Occupations of enslaved women on Buff Bay Plantation, 1819

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    Publisher UCL database: Legacies of British Slavery

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    Food (non-cereal) processes > Sugar
    Arts, culture and heritage > The role of women
    People and communities > Slavery


    Scope & contentThe Buff Bay plantation was a sugar estate next to the Buff Bay River, south of Charlestown in Jamaica. By 1839, the estate was 840 acres.

    Plantation owners believed that African women were suited for fieldwork because of a combination of their own racial ideologies as well as their often-misinformed understandings of African societies.

    For example, Europeans theorised that African women were suitable for field work due to their “subservient” role in polygamous relationships, which was an aspect of certain African cultures that was viewed negatively. Alongside this, there was a belief amongst Europeans that Africans had a higher tolerance for pain.

    This also led to enslaved people of colour being required to work in domestic roles rather than in the field as plantation owners and overseers believed that the ‘greater the infusion of white blood, the weaker the slave was thought to be.’ Peter Duncan, for example, aged 12 was described as “Waiting Boy a Mulatto”.

    Pregnant women were expected to continue their positions in the fields until the final weeks of their pregnancy. After giving birth, the plantation owners or overseers expected them to return to the fields shortly, giving them at most a few weeks respite.
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