Versatile Elements: Water and Mobilities in Black Caribbean Slave Narratives
Water has always been a force that enables or restricts human mobility. Waterways have been major human transportation routes, and the liquid element can both sustain lives and take them. Current events make us aware of the perils migrants face in crossing the seas or of the devastations brought by droughts and floods.
This public lecture leads us back to the early 19th century and to the multiple roles water played in the lives of enslaved Black people in the English Caribbean. Based on the personal testimonies of two formerly enslaved persons from the 1830s, Bermudan Mary Prince and Vincentian Ashton Warner, the lecture discusses water as a force of nature, a means of exploitation and a path to emancipation. It looks at how water functioned in the lives of Prince and Warner as at times enabling and at other times prohibiting Black geographic and social mobility in the English Caribbean and the UK in the early 19th century.