Barbados

Going to Barbados was an incredible opportunity to expand my historical knowledge of enslaved people and to visit the sites that carry significance to the foundation of Barbados. I am very appreciative to be able to immerse myself into the culture and history of Barbados that not a lot of Bajun people in their own homes. For example, our tour guide took us to see the Newton Slave Burial Ground. To actually stand on the land where about 500 enslaved bodies were buried was traumatic and shocking. However, I was able to think critically about the lives of the enslaved people in a way that gave them humanity and agency.

Traveling to Barbados made me realize my difficulty in navigating my trauma with historical narratives. Whenever we had a tour to plantation houses, we analyzed the information that was given to us and realized that the existence of black people was silenced or the language that was used further dehumanized them. It was also a transformative experience to visit the archives at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. It was my first time physically touching a ledger of a planter and seeing the numerical value and description of the enslaved people. Each number represents their lives and how they were perceived as property.

My experience at the Sunbury Plantation and George Washington House was infuriating because the tour guides covered the history of Barbados that barely mentioned enslaved people or only highlighted the furniture inside the plantation house. However, the seminar and small group discussions provided me the opportunity to articulate my critique of the tours and to critically analyze the silencing of enslaved people within the tours.

Additionally, we had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Tara Inniss at the University of the West Indies. We read two of her readings and learned more about the Barbadian family structure by looking at paternalism, maternalism, and child care.

Ultimately, I am so fortunate for this trip to Barbados and its impact that it has on me as a Davidson student, a black woman, and an Africana scholar. I also appreciate this opportunity to reflect on my experiences in a country that I have discussed intensely throughout this course.

Newton Slave Burial Ground

My favorite moments at Barbados is when we visited the Newton Slave Burial Ground, a plantation that was used as a ceremony to bury an estimated 570 enslaved people. It was a vast plantation that has no sign or statues to honor the deaths. Without knowing about the history of this plantation, there is no way that ones could imagine the horrific acts that happened here and the tremendous number of enslaved people buried here. During the trip, Dr. Carter mentioned that archeologists found a huge amount of poisonous chemicals in the bodies of these enslaved people who were buried here. Since the majority of them were enslaved in a rum plantation, their bodies over the years contained a lot of chemicals from the materials that were used to make rum. Their bodies were buried on top of each other. For each burial ground, it was estimated that ten slaves were buried there. Because of the lack of fundings, there was only one sign that mentions the history of the Newton Plantation, one of the biggest plantations in Barbados. Meanwhile, there are no memorial sign nor statues commemorating the deaths of these enslaved people. As a result, during the day, people drive over this plantation like it was nothing. The violence continues even after the deaths of these enslaved individuals. As of now, their deaths go unrecognized and unmentioned. The thought that I could have stepped on their bodies during my visit is unbearable and overwhelming. However, I told myself as an Africana Studies scholar, it is important for me to have this experience where I have an opportunity to reconnect with enslaved people, whom I studied every day at school. As a privileged person, I could never understand what it means to walk through their shoes; however, the easiest thing I can do is to visit the place where all the horror of slavery happened. This trip has made me a better human being and Africana scholar where I had an opportunity to learn about the enduring legacy of slavery and the struggles of enslaved people who were abducted from their continent and forced into enslavement. The struggles of the past still exist in the present, and I think it is important that us scholars experience first-hand the impacts of slavery. In reality, products of slavery such as racism still subordinate Black people today.

Under Another Sun

Going to Barbados represented many firsts for me. It was my first time out of the country. My first time in the West Indies. My first time traveling with an all femme group (an all femme majority Black group I might add). Amidst all of these firsts, I learned so much about myself and Bajan history in a truly unique, experiential way.

While on the island, we explored so much of Bajan history. Our tour guides took us across the island and we delved into the incredible history of Barbados. Going from reading about the experience of urban slavery in Barbados to walking the streets of Barbados is a full circle experience. Dr. Marisa Fuentes describes the beauty, history, and culture of the island (then and now) in her book Dispossessed Lives, but to see the brilliance of Bridgetown first hand was unmatched. My imagination and experiences collided when we went by the Garrison and explored the archives with Bajan historians. Ultimately, our traditional classroom knowledge was extending from Chambers 1003 and being connected to our lived experiences in Bridgetown. Our scholarship and knowledge were not relegated to our campus but overflowing across borders, across oceans, and across institutional barriers.

