As we celebrate Emancipation Day in Jamaica to day I thought I would remind those the history of Emancipation and the rise of Free Villages. It is a story that shapes not only the country, but its people. It is who are are, fashioned by our fore-fathers who refused to raise a single nail on the plantations, removing themselves as far as possible from what represented a symbol of murderous crimes against humanity.
LANDLESS & PENNILESS
On August 1, 1834, “frees” slaves in Jamaica were required to undergo a transitional period as ‘apprentices’ before full emancipation. “Slave owners” were given monetary compensation of £6,161,927 for their loss of property in slaves. The slaves received no compensation.
Apprentices were obliged to work on the estates for 40.5 hours per week in exchange for food, clothing, and shelter, but not wages. The system was marred with abuses by the planters and apprentices went on strike, refusing to work without wages. They swore that they would rather ‘have their heads cut off, or [be] shot’ before they would be bound apprentices. To quell the resistance, 160 well-armed soldiers were deployed throughout the parish, and many slaves were whipped and sentenced to the workhouse.
On August 1, 1838, the British Parliament ended the apprenticeship program, which had become an enormous administrative burden, and granted full emancipation to more than 300,000 slaves in Jamaica.
Non-conformist missionaries, especially the English Baptists, created ‘free villages.’ Missionaries bought large holdings and subdivided them in small house lots to sell to the former slaves. The inadequacy of these holdings for crop cultivation, coupled with the unresolved disputes between estate owners and their black employees, resulted in the flight of freed slaves from the estates.
They established themselves as small peasant farmers on land obtained through lease, rent, purchase, or by simply squatting (settling on land without title or payment of rent). By 1860 the small farms of the black peasantry showed yields indicating they were a viable alternative to plantation agriculture.
Photos show “freed” Jamaicans at the turn of the Century…
THE RISE OF THE “FREE VILLAGES” IN JAMAICA
Immediately after “slavery” in Jamaica, new communities of freed people wee developed as majority of enforced Jamaicans were eager to get as far away as possible from the estates. Free Villages were usually large tracts of land purchased by missionaries and then subdivided into smaller plots for sale to their members. The first “free village” was Sligoville, on the 10th of July 1835.
So do Jamaicans know if they lived in a “free village”? Check this list of “free villages” in Jamaica:
St. Ann: Moneague; Clarksonville; Wilberforce; Buxton Bethany; Salem Brown’s Town; Happy Valley; Pleasant Valley; Harmony; Philadelphia; Sturge Town and Endeavour
St. Thomas: Delvery, Airy Mount (Mount Airy); Navarino; Greenwood; Beldona; Spring Mount; Elmwood; Bachelor’s Hall; Pigeon Hill; Unity Valley; Leith Hall and Bath Castle
St. Elizabeth: Springfield; Lacovia; Kilmarnock; Cairn Curran; Commer Pen; Lititz; Ipswich; Carisbrook; Cruze and Ballard’s Valley.
Clarendon: Rhyme’s Bury; Howell’s Content; Halse Hall; Hayes; Mitchell’s Town; Farm Colonel’s Ridge; Nairne Castle; Crofts and Cross.
St. James: Goodwill; Irwin Hill; Mount Carey; Maldon; Shortwood; Sudbury and Salters Hill.
Manchester: Bethabara; Beaufort; Beulah; Vale; Porus; Hillside; Maidstone; Mizaph and Walderston.
Trelawny: New Cargen; Albert Town; Stewart’s Town; Gilbraltar; Kettering; Clarkson Town; Granville and Refuge.
Westmoreland: Carmel; Bethel Town and St. Leonard’s Gurney.
St. Catherine: Sligoville; Kitson Town; Sturge Town; Victoria Township and Clarkson Town.
Portland:Cedar Valley; Belle Castle and Happy Grove
Hanover: Mount Horeb and Sandy Bay
St. Andrew – Trinityville
St. Mary – Islington.
May their bravery endure forever in our hearts and in our deeds.
Thanks Neo Makeba.