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The Black Carib Wars

Freedom, Survival, and the Making of the Garifuna

Christopher Taylor

Publication Year: 2012

In The Black Carib Wars, Christopher Taylor offers the most thoroughly researched history of the struggle of the Garifuna people to preserve their freedom on the island of St. Vincent.

Today, thousands of Garifuna people live in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the United States, preserving their unique culture and speaking a language that directly descends from that spoken in the Caribbean at the time of Columbus. All trace their origins back to St. Vincent where their ancestors were native Carib Indians and shipwrecked or runaway West African slaves--hence the name by which they were known to French and British colonialists: Black Caribs.

In the 1600s they encountered Europeans as adversaries and allies. But from the early 1700s, white people, particularly the French, began to settle on St. Vincent. The treaty of Paris in 1763 handed the island to the British who wanted the Black Caribs' land to grow sugar. Conflict was inevitable, and in a series of bloody wars punctuated by uneasy peace the Black Caribs took on the might of the British Empire. Over decades leaders such as Tourouya, Bigot, and Chatoyer organized the resistance of a society which had no central authority but united against the external threat. Finally, abandoned by their French allies, they were defeated, and the survivors deported to Central America in 1797.

The Black Carib Wars draws on extensive research in Britain, France, and St. Vincent to offer a compelling narrative of the formative years of the Garifuna people.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments and Note on Text

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pp. ix-x

First and foremost I would like to thank all the members of the delegation, organized by the Garifuna Coalition Inc and led by its president, José Francisco Avila, who visited St. Vincent in July 2009 and who so generously allowed me to share the experience of their return to Youroumaÿn. ...

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pp. 3-8

The sun peeked timidly through the clouds above Dorsetshire Hill as the last flourish of the Vincentian national anthem lingered on the steel pan. The schoolchildren fidgeted through the brief speeches which the eye of the television camera dutifully recorded. Then came a sound, a tune vaguely familiar, but sung in a language few present could understand. ...

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1. Youroumaÿn

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pp. 9-24

Youroumaÿn. That was the name the Caribs gave to the island Europeans knew as St. Vincent—or at least that was how it was recorded by Adrien Le Breton, a Jesuit missionary who spent ten years living there at the end of the seventeenth century.2 No more than twenty-two miles from north to south and fourteen to sixteen miles wide, with fertile land to grow crops, ...

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2. Good Friends, Cruel Enemies

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pp. 25-50

In January 1723 two British ships called at St. Vincent on a special mission. The commander of the expedition, John Braithwaite, was under orders to inform the island’s inhabitants that they should consider themselves “natural born subjects of Great-Britain” and to sound them out about admitting British settlers. ...

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3. Quel Roi?

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pp. 51-78

On 10 February 1763 Paris was witness to a display of diplomatic pomp and circumstance as the representatives of the crowns of France, Great Britain, and Spain assembled to put a formal end to seven years of warfare. The negotiations had taken months. John Russell, the fourth Duke of Bedford, had been dispatched to the French capital ...

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4. Allies of the French

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pp. 79-98

St. Vincent’s planters stewed in resentment at the Black Caribs’ continued occupation of the island’s prime sugar country, but they had another pressing concern. The slaves upon whose work the colonial economy depended were not content to stay on the plantation. Too many were simply taking the chance to run away to freedom. ...

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5. A Pity It Belongs to the Caribs

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pp. 99-114

St. Vincent formally passed back to British rule on 1 January 1784. The Caribs would now have to deal directly with their sworn enemies. Undefeated but traduced by the French, the Caribs greeted the arrival of the British troops who arrived to take possession of the island with “visible surprize and consternation.”1 ...

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6. The Cry of Liberty

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pp. 115-135

Victor Hugues had arrived in the Caribbean in 1794 at the age of about thirty-two. His mission was to spread the fire of revolution through the West Indies and seize whatever British islands he could. The Marseille-born Jacobin2 was armed with the decision of the French National Convention to abolish slavery ...

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7. Calvary of the Caribs

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pp. 136-145

After his decisive victory at the Vigie, Abercromby turned his attention to “the Object which presses most upon my Mind at this Moment”1—the question of the Caribs. The general was under orders to remove the Caribs from the island but the detail of the operation was anything but clear. ...

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8. Aftermath

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pp. 146-160

The ten-strong convoy of ships1 headed first for Grenada where they took on water. From there the flotilla, which also carried three hundred British military invalids, sailed to Port Royal in Jamaica where it spent two weeks taking on supplies and troops and conducting repairs. One ship, the John and Mary, was so disabled that the Caribs aboard were transferred to other vessels. ...

Appendix 1. The Anglo-Carib Peace Treaty of 1773

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pp. 161-164

Appendix 2. Return of the Charaibs landed at Baliseau from July 26th 96 to Feb 2nd 1797

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pp. 165-166

Appendix 3. Numbers, Names, and Ages of Charibs Surrendered, taken the 28th May, 1805

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pp. 167-168

Appendix 4. The Indigenous Population

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pp. 169-171


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pp. 172-193

Further Reading and Bibliography

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pp. 194-199


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pp. 200-204

E-ISBN-13: 9781617033117
E-ISBN-10: 1617033103
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617033100

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012