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Was there Slavery in Jamaica?

Was there slavery in Jamaica? || Answered by Kadian Clarke, Associate Writer

Yes indeed! And I am still perturbed about it.

Jamaica was enslaved for many, many years. As you continue to read this article you will learn more about this inhumane act and perhaps what motivated it.

Let's start by talking about...

The First Inhabitants

The Arawaks also known as the Tainos were the first group of people to inhabit the land.

They called the island Xaymaca before it was later changed to Jamaica by the Spaniards.

They were believed to be a peaceful tribe which had brown complexion with coarse black hair, broad face and also a flat nose. And they were quite simple by nature and were the people found on the island when Jamaica was 'discovered'.

Jamaica’s Discovery

It was taught in schools for decades that Christopher Columbus was the one who discovered Jamaica.

But, according to Words in the Bucket Rethinking World Thinking article written by Dizzanne Billy, Christopher Columbus did not discover the Caribbean; Jamaica included.

They theorized that the real focus of his mission was finding riches, conquering territories, and expanding the European (Spanish) kingdom.

The discovery is only a cover up of their mission and is used to benefit others throughout Caribbean history.

The Spanish Attack

When Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica on his second voyage on May 5, 1494 with his crew, they claimed the island and quickly enslaved the native people.

Their arrival brought great horror and brutality to the once peaceful tribe. While some were sent to Spain as slaves, others remained on site.

Perhaps one would have thought that there would be some descendants of the Tainos in Jamaica today. But unfortunately, by the year 1665, none was left on the island. Many were killed by the invasion, some over worked, and the rest died from the European disease that they had little or no resistance to.

The Spaniards weren’t worried about their demise at all. Soon after, they were replaced by enslaved Africans.

According to 12 Facts About Slavery in Jamaica That Shaped Its Society article by Consciousness Admin on December 29, 2014, the first enslaved Africans came to Jamaica in 1534 when Pedro Mazuelo, one of the early Spanish colonizers, brought 30 Africans from the Canary Islands.

The British Attack

Though the Spaniards were victorious over the Tainos, they lost the battle to the British when they came on the scene.

The British successfully seized Jamaica from the Spanish on May 10, 1655. The Spaniards surrendered, freed their slaves and fled to Cuba. These slaves later became maroons.

Sugar plantation and cultivation was the main industry of the island during the British reign. This fueled the desire to enslave the Africans without paying them and as the sugar industry grew rapidly, they continued to ship slaves to the West Indies to be sold to plantation owners.

This is known as The Slave Trade. The journey from Africa to the West Indies was known as the Middle Passage.

Slavery in Jamaica was one of the worst kind imaginable. The people suffered unthinkable acts of brutality such as rape, whippings, torture and murder.

But many of the enslaved people did not settle for that way of life. They led a fair number of rebellions as they would rather die fighting than to willingly be the victim of mental, emotional and physical abuse.

Slavery Abolition & Jamaica's Independence

Free at last! The abolition of Slavery finally took place on August 1, 1834.

In addition, we salute our six national heroes and one heroin, who risk their precious lives for the freedom we enjoy today.

Some of them also played key roles in Jamaica gaining its independence on August 6, 1962 after being under the British rule for over 300 years.

O what a freedom!

Be sure to read more on Jamaica's history here.

• Jamaica History. (N.d.). Retrieved from Jamaica Information Service:

• 12 Facts About Slavery in Jamaica That Shaped Its Society. Consciousness Admin. (2014, December 19). Retrieved from Consciousness.Co.ZA.

• Billy, D. (2017, September 10). Christopher Columbus did not discover the Caribbean. Retrieved from Words in a Bucket Rethinking World Thinking.

Comments for Was there Slavery in Jamaica?

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Jan 19, 2019
by: Anonymous

Very interesting article.

Jan 11, 2019
Slavery in Jamaica
by: Yvonne, Canada

I know from reliable sources that the majority of "Maroons" were rebellious slaves who escaped to the mountains--hardly ones who were freed by their masters. Also, contrary to popular belief, Christopher Columbus was Italian, not Spanish as taught in Jamaican schools. Please do your own research and publish your findings.

Jan 10, 2019
Slavery was in Jamaica
by: Melisa

Yes there was slavery in Jamaica. The early inhabitants had no freedom of choice and we're treated in an inhumane manner.

Jan 08, 2019
by: Anonymous

This is very informative and factual we were taught otherwise in school so thanks for letting others know the truth about my island jamaica

Click here to add your own comments

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