color broke me
Postslavery Violence and Incomplete Freedom
in the British Ca rib bean
Mass revolt was a principal vehicle for Afro- Caribbean people to voice
their discontent with the hollowness of emancipation. Black working
people consistently used violence to publicly protest their condition, but
the authorities in both the colony and the metropole were increasingly
hostile to their aspirations. Postslavery re sis tance exposed the pitfalls
of a partial, racially delimited freedom that fi xed freedpeople in a posi-
tion of economic, social, and po liti cal subordination. These spectacular
uprisings and the brutal repression they engendered highlight the frus-
trations black people throughout the region faced as they continued to
struggle against extremely adverse circumstances.
Antigua’s 1858 uprising unfolded within a broader tide of explosive
pop u lar unrest in the British Ca rib bean. Most colonial territories experi-
enced at least one major incident of pop u lar unrest aft er 1834, and mass
uprisings occurred at least twice a de cade within the fi rst forty years.1
Freedpeople in St. Kitts, Montserrat, and Trinidad fomented disturbances
upon the announcement of the apprenticeship. In Dominica the 1844
Guerre Negre (Black War, or census riots) occurred because freedpeople
suspected census takers of “taking names” to reenslave them. In 1849 in
St. Lucia, laboring people rose up against higher taxation on their provi-
sion grounds. The British Virgin Island of Tortola was convulsed by the
Road Town Riots of 1853, when freedpeople assaulted magistrates and
other propertied whites and scorched the town and surrounding areas
in response to increased taxation on cattle; in the wake of the riots, all
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