When the slaves were freed, most had no money or property and no access to schooling, job training or healthcare. Everywhere in the British Caribbean there was a big gap in wealth and living standards between the Europeans and people of largely European descent (the ‘whites’ and ‘fair coloureds’) and the very poor freed slaves (the ‘blacks’).
Many people would argue that this divide has not been overcome even today, and that people’s prospects in the former slaving colonies are still affected by the colour of their skin.
Things to do
There are four photographs in the resources. The first two show sugarcane workers in Trinidad (12A) and tobacco workers in Jamaica (12B) at the beginning of the 20th century.
Start with these two photos (12A and 12B). Calculate how many years after the ending of slavery these photographs were taken. (Use 1834 as the date that slavery ended.)
Now look at each photo and write down a list of words and phrases that describe the workers and their living conditions. Describe what you see, but also describe what you think they might have been feeling. For example, your list might include things such as hot or exhausted.
Look at your list. What hasn’t changed much, do you think, since the end of slavery? In what ways do these workers have similar lives to the slaves before them?
What do you think has changed since the ending of slavery? How are these people’s lives different to what it was like for the slaves?
Now look at the next two photos. The third one (12C) shows a group of women sugarcane workers in Jamaica in 1900. The fourth one (12D) shows a young Scottish woman packing herrings in Suffolk in about 1910.
Compare the Jamaican women and the Scottish woman. What things do they seem to have in common and what things are different? Include, for example, the sort of work they do, where they do it, the style of their clothing.
There is a European man on a horse in the Trinidad photo (12A). Do you think the herring packer has more in common with him, or with the Jamaican women working in the cane fields?