The Bahamas from Slavery to Servitude, 1783-1933


In the only scholarly treatment of Bahamian socio-economic history in post-emancipation years, Johnson begins by examining the last phase of slavery as one element in the foundation of later, and often more exploitative, labor systems. Looking at both urban and rural slave populations, Johnson discusses the systems of slave hire, apprenticeship, and indenture and highlights the ways in which the people of the Bahamas formed a proto-peasantry, often exerting more autonomy and power as slaves than as a "free" people. Following emancipation in 1838, export economies of cotton, salt, sponges, and pineapples spawned coercive credit and truck systems, which bolstered the dominance of a white mercantile elite that would exercise control until the early 1960s. Various government policies further perpetuated a "machinery of class slavery", making migration (primarily to Key West, and later to Miami) one of the few escape routes available to the lower classes. Throughout, Johnson relates historical movements and events in the Bahamas to those in neighboring Caribbean islands, Latin America, and the United States, making this an important source book for all Caribbeanists. It will also be of interest to scholars of the historiography of slavery in the Americas and the transition from slavery to freedom - or, in a post-emancipation system of domination like that of the Bahamas - from slavery to servitude.


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