Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation
“An Equality with the Highest in the Land”?: The Expansion of Black Private and Public Life
2015. "“An Equality with the Highest in the Land”?: The Expansion of Black Private and Public Life", Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation, Natasha Lightfoot
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This chapter investigates black working people’s changing leisure practices in the early 1840s as opportunities in the local marketplace expanded, their wages on and off plantations rose temporarily, and they asserted their presence in public space in novel ways. Freedpeople’s improved housing, expanded amusements, and revamped consumption habits announced their conviction that freedom should also transform their social lives. Freedpeople left slave barracks and founded all-black free villages, bought new clothes, and socialized in private and public space in ways anew. But their changed religious and secular public engagements opened up further subjection to church and state authority and were met with sharp criticism from local elites, which reiterated age-old discourses of race, class, and gender in operation since slavery. The biased approach to the expansion of black social life is present in the observations of all colonial elites at the time, especially an 1844 social history of Antigua written by a planter’s wife, Mrs. Lanaghan.