Jamaica Before and After October 1865: A Laywoman’s Views
From 20 January to 4 April 1866 Emelia Russell Gurney interacted with several persons in Jamaica while her husband sat as one of the three-member Jamaica Royal Commission charged with enquiring into the October 1865 uprising in Morant Bay. She met and talked with clergymen and their wives, a former owner of enslaved people and his family, schoolmasters and black labourers. Her journalistic letters reported her observations and impressions to her mother. The letters provide insight into Jamaica after the ending of slavery, the historical context of the 1865 uprising as well as the diverse perspectives of the cause and effects of the event. This paper examines the contemporary insights and impressions of Jamaica before and after October 1865 from a laywoman’s perspective, exploring the conflicting views on the “black and white question” and the impact of the encounters on the daughter of a clergyman and wife of a conservative British politician.