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A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674735366, Hardcover)
Forty years ago, after publication of his pathbreaking book Sugar and Slaves, Richard Dunn began an intensive investigation of two thousand slaves living on two plantations, one in North America and one in the Caribbean. Digging deeply into the archives, he has reconstructed the individual lives and collective experiences of three generations of slaves on the Mesopotamia sugar estate in Jamaica and the Mount Airy plantation in tidewater Virginia, to understand the starkly different forms slavery could take. Dunn’s stunning achievement is a rich and compelling history of bondage in two very different Atlantic world settings.
From the mid-eighteenth century to emancipation in 1834, life in Mesopotamia was shaped and stunted by deadly work regimens, rampant disease, and dependence on the slave trade for new laborers. At Mount Airy, where the population continually expanded until emancipation in 1865, the “surplus” slaves were sold or moved to distant work sites, and families were routinely broken up. Over two hundred of these Virginia slaves were sent eight hundred miles to the Cotton South.
In the genealogies that Dunn has painstakingly assembled, we can trace a Mesopotamia fieldhand through every stage of her bondage, and contrast her harsh treatment with the fortunes of her rebellious mulatto son and clever quadroon granddaughter. We track a Mount Airy craftworker through a stormy life of interracial sex, escape, and family breakup. The details of individuals’ lives enable us to grasp the full experience of both slave communities as they labored and loved, and ultimately became free.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:36 -0400)
"This book reconstructs the individual lives and collective experiences of some 2,000 slaves on two plantations--Mesopotamia sugar estate in western Jamaica and Mount Airy Plantation in tidewater Virginia--during the final three generations of slavery in Jamaica and the USA. It also compares Mesopotamia with Mount Airy to demonstrate the differences between slave life in the British West Indies and slave life in the Antebellum US South. The chief difference was demographic. Mesopotamia had a continually shrinking slave population, with many more deaths than births, which was standard throughout the British Caribbean. Mount Airy had a continually expanding slave population, with many more births than deaths, which was standard throughout the Old South. At Mesopotamia the slaveholders imported their laborers from Africa, worked them to death and replaced them with new Africans, so that family life was perpetually stunted. At Mount Airy, where the slaves were all American-born, the slaveholders sold their surplus people or moved them to distant work sites, so that families were routinely broken up. On both plantations numerous individual slaves are observed in action, a mix of leaders and followers, rebels and conformists. A principal theme is slave motherhood and intergenerational family formation; another is the impact of field labor upon health and longevity. The Mesopotamia people engaged with Moravian missionaries and responded to two major Jamaican slave rebellions, while 218 of the Mount Airy people migrated to Alabama as cotton hands. The book concludes with emancipation in Jamaica and the USA. Never before have two slave communities from differing regions in America been portrayed over a long time period in such full detail"--
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