Free and enslaved African communities in buff Bay, Jamaica : daily life, resistance, and kinship, 1750-1834
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Africans forcibly brought to the Americas during slavery came from very diverse cultural groups, languages, and geographical regions. African-derived creole cultures that were subsequently created in the Americas resulted from the interaction of various traditional African forms of knowledge and ideology, combined with elements from various Indigenous and European cultural groups and materials. Creating within the context of slavery, these complex set of experiences and choices made by Africans in the Americas resulted in an equally diverse range of fluid and complex relationships between various African-descended groups. In a similar vein, Africans in Jamaica developed and exhibited a multiplicity of cultural identities and a complex set of relationships amongst themselves, reflective of their varied cultural, political, social, and physical origins (Brathwaite 1971; Joyner 1984). In the context of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Buff Bay, Jamaica, most Africans were enslaved by whites to serve as laborers on plantations. However, a smaller group of Africans emerged from enslavement on plantations to form their own autonomous Maroon communities, alongside the plantation context and within the system of slavery. These two groups, enslaved Africans and Maroons, had a very complex set of relationship and identities that were fluid and constantly negotiated within the Jamaican slave society that was in turn hostile to both groups. Using historical (archival), oral, and archaeological sources of data, this dissertation attempts to do two things: first, it examines the daily life conditions of enslaved Africans at a Jamaican coffee plantation, Orange Vale, in order to understand settlement patterns, house structures, access to goods, informal trade networks, and material culture in their village. With constraints on their freedom and general confinement to the plantation, how did enslavement affect the material world of the enslaved Africans at Orange Vale? What materials did they have access to, and how did they use them? Second, I examine their cultural, social, and political identities alongside their autonomously freed Maroon “kin,” the neighboring Charles Town Maroon community. Using a popular origin myth, I attempt to show how descendents of both groups explain the origin of their relationship, as well as use the myth to simultaneously create political bonds based on their blackness and differentiate themselves. I also examine how their various origin, experiences, and worldview were manifested late-eighteenth and early nineteenth century Buff Bay and its place in the revolutionary Atlantic world, on the eve of emancipation.