In Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation
(Duke University Press, 2015), Natasha J. Lightfoot
traces the ways Antiguans and Barbudans experienced freedom in the immediate years before and decades after British emancipation in 1834. With the exception of a handful of places, slavery ended immediately without a period of apprenticeship. However, Lightfoot deftly shows how immediate emancipation did not translate into complete freedom as Antiguan elites enacted new forms control to restrict the time, mobility, wages, and housing availability of freedpeople. They also continued to experience violence in their everyday lives. Despite these constraints, emancipated Antiguans and Barbudans managed to earn livelihoods, obtain land, secure housing, and build independent communities in accordance to and opposition against elites’ attitudes about them. Lightfoot’s study asks us to reconsider how freedom was lived in everyday life and how landlessness was not the primary obstacle for emancipated slaves in the Caribbean.
Sharika Crawford is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy.