The Apprenticeship System in the Caribbean

0 Posted by - September 15, 2021 - Black History, SLAVERY

Slavery was incredibly beneficial to the economic power of colonial superpowers. No country wanted to “pull the band-aid” and commit to abolition. For them, a fail safe or parachute was needed.  In the case of the American South following the Civil War that parachute was the sharecropping system. A couple of decades prior in the Caribbean the parachute was…



With emancipation whirling around the colonies and being pushed by abolitionists the British colonies finally agree to it. The Emancipation Act of 1834 is rolled out technically everyone is free under the Crown. Britain dusts its hands, pats itself on the back and mint some feel-good coins—not unlike the coins minted or plates made when a new President comes into office. However, it doesn’t exactly enforce the act.

Plantation owners felt they could keep slaves on longer before the act was actively enforced. Enter the concept of “apprenticeship.” What this entails is that slaves aren’t ready for freedom. It also meant they felt Blacks don’t have the funds needed to navigate freely and purchase property (because they aren’t paid or paid much, of course) and don’t have the skills needed to survive or found work (even after years or decades doing multiple jobs and developing marketable skills).

So the plantation owner is here to offer Black people a job, housing, and reasonable pay. Reasonable. Pay.  We’ll put the plantation owner at “offering entry level work” or “easing Black people in freedom” for a modern example.



Since they know what is needed to live comfortably in Jamaica they would be able to keep Black people on for as long as needed. If they’ve never had the money or a use for it then owners basically made up a construct (money) to sell to them. Whipping becomes an optional punishment for Black people who plantation owners view as “unruly.” The goal of freedom is pushed back further than it already is with whatever meager wages they were making before.



Magistrates were supposed to serve as the equalizers to enforcing the Emancipation Act of 1834 but it really depended on the magistrate. Not everyone was onboard with stepping in and those who did could probably be bought off.  The actual balance came in the way of religious leaders and abolitionists buying land where they could and establishing “Free Villages” for Black people.




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