A Seventeenth Century Commentary on Labor and Military Problems in Barbados

1973 (J. S. Handler and L. Shelby) “A Seventeenth Century Commentary on Labor and Military Problems in Barbados.” JBMHS 34: 117-121.

The anonymously authored manuscript reproduced below * was written in late 1667 (or early 1668) towards the end of, or shortly after, England’s war with the French and Dutch. Barbados was approaching the peak of its economic prosperity and its preservation as an English possession was of great concern; it was especially important that the island be able to defend itself militarily. Aside from the condition of Barbadian fortifications, the militia was, to many observers, considerably weakened by the decline in the European population, especially the poorer elements upon whose services the militia depended for its effectiveness.

The very forces that had been responsible for Bardadian economic prosperity now militated against retention of the island’s European population. The expansion of sugar plantations debilitated the small land-holding system, thus depriving many poor Europeans of what had primarily motivated their coming to Barbados in the first place; or, in the case of indentured servants, of what had encouraged them to stay when their period of service was over. With the loss of Europeans and the concomitant rise in dependency upon African slaves, it became increasingly difficult to fill the host of artisan and other specialized roles needed for the maintenance of sugar plantations. Plantation owners began to fill these positions with their slaves, thereby further lessening opportunities in the island for poor Europeans.

 

Posted in Barbados History and Society: Bibliographic and Miscellany | Tagged , , | Comments Off on A Seventeenth Century Commentary on Labor and Military Problems in Barbados

Anti-Obeah Laws of the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760s to 2010

2011 (Jerome Handler) Anti-Obeah Laws of the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760s to 2010. 35th Annual Conference, Society for Caribbean Studies, International Slavery Museum, Liverpool. July 2011.

Starting in Jamaica in 1760 and continuing to the present, scores of laws criminalizing obeah have been enacted in the 17 jurisdictions of the Anglophone Caribbean, the former British West Indies. These laws include laws solely concerned with obeah — so-called “Obeah Acts” or “Obeah Ordinances” — as well as anti-obeah provisions in sections of Penal Codes, Criminal Codes, Police Acts, Vagrancy Acts, and Summary Jurisdiction Acts. This paper gives a comparative summary of the main features of anti-obeah laws from the period of slavery to the present.

Posted in Obeah | Tagged , | Comments Off on Anti-Obeah Laws of the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760s to 2010

The Old Plantation Painting at Colonial Williamsburg: New Findings and Some Observations

2010 (Jerome S. Handler) “The Old Plantation Painting at Colonial Williamsburg: New Findings and Some Observations.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. December.

"The Old Plantation"

\”The Old Plantation\”

Arguably the best known visual depiction of African American life during the eighteenth century, this small watercolor, owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF), poses a number of questions of interpretation and identification. The artist did not name the painting, which gives a unique visual perspective on early African American life, but former owners gave it the arbitrary title “The Old Plantation,” by which it is now commonly known. The painting, which is unsigned, undated and not given a provenience, depicts what are presumed to be plantation slaves dancing and playing musical instruments within a rural setting. The history of how this painting came to be known and ultimately owned by CWF is well documented in a recently published work by Susan Shames, the decorative arts librarian with CWF. Most importantly, her meticulous genealogical and historical research has identified the artist for the first time, and has also refined earlier speculations on the probable locale of the painting and the approximate date at which it was made.

Posted in Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Old Plantation Painting at Colonial Williamsburg: New Findings and Some Observations

Change in Small Scale Pottery Manufacture in Antigua, West Indies

2009 (M. W. Hauser and J. Handler) “Change in Small Scale Pottery Manufacture in Antigua, West Indies.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. December.

