Contentious Liberties
American Abolitionists in Post-Emancipation Jamaica, 1834-1866

Gale L. Kenny

Surprising degrees of give-and-take in an antebellum mission to Jamaica


“In this insightful book Kenny takes readers deep into the world of the American Missionary Association mission to Jamaica during the first thirty years after slavery. . . . With deft analysis of ideologies in action, Kenny tells the story of how these men and women from the American frontier town of Oberlin tried to actuate in Jamaican society their firm—almost rigid—beliefs about human nature. She also tells of the unforeseen, at times astonishing, consequences of their efforts.”
—Edward Bartlett Rugemer, author of The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War

"A fascinating, in-depth account of conflicts between disparate cultures in the 1800's, Contentious Liberties is highly recommended as an excellent pick for international history shelves."
Midwest Book Review

More / Hide

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 encounter.

Race in the Atlantic World, 1700-1900

Page count: 212 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $49.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

List price: $24.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

List price: $24.95
Check ebook availability

Gale L. Kenny is an ACLS New Faculty Fellow in the Religion Department at Barnard College.