Tag Archives: Dr. Natasha Lightfoot

More People Should Know About

Eliza Moore.

This one is for Antiguans and Barbudans. Does that name ring a bell?

I am still amazed at all I continue to learn about us. Today’s tutorial comes via one of our best working historians – best for me because of how she manages to humanize and particularize history, our history – Dr Natasha Lightfoot. I love that, though she works in American academia, so much of her research is Antigua-Barbuda specific, and not just broadly Caribbean. It’s important to me because for small islands like us, there are so many gaps and so much disinterest even in Caribbean-specific spaces and institutions. I remember because I’ve been in those spaces, spent time in those institutions. And I didn’t have the material that’s available now because of Dr. Lightfoot’s work.

For example, the life of Eliza Moore, who acheived something of legal significance when she petitioned for her freedom from another jurisdiction in light of the Emancipation Act which had made slavery illegal in Antigua and all of the English-speaking Caribbean (i.e. the then British West Indies). Though born in Antigua, she was by then living in the Danish West Indies and from there she made her case and won. It couldn’t have been easy but I would argue that it was a significant precident. And I thank Dr. Lightfoot for bringing it to our attention, affording me the opportunity to share it with you.

The article, published January 2022 in William and Mary Quarterly, is linked in our 44th Reading Room and Gallery.

Excerpt 1: “Eliza Moore was born in Antigua between 1794 and 1797 and was sold by her first enslavers, the Gillam family, to William Armstrong, a sugar estate owner in Saint Croix, sometime between 1807 and 1809… Armstrong sold Moore in 1815 upon his departure for Copenhagen; after that, she was exchanged at least two times between slaveholders on the Danish island of Saint Thomas before 1836, when she first appears in British records inquiring about her right to be free.”

The article noted that though the slave trade in the British Empire had legally ended in 1807 and slavery itself in 1834, as we know, it did not properly stop the trade, nor did it inhibit the capture (e.g. as spoils of war) and/or removal of enslaved people from one jurisdiction to another (think of people hiding their money and other valuables today offshore and their failure to see the natural humanity of the people they enslaved, certainly over profit). Eliza certainly would not have been the first nor only ensnared in these or other loopholes. But she found a way out.

Excerpt 2: “Her advantages, and those of her kinfolk, derived from domestic servitude that translated into various forms of access that supported her claims in the first place. Even the chance encounters that allowed for Hughes to run into Moore in Saint Thomas or that gave Blackstone the opportunity to inquire into her sister’s whereabouts with Sarah Gillam all those years prior reflect the circumstances of enslaved domestic workers, who could travel and interact familiarly with whites. For Moore herself, proximity to her first owners as a child allowed for her education, acquisition of literacy, and mobility. These experiences and the information they furnished her with undergirded her ability to approach the authorities with the entitlement of a British subject, an act that an illiterate bondswoman employed in the fields, for example, might not have been able to attempt. Moore’s successive journeys from her British Antiguan owners to her Danish Saint Crucian and Saint Thomian owners seem to have funneled her through positions of domestic labor, allowing those opportunities for certain forms of privilege particular to her occupation to continue.”

It’s been months since I read the article but, from memory, Hughes in the excerpt above refers to the childhood friend whose paths crossed with her old friend and interceded on her behalf once she was back in Antigua. Blackstone is Moore’s sister, who had not seen her since she had been carted off first to England – with a detour to, I believe, Spain after the ship carting her was waylaid, and finally to the Virgin Islands. It goes without saying, or should, that “access to whites” and whatever advantages that afforded her came with a flipside, the dangers of proximity, e.g. sexual violence. But the connectivity was vital in this case.

Final excerpt: “The two people who vouched for Moore’s birth and life experiences in Antigua with the most depth were Black women who had until recently been enslaved themselves, her half sister Hester Blackstone and her friend Mary Hughes. Moore did not know her own date of birth, and the retelling of her early life in Antigua rested on the estimates of women who were equally unsure about details of Moore’s biography and the exact moments when she was taken from and returned to the island. But the women speaking on her behalf skillfully figured out how to circumvent their inability to provide exact dates. Hester and Mary used imperial events in their 1838 depositions, a tactic manifested in their testimonies in so similar a fashion as to suggest deliberate coordination. Hughes and Blackstone linked important moments in Moore’s life with notable British imperial administrative and military events at the turn of the nineteenth century, such as the installation of a new governor in Antigua or the outbreak of war in the Caribbean. Their use of imperial time made their affirmation of Moore’s birth and life in Antigua as a child more legible to the powerful administrators hearing testimony from these formerly enslaved women. Their success, however, should not obscure the reality that the strategy they adopted out of necessity calls our attention to yet another dehumanizing aspect of enslavement: the negation of enslaved people’s sense of themselves as beings in time, and thus as autonomous participants in their life stories. Their inability to know time intimately and the denial of the privilege to preserve a record of important dates in their lives, such as their own birthdays and the births and deaths of loved ones, helped to compound the exploitation deeply embedded within enslavement. The depositions of Blackstone and Hughes nonetheless underline the crucial function of community in slavery as the support system that facilitated both survival during bondage and individual enslaved people’s acts of fugitivity and claims to freedom. The British government would not have taken Moore’s case seriously if these women had not vouched for her. Eliza’s first point of self-presentation was to invoke her Antiguan-born mother, Sally Carr, which both Blackstone and Hughes reiterated. Proclaiming her birth to an enslaved mother in Antigua and demonstrating her sisterhood and friendship with formerly enslaved Antiguan women all grounded Eliza in that British colony and contributed to the colonial administrators’ serious consideration of her case. These details subtly show how enslaved people fostered and deployed loving relationships even over time and distance.”