Today, in a handful of Caribbean islands (e.g., Jamaica, Martinique, Barbados, Antigua, Nevis, and St. Lucia), persons of African descent continue to manufacture earthenware pottery, generally somewhat loosely and variously referred to by modern Caribbean archaeologists as Afro-Caribbean pottery or ceramics. These small-scale industries have always played an insignificant role in insular national economies and at present they seem to have a very limited chance for long-term survival. Today they produce largely for the tourist market and are disappearing to varying degrees. Several of these industries have been ethnographically reported over the years, and these reports provide a base line from which to examine the changing demands and pressures confronting local potteries. Diachronic studies of these industries permit researchers to chart changes as these industries decline, and also provide a lens through which archaeologists can understand the ways in which local craft industries have confronted changing economic landscapes. Moreover, traditional locally made earthenware is today found in historical archaeological sites in the West Indies and ethnographic knowledge about local industries helps interpret the archaeological data. The following information on the little-known industry in the small island of Antigua, a former British colony in the Leeward island chain — today an independent member of the British Commonwealth — is based on limited field work, published literature, and personal correspondence with persons possessing first-hand knowledge.

Posted in Sugar, Arrowroot, and Pottery Production | Tagged , | Comments Off on Change in Small Scale Pottery Manufacture in Antigua, West Indies

Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838

2009 (J. S. Handler and S. Bergman) “Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838.” Journal of Caribbean History 43: 1-36.

This paper describes the houses and household furnishings of the enslaved people on Barbadian sugar plantations, and traces the development and changes in architectural forms, including wattle-and-daub, stone, and wooden plank dwellings, over the several centuries of slavery on the island. We also treat the housing policies of plantation owners/managers, and explore possible African and European cultural influences on the Barbadian vernacular housing tradition that emerged during the period of slavery.

Posted in Slavery and Slave Life in Barbados | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838

The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans

2009 (Jerome S. Handler) “The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans.” Slavery and Abolition 30: 1-26.

Scholars of the Atlantic slave trade have not systematically addressed the question of what material objects or personal belongings captive Africans took aboard the slave ships and what goods they may have acquired on the Middle Passage. This topic has implications for the archaeology of African descendant sites in the New World and the transmission of African material culture. This paper reviews the evidence for clothing, metal, bead, and other jewelry, amulets, tobacco pipes, musical instruments, and gaming materials. In so doing, the paper provides an empirical foundation for the severe limitations placed upon enslaved Africans in transporting their material culture to the New World.

Posted in Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans

Gizzard Stones, Wari in the New World, and Slave Ships: Some Research Questions

2009 (Jerome S. Handler) “Gizzard Stones, Wari in the New World, and Slave Ships: Some Research Questions.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. June.

Argues that archaeologically recovered so-called gizzard stones were not utilized for playing wari, the African board game, by African descended populations in the United States, reviews documentary and ethnographic evidence for the presence of wari in the United States and the Caribbean, and discusses the documentary evidence for the presence of African games aboard British slaving vessels during the Middle Passage.

Posted in Slavery and Slave Life: Archaeological Studies | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Gizzard Stones, Wari in the New World, and Slave Ships: Some Research Questions

Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint

2009 (J. S. Handler and K. E. Hayes) “Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint.” African Diaspora: Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World 2: 1-27.

This article describes the transformation of an image depicting an unnamed, enslaved African man wearing a metal facemask, a common form of punishment in colonial Brazil, into the iconic representation of the martyred slave Anastácia/Anastasia, the focus of a growing religious and political movement in Brazil. The authors trace the image to an early 19th century engraving based on a drawing by the Frenchman Jacques Arago. Well over a century later, Arago’s image increasingly became associated with a corpus of myths describing the virtuous suffering and painful death of a female slave named Anastácia. By the 1990s, Arago’s image (and variations of it), now identified as the martyred Anastácia/Anastasia, had proliferated throughout Brazil, an object of devotion for Catholics and practitioners of Umbanda, as well as a symbol of black pride.

Posted in Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

2009 (J. S. Handler and M. Tuite) The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record.

The approximately 1,235 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public – in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World.

Posted in Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

Aspects of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Smoking Pipes, Tobacco, and the Middle Passage

2008 (Jerome S. Handler) “Aspects of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Smoking Pipes, Tobacco, and the Middle Passage.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. June.

This paper briefly addresses tobacco consumption and pipe smoking in Western Africa, and the relevance of these practices to the Atlantic slave trade as well as to the material culture of captive Africans during their forced passage to the New World.

Posted in Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Aspects of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Smoking Pipes, Tobacco, and the Middle Passage