The Journal of Caribbean History Volume 57 Issue 1
Edited by Professor Kathleen E. A. Monteith
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by Patrick T. Barker
As scholars have long shown, provision grounds and dooryard gardens were
crucial to enslaved people’s survival and economic lives in many slave societies in the greater Caribbean. This article draws on both old and new evidence to explore the British colony of Trinidad’s late-slavery provision ground system from below. It analyses plantation records, the Port of Spain Gazette, government slave punishment returns, planter and imperial correspondence, slave codes, and enslaved people’s legal complaints from the nineteenth century to provide a more detailed portrait of the challenges of food cultivation under slavery in the years leading to abolition. Foregrounding scarcity as the common experience in the island’s provision ground system, it argues that enslaved labourers risked punishment to deploy a range of adaptive and sometimes illicit labour and land management strategies to properly cultivate their grounds under the constraints imposed upon them by plantation authorities. Furthermore, it shows how in the amelioration era, despite the odds being stacked against them, enslaved people found ways to strategically negotiate the office of The Protector of Slaves to retain rightful access to productive land and to protect their cultivation time and produce.
This article highlights mostly the work of the white upper, black, mixed and
Indian middle-class women, through mostly an organization known as the
Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) in the colony’s “Grow More Food Campaign”. This was an official government programme re-enacted from World War I, and executed to ease the burdens of severe shortages, inflation and dependency in a time when food supplies globally were disrupted. The prominence and status of the women who became involved in the programme meant that their activities were highly publicized positively, which influenced the local population, garnering the support for a major government initiative in a time of turmoil. The newspapers of the time reveal that the government expressed public gratitude, but since then they have not been adequately recognized or discussed in published writings.
The efforts at nation-building in the West Indies have had to (and still have to) confront obstacles that are legacies of centuries of European colonization and enslavement in the region. Postcolonial challenges have included overcoming structural racism and the negative impact on identity of limiting stereotypes and prejudices; the empowerment of marginalized populations; the provision of greater socioeconomic opportunities; and the creation of more just and equitable societies. These were challenges they had in common with many other colonial and postcolonial societies across the globe. Cricket played a significant role in many of these struggles, and in so doing became an important part of anti-imperial movements within the region. It was, therefore, unsurprising — and perhaps inevitable — that West Indian nations and the West Indian cricket world would become involved in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Examining social attitudes towards the anti-apartheid campaign within West Indies cricket provides us with insight that can help us to evaluate the broader nation-building efforts.
One particularly illuminating episode was the formation of a West Indian “rebel” cricket team that toured South Africa in 1983 and 1984 in contravention of an international sporting boycott. These tours were a shock to many in the West Indies, with one commentator referring to them as “a collective affront to West Indian society, nationhood and history”. However, attitudes in the West Indies to the tour were by no means uniform: in fact, there were many voices in support of the cricketers. This paper examines the reactions in Jamaica to the initial announcement of the “rebel” tour in 1983 to see what light they shed on perspectives of identity and nationhood in the Jamaican society, and what they reveal about the state of the postcolonial project. It poses the question: was the action of the “rebels” an affront to Jamaican society, or rather a reflection of it?
The publication of Rodney Worrell’s work on the political ideas and practical politics of George Padmore is a monumental contribution to global Pan-African scholarship. The book is a major contribution to the fields of Africana Studies, Pan-Africanism, Caribbean Political Thought, Black radicalism and Marxist historiography.
One strength of the book resides in the author’s training as a historian and political scientist. The book benefits from Worrell’s disciplined use of the methods of historical research combined with the analytical insights of political science relevant to the production of a work devoted chiefly to the study of the ideas and political activism of a major twentieth-century political actor, of Caribbean origin, George Padmore. His serious and detailed treatment of Padmore’s Pan-Africanism, which, perhaps for marketing purposes, he now refers to as “black internationalism”, has now undoubtedly cemented his place as a leading authority on the subject.