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Barbados promotes historic ties to South Carolina

Sep 6, 2011, 5:22 a.m.
Horses from a local race course are given a morning bath along a public beach just outside Bridgetown, Barbados, in this June 15, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Andy Clark/Files

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - The Barbados consulate in Coral Gables, Florida, held a four-day event called "Barbados Comes (Back) to Charleston" over the weekend to promote the West Indies nation's historical ties to Charleston, South Carolina.

On Saturday at Charles Towne Landing, where the first English settlers to the Carolina colony disembarked in 1670, a "Bridgetown Market" featured a steel band, crafts, meat pies, peas and rice, and educational exhibits.

British planters settled Barbados in 1625, imported African slaves and grew cotton, tobacco, indigo and sugar cane, the crop that made them rich.

By 1670, tiny Barbados held 60,000 people, most of them enslaved Africans, according to anthropologist Toni Carrier, founder and director of the Lowcountry Africana project.

Vast tracts of available land in Carolina took the overflow, and for the next two decades, the majority of English colonists and the slaves they brought with them came from Barbados, she said.

"There was a triangular circuit, from Barbados to New England to Carolina," Carrier said.

"To New England, they would take sugar, rum and molasses. From New England, they would bring livestock for the Carolina colony: horses, cattle and pigs. From Carolina, they would send timber and salt meat to Barbados."

Carrier's project helps African American families in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida find their Barbadian, or Bajan, roots through a searchable document database, freedmen's bureau records and genealogy web sites.

She also sends families to archives in Charleston, the Barbados Department of Archives in St. Michael, and the U.K National Archives in Kew, Surrey.

"My family is originally from Barbados," said Jack Hart, who sponsored the Barbados Museum's presence for the weekend.

Indentured servants in Barbados, Hart's ancestors came to South Carolina as free people in 1735, the year the colony officially split into North and South, he said.

"They were English wheelwrights," he said. "They were kicked out of England by Oliver Cromwell. That's how most of us got here."

"This is not static history that you go to a library for," said Rhoda Green, honorary consul of Barbados. "This is living history."

"We prefer to keep in touch with the diaspora this way," said George Mayers, liaison officer with the Barbados consulate general in Coral Gables, Florida.

(Reporting by Harriett McLeod. Editing by Peter Bohan)

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