The opportunity to study in Barbados is a life-changing one. Especially for me as a junior who due to my own anxiety, family needs, and finances has yet to achieve the goal of studying abroad. This experience allowed me to gain so much perspective and knowledge in a week (I can only imagine what a semester could do). It was incredible to receive a lecture from Dr. Tara Inniss at The University of the West Indies. Her knowledge of enslaved families in Bajan history helped me to inform how to approach my own historiographies. Engaging with her and her work, as well as other Bajan scholars, continues to inform how I think about the academy and the Diaspora.

The joys and lessons of Barbados will be a memory I keep forever. I will never forget the moments of discussing the merit of oral history on the beach. Being surrounded by my fellow talented Davidson colleagues as we ate breakfast and dissected the impact of George Washington’s legacy on the island. Our discussions, lectures, and tours all shaped how we further explored the production of history. All the while we were experiencing the warmth and guidance of gaining our new lessons under a new sun.

Time in Barbados

My time in Barbados with my “Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic” class was a truly transformative experience that I would have never had the opportunity to have without the work of Dr. Dennie and the grant money received from The Commission on Race and Slavery. Being able to travel outside of the country for the first time allowed me to gain important skills not only academically, but socially as well. The mere experience of leaving America to immerse myself in a culture outside of our own provided so many opportunities in itself. While I definitely learned a lot about myself in terms of independence and growth, I want to spend some time talking about the academic growth I had during this trip. 

            I think the biggest academic struggle I have had (and have continued to grow from in this class) has been the idea of reconceptualizing history and culture without inputting my own personal Western bias on various situations. Being able to see the different ways that history was presented through different encounters such as the Sunbury Plantation in juxtaposition with guided tours by historians, we were able to see that regardless of what we had learned in class, history my contingent upon how it was presented. This was hard for many of us who already had a perception of what Bejan history should be, since we assumed, we had so much knowledge from our class. But,  even when we toured various places such as Newton Plantation, the Rum Distillery, or the oldest church in Barbados, the information presented to us was not information readily taught in Bejan education, so we had no right to impose how it would be taught to people since only a select few people knew. Even our driver had not heard of and been educated regarding some of the spots we went to. For this reason, it felt like such a privilege to learn so much about presented history in not even a week in Barbados. 

            The most eye-opening and reflective experience while I was in Barbados was definitely visiting the Newton Plantation, which had continuously come up in our class readings. Having read about slavery, one knows the pain and struggle that it brought upon enslaved people who were my ancestors. Reading about it is much different than being on the same grounds were slaves labored for the success of their country. When we stepped out of the van and into the sugar cane field (as it is now a working plantation), I immediately felt overwhelmed to be in that space. To be able to see the sheer magnitude of the sugar canes two times my size and know that our ancestors labored in these fields’ day in and day out, was something you could not read about in a book. Since plantations in Barbados are still working plantations, it was an experience I could not have had in America, as most of our plantation tours do not give us the opportunity to see where enslaved people labored and rather show off how white people lived during that period. Being on the same grounds and same fields of enslaved people really brought purpose to the generic readings about slavery I have been doing since middle school.

            This trip allowed me to grow both intellectually and socially. After going to Barbados, I realized just how sheltered my understanding of the world is and that there is so much more to be learned outside of America. Whether that is culture, scenery, or economics, there is always something different about a new country. This opportunity has been the start of my abroad experience as I will now travel to England, Spain, and Amsterdam over the next 7 months and now know how to efficiently interact with non-American people and leave my own bias as the door. 

            Thank you so much to Dr. Dennie for organizing this trip. We could not have had this opportunity without her!

Barbados

I can confidently say that I will never forget this trip to Barbados. As a first-year at Davidson, I am extremely lucky that I was able to experience Barbados with these incredible women. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without Dr. Dennie. It was clear the time and effort that went into putting together such an incredible itinerary. I would also like to thank Dr. Bowles and Jessica for also joining us on this trip. They were able to contribute their knowledge on history and archives.

