DIGITAL: Dunn’s Website Compares Two Plantations (Virginia, Jamaica)


Two Plantations: Enslaved Families in Virginia and Jamaica displays research into the lives of 431 enslaved people in seven multi-generational families at Mesopotamia plantation in Jamaica and Mount Airy plantation in Virginia.

From the introduction:

“These family histories have been gathered from two sets of slaveholders’ annual inventories. Since the 1970s, Richard S. Dunn has been tracking the 1,103 slaves who lived at Mesopotamia between 1762 and 1833, and the 973 slaves who lived at Mount Airy between 1808 and 1865. And he has reconstructed the lineages of slave families from both plantations through four or five generations.

Why compare family life in Mesopotamia with family life in Mount Airy?

In Jamaica, many more slaves died than were born, and the planters imported huge numbers of new slaves from Africa to replace the dead workers. In Virginia, the slave population doubled every twenty-five years, and the planters sold huge numbers of “surplus” slaves, or moved them to distant work sites. Because of these demographic conditions, the black families in Mesopotamia and Mount Airy suffered terribly, but in far different ways.

The site goes on to compare and contrast the Mesopotamia and Mount Airy plantations.

In Richard Dunn’s own words:

“I became interested in the history of slavery when writing Sugar and Slaves (1972), which described the rise of the slaveholding sugar planters in the British Caribbean. Convinced that Caribbean slavery was very different from U.S. slavery, I decided to compare a West Indian community of slaves with an antebellum U.S. community of slaves.I soon found two parallel sets of records for Mesopotamia plantation in Jamaica and Mount Airy plantation in Virginia that suited my purpose. But trying to bring the 2,000 Mesopotamia and Mount Airy people alive, and shaping their experiences into a coherent narrative, has taken much longer than I expected. A Tale of Two Plantations is the long-delayed result.”


Image Credits: Screenshots from // Snapped by Jessica Marie Johnson 2014 September 19 | 00:58:20 

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