Essays in this section:
Overview Essay on Jamaica
Afro-Caribbean Art of Jamaica
The Cause of the Morant Bay Rebellion: 1865
Labor In Jamaica After Emancipation

Jamaica's history before emancipation had been influenced mainly by the British colonization of the island. The British colonized the island in order to turn it into a sugar colony.  In the process of doing so sugar and the slave trade brought great wealth to many whites who were eager to make a fortune at the expense of the enslaved Africans. Life for the slaves was an absolute nightmare. But with the announcement of emancipation, life soon became easier. Many families moved off the plantations and built houses oTrinity Estate, St. Mary'sf their own. Villages sprang up all over the island. While the ex-slaves were rising up and bettering themselves the plantation owners were losing money and many plantations eventually folded. Many churches were built and so were several schools. Their religions can be seen as a trait which seperates the people of Jamaica and the island itself from any other society past or present. Many young men and women attended the local schools and some would become teachers. Thus while the British colonization did harm to many blacks it also shaped them as a unique people. No more did blacks have to work eighteen-hour days. With the new forty-one hour work week many families spent more time together and became closer. 

The emancipation proclamation was read on August 1, 1834. From that that day forth labor opportunities and experiences changed for the better. But there was a huge problem that confronted the slaves after emancipation. Mandatory apprenticeship was now a new obstacle for them. They had to serve an apprenticeship of four years—a turn from slave labor into a more tolerable wage labor. But the planters abused the new system and failed to keep the many promises they had made to obey the new laws. Because of the behavior of the plantation owners, apprenticeship was abolished after only three years.

While many ex-slaves did well others were left in dire poverty, often starving and naked in some villages on the island. Their elected governemt was supposed to be representing them and looking out for their well being, yet the whites on the island were almost exclusively the ones who could vote. Many tried to contact the Queen, they were promptly told that it was not the government’s fault but rather the laziness of the people that led to their poverty. The people were fed up with the conditions, which was almost as bad as it had been during slavery and only a small incident was needed to lead to an outburst of violence. Thus in 1865, after two years of severe drought that worsened the blacks already miserable conditions, the masses reached their boiling point in the small town of Morant Bay. A man unjustly imprisoned for trespassing on a long abandoned plantation. Many came from a small village nearby and broke him out leading to the order of more arrests. Within days a large mob returned to massacre the justices , and thus the Morant Bay Rebellion broke out. A large portion of the plantations on the eastern half of the island would be destroyed and many whites were killed. Yet the government repercussions were far more severe, with hundreds of blacks rounded up and executed. The people of Britain were outraged by the actions of their own government in Jamaica and public sentiment finally turned in favor of the masses of poor blacks. The incident in Morant Bay turned out to be one of the defining points in Jamaica's struggle for both political and economical enhancement.