The article is entitled ‘”So Far to Leeward”: Eliza Moore’s Fugitive Cosmopolitan Routes to Freedom in the Nineteenth-Century Caribbean’. It is by Natasha Lightfoot. It appears in The William and Mary Quarterly, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Volume 79, Number 1, January 2022.

Remember, the Reading Room and Gallery series is constantly being updated. Use the Search feature to the right to make sure you don’t miss anything.

This Natasha’s book – the story of Eliza, as far as I know, does not appear in this book.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.


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Reading Room and Gallery 38

Things I read that you might like too. Things will be added – up to about 20 or so – before this installment in the Reading Room and Gallery series is archived. For previous and future installments in this series, use the search feature to the right.

Read the winning entries Wadadli Pen Challenge entries, a mix of poetry and short fiction, with some visual art, through the years.




– Joanne C. Hillhouse Catapult Caribbean Creatives Online #catapultartsgrant #AskMeAnything Q & A with readers


Antiguan and Barbudan writers discuss To Shoot Hard Labour by Keithlyn and Fernando Smith as part of a month long reading series featuring the book. The series was produced by Beverly George for Observer Radio’s Voice of the People.


Excerpts, in no particular order, from Caribbean Time Bomb author Robert Coram’s A Reporter at Large: Ancient Rights in The New Yorker, 1989:

“Joseph, like most of the divers, is fond of having a drink now and then, and he is fond of rum, but he will not touch Cavalier rum, because it is made on Antigua.”

“And although the Barbudans had long ago learned to live together, so that there was little need for a judicial system, they were now technically bound by the laws of Antigua.”

“But the Antiguans, who saw Barbuda as a poor and backward island, did not want to finance medical facilities, schools, clergy, and courts on Barbuda.”

“The island is also ridiculed because the people are different; their quirky individuality standing out even in the Caribbean.”

“Barbudan slaves (enslaved Barbudans – my edit) even used Codrington boats to send their livestock and the fresh meat from their poaching to Antigua, and in 1829 the Codringtons’ island manager wrote of Barbudan slaves (enslaved Barbudans – my edit) wrote of Barbudan slaves, ‘They acknowledge no master, and believe the island belongs to themselves.’”

“Until 1961, when regular air traffic from Antigua began, it could take a week to reach Barbuda, even from Antigua.” – read the full article here: New Yorker 06 Feb 1989 


‘It was in form four, he says, that his work began to acquire an especially grim, menacing glint, layered with violence, tones of the macabre, and an arsenal of baleful sexual suggestion. His father, who dutifully printed off copies of the stories at work, gave him a sage kernel of advice that Hosein has never forgotten: “Even if you writing smut, keep writing. Just be careful of who you showing it to.”’ – Shivanee Ramlochan on Kevin Jared Hosein in Caribbean Beat


– Yvonne Weekes reading from her volcano themed memoir


“Georgetown is where some 90% of the population live today. We shouldn’t really be here. But in the 1700s, Dutch colonisers, bringing technology from their own low-lying country, decided to drain the swampy coast and install a ‘polder’ system of canals, sluice gates (known locally as kokers) and dams to cultivate sugar and other crops on the fertile land. Historian Dr Walter Rodney estimated that, in doing so, enslaved Africans were required to move 100 million tonnes of soil by hand. Ever since then, the sea has been trying to reclaim the land that was taken from it.” – Life on Stilts: Staying Afloat in Guyana by Carinya Sharples


“We are unwitting victims of a larger global issue beyond our control.” – from After the Aftermath: Hurricane Dorian by Bahamian writer Alexia Tolas


‘In “Winged and Acid Dark,” Hass tells us directly what happens to the woman in Potsdamer Platz in May 1945, but he does this direct telling circuitously. The poet approaches the idea, then “suggests” the rape. Note the second stanza: “the major with the swollen knee, / wanted intelligent conversation afterward. / Having no choice, she provided that, too.” The poem suggests the before by describing the “afterward” and by describing what the woman has to do “too.” Later in the poem, Hass describes the prying open of her mouth and the spitting in it, and lets these moments stand for much more. The lightning strike of this poem, the one we would expect at least, would be a graphic description of the rape, and yet, Hass soothes us on that front while delivering alternatively terrifying truths. The thing we prepare ourselves for, because we’ve heard that old war story repeated so many times, is only alluded to. Instead, Hass focuses on something else we are surprised by and therefore have to hear.’ – Tell It Slant: How To Write a Wise Poem by Camille T. Dungy