Being in Barbados brought this class to another level. We were able to visualize the spaces that we talked about in our readings. Something I will never forget is the time we got to spend in the archives at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. I remember flipping through a ledger that had all the slaves information on the Newton Plantation. It was very moving to see pages upon pages of names of the slaves on the Newton Plantation. We had been to the Newton Burial Ground the day before and there was no recognition of what was truly there. There were at least 550 slaves buried and the only indication that they were there were the humps on the ground. There was no sign to let people know about the site they were about to enter.  We learned that people drove over the plantation and there was barely any upkeep of the site. Not only that, we found out that the Bajan government knew about this site but refused to do anything with the information. This brought us to think: Is it possible for Barbados to move on without acknowledging their past history of enslavement?

We also learned that many Bajans didn’t know about their history because history isn’t a part of compulsory education in Barbados. This made our class think about who has access to history and what history is told. There were some places that we visited where slavery was never mentioned and instead, erased just to make sure all tourists who came were comfortable. As a group of students who understood the history of Barbados, we struggled in these spaces. It was hard knowing that very few Bajans knew the truth of their own country’s history. On this trip, I saw firsthand that history could be told in a lot of different ways to a lot of different people.

I will forever be grateful that I was able to go on this trip with an amazing group of women. Everyday, we uplifted each other and supported one another. In spaces of violence and suffering, we found comfort in one another. We were able to honestly share our emotions with each other and that is something I will never forget. To be in a space that powerful was so special. This is a trip I will never forget.

-Ashley Ip

Cats Go to Barbados

My name is Amaya and I have recently been given the amazing opportunity to go to Barbados with my Africana class, Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic. This has been my first experience abroad in another country and I could not ask for a better one. This is all because of my professor, Dr. Dennie. I would like to thank her for all of the time, effort, and hard work she put into planning this amazing trip! I would also like to thank Dr. Bowles and Jessica for everything they did to help put together this trip and teaching us more about archives.

On our first full day in Barbados we went on an amazing tour around Bridgetown, with a historian from the University of West Indies as our tour guide. This tour took us through the Garrison of the old British army, to a burial site for enslaved peoples on a working plantation, an old plantation house, and many other incredible places. These places gave me a huge insight to how space in Barbados is still influenced by the time of slavery. For example, the Garrison still held relics of old cannons and barracks that were used by soldiers, as well as an old secret tunnel system underground. The plantation house had many windows that allowed constant vision of enslaved people in the fields. These impressions of slavery made me compare how the United States and Barbados display their past.

Since we were studying slavery in Barbados, things got intense sometimes. The burial ground on the working plantation left me a lot to think about. There were no markers or recognition of any kind of the many, many bodies that were under us. The lone sign at the beginning of the clearing was easily overlooked, as we learned people sometimes drove over the area. It was hard to imagine places with such significance to not be respected as they should because of a lack of knowledge about the area.

Another aspect of our trip was the multiple museums we went to. Each museum gave us different perspectives on how slavery is portrayed in their country and through their history. There was even a man we met that had opposing views on the history of Bridgetown, which we had just learned by the historian tour guide. These differing perspectives on history has made me think more critically on the history that I am presented with, and whether there are other perspectives out there that I am not acknowledging.

This trip has been one of the most thought provoking and meaningful experiences I have ever had in my life. What made it even better was our amazing group of strong, powerful women that came along and brought so many different thoughts and ideas to what we did. It was truly one for the yearbooks.  

Bajan History

When we arrived on the island, around 5pm in the afternoon, the first thing I felt was the cool ocean breeze. I smiled and turned towards a friend, saying “It’s just like home!” We left the airplane, entered Barbados, and for the next five days, I couldn’t shake this feeling of home away.

Being in Barbados reminded me of my island home, Cabo Verde. Both were slave societies, and although their developments were different, I saw the same faces in Barbados as I did in Cabo Verde. I saw the despair of my people in the faces of the locals, but I also witnessed their strength, perseverance, and vitality. As I further learned the history Barbados, specially as it pertained to independence, I saw the history of my people.

As I travelled throughout the island, learning the history from its land, its people, I realized how much of this information was missing from the books we read in class. The history portrayed in Barbados, in the museum we toured, the plantations we visited, and as told by the people, came alive to create a much better picture of what we learning in class. The connections some historians missed was available to us on the island. Since we got to view this information for ourselves, we were able to better understand the implications of a slave society, and witness its current state and development.

