introduction
“me
no
b’longs
to
dem”
Emancipation’s Possibilities and Limits in Antigua
Antigua’s thirty thousand enslaved people, alongside those in all other
British colonial territories, were freed on August 1, 1834. Shortly aft er
emancipation, Juncho, an el derly black Antiguan woman previously en-
slaved on MacKinnon’s Estate in the Parish of St. John, described the
diff erences between slavery and freedom.1 The very moment of freedom
rendered Juncho both jobless and homeless. Abolition ended her daily
toil in the fi elds but undermined her material security. Since 1834, she
had lived in poverty with her daughter. Juncho declared: “So you see . . . 
dat make me say me no [love] slabery. Now wen me [young], me hab to
work hard, hab dig cane [h]ole, weed cane, pick grass, do ebery ting; but
now me ole, and no able to work, dey take away me house, ’cause me no
b’longs to dem, but den me [know] me free, and me bless God me am
free.”2
Juncho insisted that, despite the hunger and privation she encoun-
tered in freedom, slavery had been worse. She mentioned examples of
two harrowing situations that as an enslaved mother she typically faced.
She could not nurse a sick child back to health because she was required
to toil in the fi elds all day. When her child transgressed a rule of the
plantation, she had to watch, powerless to intervene, as the owner tied
Juncho’s child to a tree and meted out a violent whipping. In Juncho’s
account, freedom relieved the sorts of stresses on the mother- child re-
lationship that being the property of another oft en involved. The im-
poverishment she endured while living with her daughter and several
grandchildren, however, attests to other kinds of stresses black families
encountered aft er 1834.
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