Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation
“Our Side”: Antigua’s 1858 Uprising and the Contingent Nature of Freedom
This chapter tells the story of the 1858 uprising in the Point neighborhood of St. John’s. Job competition between Antiguan and Barbudan dockworkers sparked the outburst. Over several days, Antiguans progressed from attacking the persons and property of Barbudans to targeting Madeiran retailers, white planters, and, most prominently, black and mixed-race policemen. Gendered violence also unfolded as Antiguan women assaulted Barbudan women in ways that reflected the pervasive devaluation of black women’s bodily integrity in slavery and freedom. The rioters’ goals and the changing targets of their violence hint at their varied and contradictory conceptions of freedom and who should enjoy its privileges. Ultimately, through this spectacular moment of violence, Antigua’s working people launched a futile protest against the narrowly construed freedom against which they had been struggling in smaller everyday ways for decades. The 1858 uprising also demonstrates that oppressed people’s resistance can carry the potential of oppressing similarly disadvantaged others.