“Personal Freedom Was Therefore Not Existent”

July 17, 2020

The title of my moment comes from a quote on page 55 of Watson and Potter’s book, Low-Cost Housing in Barbados: Evolution or Social Revolution?

My humanities moment occurred in the Bajan archives while being able to view the original document that freed the enslaved people of the island. I simply sat down in the corner of the room and cried. I felt moved to share this discovery with my son. Although we are privileged to be removed from this kind of historical trauma, it was an important experience to consider its effects on the lives of real people. Knowing how hard it is to come into such documents in our country, understanding the importance of this document and being thankful that my child understands to a degree how significant this experience will forever be for me both humbled and overwhelmed me.

Due to geographic constraints, the option to flee beyond the island’s borders even after emancipation was practically impossible. It even seemed as if their freedom was merely symbolic due to the chattel system which allowed the once-enslaved persons to build small homes on the land of their former imprisoners for labor. The idea of freedom was born on that day. However, much like in so many parts of the world where there is still a struggle between the races and the haves/have nots, personal freedom was still not existent for these people. They still had to be very cognizant of all of their actions to ensure food and shelter for their families. Fear of having to move their home or simply not having a place to move their home helped perpetuate the system of a white dominated society for many more years past the initial emancipation.