Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados

TitleNatural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsBeckles, Hilary McDonald
Number of Pages197
PublisherRutgers University Press
CityNew Brunswick, NJ

This book on the social, economic, and labor history of slave women in Barbados, from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, is a major addition to the literature on slavery in the Caribbean. Drawing on contemporary documents and records, newspapers, and personal correspondence, the author reveals how slave women were central to the plantation economy of Barbados. They had two kinds of value for sugar planters: they could work just as hard as men, and they could literally reproduce the slave class. The author details the daily lives of slave women in conditions of extreme exploitation. They suffered from harsh conditions, cruel punishments, malnutrition, disease, high mortality, and fear of abandonment when they were too old to work. The author describes the various categories and responsibilities of slaves, and the roles of children in the slave economy; he also looks at family structures and the complexities of interracial unions. He also shows how female slaves regularly resisted slavery, using both violent and nonviolent means. They never accommodated themselves to the system; as natural rebels, they fought in any way they could for survival.

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