‘Do you remember the days of slav’ry?’

Independence day decorations opposite the US Embassy in Liguanea, Kingston on Emancipation Day, Aug 1, 2012

Although Kingstonians were running around like chickens with their heads cut off yesterday preparing for the Emancipation Day holiday today a number of supermarkets and small stores were actually open for part of the day. The Indian stores for instance at the Marketplace and Northside Plaza. I was happy because I hadn’t been able to do a proper shopping last week but it did set me remembering an article I published three years ago in the British journal Slavery and Abolition called ‘Do You Remember the Days of Slav’ry?’ Connecting the Present with the Past in Contemporary Jamaica.

Supermarkets in Jamaica are mainly owned by Chinese families. The Indians and Chinese came here as indentured labourers, and emancipation from slavery clearly doesn’t have the same resonance for them as for the rest of the population. In my article i discuss at length the historical ambivalence to this holiday in Jamaica, the celebration of which was officially banned in 1962 when Jamaica became independent and only reinstated in August 2002 on the fortieth anniversary of independence by then prime minister, P.J. Patterson.

Wish i knew who took this amazing image of Jamaica’s Emancipation Monument, they deserve credit. Found this on Facebook today. Sculpted by Laura Facey, Redemption Song was created to stand at the entrance to Emancipation Park in Kingston.

Why not make a pdf of the article available today I thought, considering that its Emancipation Day today and Jamaica is on the verge of celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of independence. The following abstract will explain why it may be of interest:

In early 2006, the parish councilors of St Elizabeth, Jamaica, decided not to support plans
for celebration of the abolition of the slave trade citing the position taken by National Hero Sir
Alexander Bustamante, founding father of the Jamaica Labour Party, that ‘we should celebrate
our achievements (but) we should not look back at our shame’. This article looks at
this instance and others like it of ambivalence towards the memory of slavery and how it
ought to be treated today. Main sources for the article are discussions in the public sphere,
radio, newspaper and television debates on the subject, and interviews with key principals
such as the chairwoman of the Committee for the Commemoration of the Abolition of
the Slave Trade as well as dissenting voices such as the St Elizabeth councilors during the
period 2006–2007 in the run-up to commemorative activities.

So here’s a link to it: https://anniepaul.net/do-you-remember-the-days-of-slavry/

In the published abstract we didn’t catch two errors…’abolition of the slave trade’ instead of  ‘abolition of slavery’, which I’ve taken the opportunity to correct in the abstract above. Hope my article is of interest. Happy Emancipation Day!

The security guard at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), singlehandedly created this festive decoration on the front of the SALISES building

P.S. The entire island has erupted into effusions of black. gold and green, the colours of the Jamaican flag. As @DamienWKing, head of the Economics Department at the University of the West Indies rightlynoted on Twitter: Proliferation of black, green & gold around the country is NOT frivolous. Builds social capital & sense of unity. Important for development.

There is hope.

Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

7 thoughts on “‘Do you remember the days of slav’ry?’”

  1. Yes – I remember the stance the St. Elizabeth councilors took. I always sense this ambivalence on Emancipation Day. Will read the pdf. Meanwhile, I hear a band bravely playing down at the Stadium, as it pours with rain…

  2. Slavery was a traumatic experience, true. In Jamaica, however, it was a history of struggle, of rebellion, and thus of reclaiming honour from dishonour. Jamaicans forced their quondam masters to grant freedom, much against their will. That is a history worth commemorating, as are the golden words of Dr Johnson: “To the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies!”

  3. had no idea annie. it reminds me of how mauritius views the history of slavery as well, which is interesting bc they look to JA as a source of inspiration. i look forward to reading this.

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