‘Women slaves bore the brunt of the control, exploitation”
September 20, 2013

‘Women slaves bore the brunt of the control, exploitation”

The role of women in slavery, emancipation and reparations was brought to the fore last Sunday evening, as Professor Verene Shepherd laid the foundation for women to receive more recognition for the part they played in decolonization.{{more}}

Shepherd, the chairperson of the Jamaican Reparations Commission, and featured speaker at the opening ceremony of the historic reparations conference, argued that women were owed a debt of gratitude, because their experience was just as much a part of the reparations struggle.

“I invite you to join me in singing praise songs to … the women who …made Europe wealthy, the women on whose backs fell the bulk of commodity production, the women who put the great into Britain, and they were united with their men in anger, and united in the war to end slavery and European brutality. These were women who said, like Marlon James’ Night Women in the book of the same name, ‘Enough Done Be Enough’. They had been trodding on the wine press much too long….”

Shepherd lamented that while the women planned, and fought side by side the men during battles and wars, they were hardly recognized for their efforts, and were, in most cases, not documented in the annals of history.

“…How widely known are Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons, Susanna of the 1823 Demerara War, Phati, AnneMary, Comba, Nellie, and Marilee, who endured slavery in Guyana. How many have heard of Nanny Grigg of Barbados, Cecile Fatima of Haiti, Alida of Suriname, Betho Douglas of St Kitts/Nevis, Philda, Queen and Aba of Antigua? How about Nelly, Eliza, Sue, Sally and Phoebe of Dumbarton estate in St Vincent?

“They are also among the reasons we are gathered here this evening.”

More importantly, Shepherd said the women bore the brunt of the control and exploitation: sexual, physical and psychological.

“In addition to abuse of their bodies through arduous physical field regime and severe whipping, enslaved women were open to sexploitation… so male enslavers claimed violent access to enslaved women’s bodies, and male and female enslavers, through the sale of enslaved women’s bodies for money on the sex market….”

She also outlined the fact that while the children of slave women were born into to slavery, those born to the European (white) women were born free, even if they were born to enslaved black men.

The professor said that no justification for reparation could be compiled without including the experiences of the Caribbean women who made the sacrifice over the centuries of slavery.

“For them, we are gathered here to discuss the evidence for reparation and chart the way forward,” she stated.(JJ)

(See the full text of Professor Shepherd’s speech at www.Facebook.com/Searchlight1)