Black Experience in the Caribbean

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In terms of the difference between public image and fact, I do not think there is a place in the entire world that can stand tall and rival the Caribbean. Carrie Gibson's novel "Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present." Most people who claim that the European race is superior will be saddened by this book. The novel is a thorough and harsh rebuke to those who just dream of beautiful beaches, calypso music, and cerulean skies. Gibson opens everything and illustrates that the Caribbean was created in blood, slavery as well as the Western wars, which still has the scars. The Europeans brought with them diseases, the military power along with the evangelist zeal. By the end of the 16th century, the European had destroyed the native population. The people from the Europe continent came with the need of any commodity, which can make them rich. They turned to large sugar plantation farming which brought the need if labor to produce it. This was the beginning of African slavery. The massive plantation in combination with the slaves was marked as the primary source of the European future success and prosperity.

The Black experience in the Caribbean was grim. By the end of 1700, the English ships had transported approximately 400, 000 slaves from the west coast of the African continent. The slaves were transported to the European Caribbean colonies such as the Barbados and Jamaica to work on the sugar plantations. By the18th century, this numbers had swollen up into millions. Gibson in her book states that “slavery was already a living death for million and in the 18th century the brutal trade only got worse.” The slaves during this time in Jamaica were suffering a lot, and this made them believe that when they die in Jamaica, they are teleported into their nations. It made most of them prefer taking their own lives instead of suffering in the arms of the whites. The account of the slaves was horrifying with the notorious middle passage at sea encompassed with the shrieks of women as well as the painful groans of the dying.

The European quickly benefited from the slave trade with the black people suffering on the other end of the trade. Slavery was eminent in both the Mediterranean as well as the Islamic world. The continent was benefiting from the miseries of the black men. African slaves were forced to work on the sugar plantations for a long hour without food and proper rest. However, there was diversity in the way the slaves were treated as well as implemented all over the West Indies. It made the experience of the slaves in the Caribbean to vary in accordance with the codes, which had been created to control how they should be treated. Nonetheless, whether these codes were observed or not it was just a matter of speculation. For instance in the 17th-century Spanish Caribbean slaves were placed under the dominion of the wider-ranging legal framework, the Seven-Part Code. This code had its background in the Roman Laws. The code treated slavery an acquired state and not a natural state. In this regards the slaves knew their rights and were treated slightly better than other slaves were. Furthermore, the slave of the Spanish Caribbean had the capability of negotiating for terms of buying their freedom. In case of a successful negotiation, the slaves would go on to pay their masters in installments until they are free. In the Spanish Caribbean, the slaves had recourse to the courts. When this entire situation is considered one may be filled that the slavery was not a bad life after all.

However, the late eighteenth-century witnessed the establishment of Haiti or the end. The rise of Haiti in 1804 came as a surprise. Just as France was experiencing the French revolution, the slaves who were in the French colonies of the Saint-Dominique succeeded to overthrow the owners of the plantations. After the plantation owners were overthrown, the slaves established the Republic of Haiti. This event led to the end of the slavery in the Caribbean colonies. It all began with Britain in 1834, then other Europe governments came in and gradually abolished slavery all through the 19th century. However much slavery was brought to an end the blacks have never been entirely free. The legacy of slavery bred racism that the black person has to face all through to the modern days.

From all the connection that is in the narrative of the Caribbean, the experience of the black people in its many nations have been divergent in a wide manner was it can be attested by anyone who has a chance of moving from the Spanish colony of Cuba to Haiti. Gibson as the author of the book manages to put together almost five hundred years of compound history into a brilliant thematic narrative. She puts it clear that the motivation of the slavery in this region was underpinned in the cultivation as well as the sale of an inessential commodity such as sugar. Most of the children born in the Caribbean in the 17th century were born in captivity, and that meant that they are the property of the owners. Their childhood would then be spent in America’ Deep South with the robust history of slavery and now racial prejudice. Before the ultimate emancipation took tall on the islands, the blacks were exploited.

All that is wrote and explained in the book is filled with a serious sense of resentment to the transgressions done in the Caribbean from the time the Portuguese as well as the Spanish first set foot on the islands until America’s Invasion of Grenada which has been as recent as 1983. In this time, slavery was permanently bound with the mercantilist system of trade in which the European grew economically fat between the 16th and the 18th centuries while the black toiled and suffered the misery of slavery. It was until the late 18th and early 19th century when the trade was out of favor in the more laissez-faire that the momentum of the abolition of slavery to turn. It was the economic changes rather than the growing public sympathy for the misery of slaves that ended the entire form of exploitation. In the modern day, the Caribbean tourism with the majority of the serving house cleaner being black and serving the white people is one of the most uncomfortable reminders of the not-forgotten past. It is a reminder that other forms of modern slavery are still in existence. Furthermore, it has been discovered that the total amount of money spent on tourism in Jamaica does not remain in the country, but it is spent in other nations.

Gibson may be writing about the empires in a wider perspective while placing the history of the Caribbean in the setting of a major development of the globe. The French Revolution was a significant catalyst of the uprising on the Saint-Dominique, which led to the independence of the Haiti Republic. Furthermore, the invasion of Spain by Napoleon was a significant aid in the collapse of the Spanish New empire that vanished when the two nation, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, were influenced by America in 1898.


In conclusion, it is clear that it does not mean the event that occurred in the Caribbean have only been a slide show as the title of the book illustrates. The author puts the Caribbean region at the center of all clashes between the European powers. The entire event had a strong influence on the concept of human right in the Caribbean colonies. The life of the black was just used as a means to an end. As far as the story in the book is concerned, everything was developed in the West Indies. The European world of today it the way it is because the financial foundation was built with money from the sugar plantation on the back of the black’s hard work. The entire idea of real equality together with globalization and migration stemmed from the event in the colonies at the Caribbean.

Work Cited

Gibson, Carrie. Empire's Crossroads: The Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day. 2014. London: Macmillan.

August 18, 2021

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