Through the help of Dr. Dennie, Dr. Bowles, and Jessica, this trip came to live. Dr. Dennie somehow put together this wonderful experience for this class of 15 women, and I can’t stress how much each of one us is thankful for her time and effort. Dr. Bowles and Jessica both contributed significant insights about history and its collection, making this a better learning experience overall. I would like to extend my many thanks to these teachers and the amazing women on this trip.

My time in Barbados…

Picture taken by myself of the Bussa Statue

My only entry into Caribbean history was my own family heritage. My parents are both from Trinidad and Tobago and so although I was born and raised in the United States, I grew up in a very West Indian culture. To be honest, my family background was one of the reasons I decided to take Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic this semester. I wanted to expand my knowledge of slavery in the Caribbean because I realized that my understanding of slavery was centered within the United States. Nevertheless, reading about the institution of slavery and the women who navigated these societies made me more excited for our trip to Barbados. I was excited to see many of the sites we had read about and experience the modern-day legacy of the slave societies in Barbados.

It is safe to say that our trip to Barbados materialized everything we read and forced myself, and my classmates, to confront some difficult questions about the ways in which history is retold, who is allowed to tell these stories and who had access to these stories. For the week we spent in Barbados, we went on tours of plantations, visited a slave cemetery, churches, lectures, and my favorite, the museum and archives. However, what stood out the most, was the lack of knowledge Bajans had about their past. Interestingly, since tourism was a major part of the economy, many of the important sites of slavery were preserved for people to visit. But few Bajans knew in depth about the history that quite literally surrounded them. 

I enjoyed our trip to the museum and archives the most because the museum was able to retell the difficult history of the slavery in Barbados without reproducing trauma. Thinking about the documentary, my class would soon have to create, the tour and archives provided me with a tangible and relatable ways to reproduce the history in the best way possible.

All in all, I am appreciative of my opportunity to go to Barbados because despite the often-difficult tours and discussions we had, I was forever blown away by the beauty of the island and the chances I got to spend time with the wonderful other women in my class. .

My Time in Barbados

Let me just reiterate how it was truly a blessing to be able to visit Barbados with Dr. Dennie and the young women of the Women and Slavery class. My trip to Barbados was the first time I traveled out of the country, and it was truly an exceptional experience. I have never had an educational excursion with such an excellent balance of work and play. Dr. Dennie truly planned this trip in a manner that not only allowed us to visit some of the most important historical aspects of Barbados, but also see some of the most beautiful attractions on the island. There were many parts of my Barbadian journey that are worth mentioning, but I will pinpoint the ones that were most endearing.

The first tour of Barbados the class embarked on, I was most intrigued. I learned about the religious dynamics of Barbados, visited one of the most significant churches of the country, and even encountered a man of Rastafarian faith who challenged who should be exalted in the country and for what reasons. What particularly made me emotional, and truly think about the privileges that my ancestors have made possible for me, is the instance the tour came to an unmarked spot (with the exception of one sign) that contained the burial sites of approximately 500 slaves. It was surprising to hear how people would drive on this site, not knowing that they were driving on a burial site of slaves. This tour guide was one aspect of my trip that made me evaluate the disrespect slaves encountered both in life and death.

Secondly, the lecture that Dr. Inniss gave at the University of West Indies was very helpful in my further understanding some of her literature that I read. What was particularly interesting about her lecture was her description of the apprenticeship period in Barbados. Slave women were adamant about releasing their children from apprenticeship contracts so that their children would not continue to function in another form of slavery.

Lastly, my encounters with Bajan natives were quite different than what I expected. Just from being immersed in my learning of different aspects of Barbadian slavery, I found myself asking Bajans what they thought about slavery. To somewhat of my dismay, several of them refused to speak about it. One man even asked me “why would you want to learn about that?” I immediately remembered that it is more necessary for me to confront my past in order to understand what I should do in the future. Others may not share the same sentiment. However, this trip taught me that I must remain cognizant of what others value as vital to understanding their cultures.

Once again, I am truly thankful for the learning experiences this Barbados trip provided. Because of this trip, I was able to share with friends and family history of Barbadian slavery that they were unaware. Thank you so much Dr. Dennie for planning this trip. I am undeniably grateful.

Ahnjelica Knight