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This chapter investigates the successive and severe setbacks to black working people’s progress between the late 1840s and mid-1850s. The Sugar Duties Act of 1846 that gradually eliminated protection for British Caribbean sugar in the English market depressed sugar prices and precipitated a financial crisis for all classes, especially for freedpeople. A series of disadvantageous events further exacerbated their distress, including a hurricane, the termination of state funding for education, and the importation of Portuguese Madeirans as labor competition. Amid such dire circumstances, black working people employed a variety of legal and extralegal strategies to maintain livelihoods both within and...

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