Hidden in plain sight: Long-term escaped slaves in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Jamaica

Newman, S. (2018) Hidden in plain sight: Long-term escaped slaves in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Jamaica. William and Mary Quarterly,

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This essay demonstrates how it was possible for some enslaved people in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Jamaica to escape and then remain free for lengthy periods. Most runaways did not escape from the island and instead found sanctuary with family or friends, in or near places they had previously lived, and some engaged in the same kinds of work they had undertaken when enslaved. These runaways had escaped from their bondage yet continued to live in a liminal space within or on the margins of plantation slave society. Jamaica was a black and largely African society in which white people were a small minority, and runaways sought to use these demographics and the wide range of activities of enslaved and free black people to elude their masters and mistresses. In order to understand how this was possible it is necessary for us to assess the inaccuracies of many contemporary texts and visual representations of Jamaica in this period. Many of these sources were intended to present an imagined and idealised image of Jamaica's plantation society to white Britons. This essay will build from a reimagining of this evidence to present a fictional journey undertaken by a real white Jamaican, Dr. John Quier, as he travelled from his home in St. John's Parish to Kingston in about 1780. It will use different media including sound and video, spoken words and music, and enhanced contemporary artwork and maps of this period to give the reader a better sense of how white Jamaicans experienced their society and its inhabitants, seeking to show readers some of the reality missing from these fanciful representations. By better understanding what white men did and did not see this essay will demonstrate how runaways were able to hide in plain sight. While these runaways could not escape to "free soil" some enjoyed a significant degree of freedom and independence without leaving behind family, friends and the places they called home.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This is a born digital article that includes a range of multimedia sources and is freely available through the OI reader. Access details are available at this link: https://oieahc.wm.edu/publications/wmq/browse/
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Newman, Professor Simon
Authors: Newman, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:William and Mary Quarterly
Publisher:Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
ISSN (Online):0043-5597
Copyright Holders:© 2018 Omohundro Institute
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