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Morant Bay Rebellion: overview and assessment

Swithin Wilmot


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The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 in Jamaica represented a clash between a decaying white plantocracy and the black freed people who were assertive of their new rights and opportunities in the post-slavery period from 1838. By 1865, several of black people's expectations and initiatives had been frustrated and undermined by strong continuities between the period of enslavement and the decades after emancipation. Whites maintained their near monopoly of the island's economic resources and dominated local political arrangements. Furthermore, the “aristocracy” of white skin buttressed their social privileges and the first generation of black adults in freedom was returned to dependence on the plantation and to a standard of living that was not far removed from their experiences of enslavement. Nonetheless, the formal end of slavery was an event of major importance to the 311,070 enslaved people in Jamaica since it removed the most horrendous abuses of slavery and opened up the possibility of constructing new lives beyond the boundaries of exploitative plantation labor. For the first time in Jamaica's history, the mass of the people of African descent could attempt to direct their own life and to make choices that suited them. The former enslaved in Jamaica responded in a variety of ways. In the first decade of freedom they constructed new settlements beyond the plantations, as well ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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