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Jamaica in 1850: or, The Effects of Sixteen Years of Freedom on a Slave Colony
After Jamaican slaves were fully emancipated in 1838, the local economy collapsed. Driven by a belief in the innate inferiority of the black race and bolstered by this apparently disastrous Jamaican example, Americans who defended slavery convinced many that emancipation at home would lead to economic and social chaos. Collecting John Bigelow's vivid...
After Jamaican slaves were fully emancipated in 1838, the local economy collapsed. Driven by a belief in the innate inferiority of the black race and bolstered by this apparently disastrous Jamaican example, Americans who defended slavery convinced many that emancipation at home would lead to economic and social chaos. Collecting John Bigelow's vivid firsthand reporting, "Jamaica in 1850" challenges that widely held view and demonstrates that Jamaica's troubles were caused not by lazy blacks but by the incompetence of absentee white planters operating within an obsolete colonial system. Bigelow also shows that although large plantations languished, many former slaves worked tirelessly and became successful small-scale landowners. The power of these arguments made John Bigelow's Jamaica in 1850 a crucially important document in the American antislavery struggle both in America and Britain. Robert J. Scholnick's introduction places the book within transnational debates about Emancipation, slavery, colonialism, and economic development in the antebellum period and considers its powerful impact in furthering the antislavery cause.
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