The Oberlin College mission to Jamaica, begun in the 1830s,
was an ambitious, and ultimately troubled, effort to use the
example of emancipation in the British West Indies to advance the
domestic agenda of American abolitionists. White Americans hoped to
argue that American slaves, once freed, could be absorbed
productively into the society that had previously enslaved them,
but their "civilizing mission" did not go as anticipated. Gale L.
Kenny's illuminating study examines the differing ideas of freedom
held by white evangelical abolitionists and freed people in Jamaica
and explores the consequences of their encounter for both American
and Jamaican history.
Kenny finds that white Americans-who went to Jamaica intending to
assist with the transition from slavery to Christian practice and
solid citizenship-were frustrated by liberated blacks'
unwillingness to conform to Victorian norms of gender, family, and
religion. In tracing the history of the thirty-year mission, Kenny
makes creative use of available sources to unpack assumptions on
both sides of this American-Jamaican interaction, showing how
liberated slaves in many cases were able not just to resist the
imposition of white mores but to redefine the terms of the
Subjects: History, Sociology
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