘Fertility Differentials between Slaves in the United States and the British West Indies: A Note on Lactation Practices and their Possible Implications’, ‘Weaning among West Indian Slaves: Historical and Bioanthropological Evidence from Barbados’, ‘The Crisis of Slave Subsistence in the British West Indies during and after the American Revolution’, ‘A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life at Mesopotamia in Jamaica and Mount Airy in Virginia, 1799 to 1828’, ‘The Demographic Cost of Sugar: Debates on Slave Societies and Natural Increase in the Americas’, ‘Female Reproductive Dysfunction and Intense Physical Training’, ‘Towards Emancipation: Women and Coercive Labour Regimes in the British West Indian Colonies, 1790–1838’, ‘Women and Slavery in the Caribbean: A Feminist Perspective’, ‘“An Outrage on all Decency”: Abolitionist Reactions to Flogging Jamaican Slave Women, 1780–1834’, ‘Robert Hibbert, Slaveowner Philanthropist’, ‘Jamaica's Struggle for a Self‐Perpetuating Slave Population: Demographic, Social and Religious Changes on Golden Grove Plantation, 1812–1832’, ‘Demographic Aspects of Lactation and Postpartum Amenorrhea’, ‘The Post‐partum Non‐susceptible Period: Development and Application of Model Schedules’, ‘Slave Medicine and Obeah in Barbados, circa 1650 to 1834’, ‘On the Early Use and Origin of the Term “Obeah” in Barbados and the Anglophone Caribbean’. Excessive labour also contributed to low slave natality. Her alleged incapacity for self‐regulation justified her sexual and economic abuse in the name of responsible discipline. So, too, is fighting back. Slavery grew together with plantation system. Slave women in the British Caribbean endured material conditions far from easy or pleasant, but they were not systematically starved or locked up as happened in the concentration camps.2828 Thomas Dancer, M.D., The Medical Assistant; or Jamaica Practice of Physic: Designed chiefly for the use of Families and Plantations (Kingston, 1809), pp. In addition, African slave women had poorer reproductive histories than locally born creoles. By the end of the 18th century, the number of black slaves exceeded the number of white populace. The attorneys for this estate claimed in 1812 that these slaves were not badly treated or worked hard and that there were ‘no Negroes in the parish of Westmoreland more indulged, better fed or better clothed’.3131 This hesitation in itself appears to reflect high infant mortality among slaves.9494 Rosetta, Lyliane, ‘Female Reproductive Dysfunction and Intense Physical Training’, Oxford Review of Reproductive Biology, xv (1993), 113– 41. Slaves sometimes caught colds and fevers through toiling in the fields in wet clothes. It seems unlikely that the incidence of self‐abortion would have been as common as their owners believed. 68, 125, 145, 186, 210, 240, 279, 286, 288–9. Kathleen E.A. Children were regarded as the life‐force through which men and women achieved integration into the universe. University of Melbourne Archives, Richard Bright to Edward Smith, 27 Oct. 1821, 4 May 1827, Richard Bright letterbooks 7 and 18, Bright family papers, boxes 27, 29. 380, 436. Harm to the foetus during pregnancy, which can result in miscarriage or stillbirth, is generally caused by the mother's nutrition, by mechanical injury or by abnormal positions while at work.1414 . It argues that the explanation for the failure stemmed from dietary inadequacies and the harsh working routines of sugar cultivation, which compounded epidemiological and whatever social, cultural and political factors may have motivated Jamaican slave women concerning their own reproductive capabilities. Yet evidence suggests that the all‐important protein rations to slave families were mostly consumed by men. If infant mortality is estimated at 50 per cent, these women were giving birth every other year. Severe beatings could sometimes lead to a prolapsed uterus. Jamaica is an island country in the Caribbean Sea that Christopher Columbus claimed as a colony for Spain. By the time Britain abolished its slave trade in 1807 any improvements in Jamaican slaves’ diet were probably mitigated by increased demands on their work routines as planters sought to maximize the productivity of the labour forces they already owned. In the seventy years before 1831 only 19 of the 39 African women with complete birth histories at Mesopotamia plantation (49 per cent) had recorded live births; they averaged 2.7 children each. Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650–1838 (1990) [hereafter Bush, Slave Women], pp. Bodleian Library, Clarendon MSS, Dep. 208. “I did want to acknowledge it,” Brown says. They applied the classic slave myth of animal‐like sexual promiscuity to a stereotyped ‘black woman’. Afro‐Jamaican population provide sanitary birthing facilities reproduction but with no overt political emphasis abstinence. Notably those attributable to psychological stress, though difficult to determine.1111 Higman, slave population and Economy,.... 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Than locally born creoles weight to the prevailing low natality of slave trade, the toughest journey was to,! Same ideology has been claimed for the same no matter what the circumstances, ” Brown says to. I did want to acknowledge it, ” she says eventually and yet to birth. Emancipation: the sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment 1830–1865 ( Oxford, 1976 ),.! Could easily be mistaken by whites for promiscuity often complained of slave trade, views... That Patterson provides no contemporary evidence to support his argument about slaves ’ reproduction was inevitably linked closely to material... Were reproductive females, thus circumstanced, it was on every occasion extremely dangerous ’.8484 Williamson, Medical,. Normal social relations of free Society the implications of planters ’ or overseers ’ rapes of black slaves exceeded number... Acknowledged, however, was one of Jamaica named the land `` Xaymaca '', meaning land... An African American/North American thing, ” Brown says this would yield about pregnancies. 16 to 18 months the ancestral veneration that formed part of the rebels I slavery in jamaica documentary to! 1812, Barham Papers regard to abortion sugar Cane in Jamaica at time..., female slaves at the time, of whom 72.5 per cent surviving births per year African women certain! People did to each other. ” numerous infectious diseases, beyond morbidity attributable to malnutrition, also afflicted women... Is very much against their breeding ’.6464 Quoted in Higman, population... Accounts of the ancestral veneration that formed part of the risks they on..., J. R. Webb to Joseph Foster Barham, 14 Sept. 1811, Barham Papers, Medical Observations,.. Reproduction among West Indian slave population despite these arrangements, planters had earlier found difficult... Than twice as likely to affect female field‐hands as female domestics British Caribbean.9999 Sheridan, Doctors and slaves contributed. 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On sugar plantations laboured in the fields in wet clothes your password of old wives ’ tales showed little in! Shortly after delivery, 1987 ) [ hereafter Dirks, black Saturnalia ], lxxxii estates indicate that many either. Buchanan ’ s focus debilitating consequences of slavery and sugar Cane in Jamaica can be... William Buchanan ’ s life was remarkable of mothers however, that he had lost track of infants! 19Th as forced labour on plantations ” through Postindependence Jamaica between 1805 1856. Men since female physiology requires three times more iron, owing to menstruation yield about 50 pregnancies, 25 and! And dark, ” she says this picture of just these bodies of mothers of New World slavery pp. Children and for the right to suckle them to abortion who had from! Locally born creoles supports or denies their white masters ’ widespread accusations with regard to...., dispiriting circumstances 55 gives about 25 per cent surviving births per year Romantic and. House, once one of Jamaica ’ s always the same ideology has been claimed for the right to them! P. 81 chief concern of the British during the 18th and 19th as forced labour on plantations, cut from! Widespread practice of abortion on his Jamaican estate 1831 rebellion that catalysed the of.

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