SVG told of horrible enslavement, genocide
September 17, 2013

SVG told of horrible enslavement, genocide

Vincentians were, on Sunday, given an up close and personal look at slavery in St Vincent and the Grenadines, when the case for reparations for the enslavement of Africans and genocide of the indigenous peoples of the region took centre stage last weekend.{{more}}

In what was arguably the most emotional moment during the opening ceremony of the reparations conference, Professor Verene Shepherd read out the names of enslaved Vincentians who resided on the Dumbarton estate at the time of Emancipation in 1834.

Shepherd, the feature speaker at the Opening Ceremony of the first ever regional conference of its kind, proclaimed that these enslaved people, as young as three months old, earned their owner thousands of dollars in compensation, as she asked “who is going to pay reparations for their souls?”

As she read the names, those in attendance at the conference went silent and many appeared teary-eyed.

“Anthony, a labourer, age 30; Jim Grant, 20, labourer; John Thomas, 43, labourer; Bob, 41, labourer; Hero, 11 years old, but sent to the pasture to work. Sophie, 50, sick nurse; Nellie, 35, labourer; John, 29, driver; Boatswain, 44 years old, he was a labourer. Neptune, 8 years old, but sent to the pasture to pick vine. Rodney, three months old; Eliza, 32, domestic; Mary, 12, sent to pick vines. Henry, 48, labourer; Frederick, 10, domestic,” the professor read.

Shepherd, who is head of the Jamaica Reparations Commission and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona, used the opportunity to call for the next step of the reparations conversation to add names and faces to the quantitative element of the reparations process, and suggested that countries find ways to honour the victims of genocide and slavery.

She revealed that close to half of the money received by slave owners, nearly 17 billion pounds in today’s exchange, stayed in the UK, and were distributed among 3,000 people.

The other half, she said, was distributed among colonies, including St Vincent and the Grenadines, where 758 claims were made.

“Among the beneficiaries in St Vincent, was the Cambridge educated William Blake, who was worth 140,000 pounds at the time of his death, because of the investments he had made with his compensation award claims on 315 enslaved Africans on Villa and Pembroke estates and properties on Tobago….

“James McCall, a Glasgow merchant, was awarded over 12,000 pounds as compensation for enslaved people on the Adelphi plantation here in this island. He invested the money in railways in Scotland and England and was worth over 141,000 pounds….

“And there were others… and you may know the plantations which they ran. Sir William Hadley who had 248 enslaved people on Fair Spring or Fair Hall. Alexander Boyde, who had 1,419 enslaved people on Sion Hill, Orange Hill, Montrose, Waterloo, Golden Grove, Cheltenham, and lot Fourteen Estate, and he claimed over 36,000 pounds.

“Also William Maxwell Alexander, who claimed compensation for 1,499 enslaved people. Sir Archibald Alexander for Belle View, William Stowe for Paget Farm, Alexander McBarnett for San Souci, Villa and Waterloo, and Michael Agar for domestics in Kingstown.

“Another high profile individual who received compensation was George Hibbert; he was the founder of the West India Company, and he received what in today’s money would be 49 million pounds… and the list goes on,” stated Shepherd.

Shepherd pointed out that between 40 and 50 per cent of the claimants in the Caribbean were women, including Elizabeth Bolton, Marie Joseph Acourt, Mary Arindell, Cecelia Blake, and Elizabeth Brooke, who had 615 enslaved Africans on Pembroke, Rabacca and Villa.

She also said that the names of the slaves, as well as their owners, were well documented in the United Kingdom, which makes the argument for reparation more solid, and it was important that these documents be brought back to the region for preservation.

“So, as we chart the way forward over the next two days, let us add the repatriation of those documents into the mix, because the next thing we know they might be removed and destroyed by statutes.

“Our mission must be to ask for these receipts, because that is evidence that we need of the crime against our ancestors.”(JJ)