“I wanted not simply to record but to interrogate what was happening and my response to it, to use poetry the way it can function at its utilitarian best: offering ways of seeing, of examining, of challenging complacency, and of contextualising the current situation within broader life considerations. …I am surprised at what I am doing because I normally spend a huge amount of time thinking about, writing, and then editing everything that I write before sending it into the world, so this speed of composing, followed by a click of Send and then almost immediate response is something new for me. I am less concerned with literary values or aesthetics than I am with memorializing the historic moment that I am living through. I want to capture the zeitgeist, literally, ‘the spirit of the time’.” – Cross Words in Lockdown by Olive Senior

“I would sit and talk to them, get to the essence of who they were…because it would help me to figure out how to write for them.” -Babyface


“On his knees, hands behind his head, he asked for a cigarette. I gestured that he be given one. Our eyes met, we held each other’s gaze. What was he thinking? He must have been the same age as me. The same dark skin and stature. In another time, another place, we might have been neighbours, colleagues, friends. But here, now, he is one of them. ” – from The Debt by Nicholas Kyriacou


“In later years when he lying in bed all by he self…” – Levar Burton reads ‘A Good Friday’ by Barbara Jenkins. You can read this and other stories in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean


“Sunny stayed up the entire night, mopping the floors of her living room and bedroom as the heavy winds forced water through the shutters and windows. It was silly, in hindsight. The water was coming anyway, and fast. But she had to pass the time. Once every half hour or so, she would run to the hallway, frightened by the loud crashing noises from outside, anticipating that one of the shutters would give way and the kitchen window would burst wide open. They never did that night.” – Four Women at Night by Schuyler Esprit


“A mother has just lost her son
A mother has just lost her son
A mother has just lost her son.” – reading by Curmiah Lisette, from her poem ‘The Bandits’, part of the CaribCation Caribbean Author Series


“Speaking to you from St. Lucia…we have a strong literary tradition, anchored by our Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott.” – John R. Lee reading and discussing his lit and more in the CaribCation Caribbean Author Series


“Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
Made answer to my word.” – from Somewhere or Other by Christina Rossetti


“But grief,
it wrings out your soul-case” – Grief by Yvonne Weekes in Barbados’ Arts Etc.


“My iPhone keeps me company.
Plays music for me, shows pictures
of friends, what they’re thinking.
Lights up the dark when I’m missing you,
brings other poets’ words with a touch.” – from ‘April 2020’ by Julie Mahfood (Jamaican in Canada) in the Jamaica Gleaner’s Meeting Ground: Poems in the Time of COVID-19


‘Like other poets of the Harlem Renaissance, McKay, though a powerful advocate of black liberation, took the dominant “voice” of traditional culture, mastered it and made it accommodate his different ways of seeing, his visions and his anger. The fusion of urban realism with more traditional Romantic tropes in Harlem Shadows still leaves room for clear blasts of rage against “the wretched way / Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace”.’ – re poem of the week Harlem Shadows by Claude McKay (poem and analysis) 


“She forgave grandma, then a single mother of six,
who fed her children with one hand
while choking them with the other.” – from Mother Suffered from Memories by Juleus Ghunta in Anomaly 28

This blog is maintained by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator, and author Joanne C. Hillhouse. Content is curated, researched, and written by Hillhouse, unless otherwise indicated. Do not share or re-post without credit, do not re-publish without permission and credit. Thank you.

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Mailbox – Public Library w/Friends of Antigua Public Library

National Library Presents Troubling Freedom!

ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA (December 23, 2015) – On Saturday, January 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm. the National Public Library of Antigua & Barbuda will host the launch of Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation, a historical book by Dr. Natasha Lightfoot.

In 1834 Antigua became the only British colony in the Caribbean to move directly from slavery to full emancipation. Dr. Lightfoot tells the story of how Antigua’s newly freed black working people struggled to realize freedom in their everyday lives, prior to and in the decades following emancipation. She presents freedpeople’s efforts to form an efficient workforce, acquire property, secure housing, worship, and build independent communities in response to elite prescriptions for acceptable behavior and oppression. Despite its continued efforts, Antigua’s black population failed to convince whites that its members were worthy of full economic and political inclusion. By highlighting the diverse ways freedpeople defined and created freedom through quotidian acts of survival and occasional uprisings, Lightfoot complicates conceptions of freedom and the general narrative that landlessness was the primary constraint for newly emancipated slaves in the Caribbean.

Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation, is published by Duke University Press. Books will be available for purchase. For more information, contact the National Public Library of Antigua & Barbuda at (268) 562-4503.

About Dr. Natasha Lightfoot
Natasha Lightfoot, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of History and a Faculty Research Fellow of the Institute for African American Studies at Columbia University, New York. She teaches Caribbean, Atlantic World, and African Diaspora History focusing on the subjects of slavery and emancipation, black identities, politics, and cultures.

For more information about Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation please visit Best of Books, St. John’s.

Press is invited to cover the event.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News