Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787-1834

By Mary Turner | Go to book overview

day itself when they flocked in their thousands to the mission churches. Their bitter defeat in the rebellion had left the churches half-empty. "What can church and prayer do fe we again" they asked.4 Emancipation salvaged their hopes for the future and, with their own leaders dead or exiled, they turned to the missionaries. On August 1, 1834, from one end of the island to the other, people crammed into the chapels long before services started and multitudes gathered outside. "There never, in the recollection of man, was seen such a concourse of negroes in this town at one time," wrote one missionary from Hanover. ". . . There was no dancing, nor music, but the whole body of the negro population seemed to vie with one another who should conduct themselves best." There were special treats for the Sunday school children, who had been given complete freedom under the act. At Spanish Town one missionary worked up great excitement by calling for responses to a series of questions: What month of the year is it? What day of the month is it? What is done today? And the children shouted, "Negroes all made free!" "At this moment several of the little black children involuntarily burst out laughing and throwing their bodies about in every attitude of expressive joy." Months later, in October, 1834, William Knibb, the Baptist missionary, returned to a hero's welcome. The people ran to greet the ship, practically pushing Knibb and his wife into the water in their eagerness to greet them, and cried, "Him come, him come, for true. Who de come for we King, King Knibb, Him fight de battle, him win de crown."5

But the missionaries of free Jamaica worked in a society where the people had made their own struggle for freedom, under their own leaders, and had pushed their country into the revolutionary mainstream of the time, the struggle for individual liberty sanctioned by law. The missionaries' most enduring achievement was the contribution they made to the political formation of Sam Sharpe and his supporters.


NOTES
1.
Sturge and Harvey, West Indies in 1837, p. 226; Dorothy Ryall, "The Organisation of the Missionary Societies, the Recruitment of Missionaries in Britain and the Role of Missionaries in the Diffusion of British Culture in Jamaica during the Period 1834-65" (Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1959), pp. 133, 141, 151.
2.
Philip Wright, Knibb 'the Notorious': Slaves' Missionary, 1803-1845 ( London, 1973), p. 238, quoting Clark, Brown's Town, Sept. 15, 1845,

-202-

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Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787-1834
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Abbreviations vii
  • Chapter One - The Planters and the Missionaries 1
  • Notes 30
  • Chapter Two - The Jamaican Slaves 38
  • Notes 59
  • Chapter Three - The Missionaries and the Slaves 65
  • Notes 95
  • Chapter Four - The Humanitarian Challenge 102
  • Notes 126
  • Chapter Five - The Struggle for Religious Freedom 132
  • Notes 144
  • Chapter Six - The Baptist War 148
  • Notes 173
  • Chapter Seven - Emancipation Achieved 179
  • Notes 191
  • Conclusion 195
  • Notes 202
  • Bibliography 204
  • Index 215
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