- Anim-Addo, Anyaa.“’A Wretched and Slave-like Mode of Labor:’ Slavery, Emancipation, and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s Coaling Stations,” Historical Geography, 39: 65 – 84.
This essay examines how Britain’s Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the largest shipping group in the world by the early 20th century, utilized slave labor, primarily enslaved black women on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies, even as the Transatlantic slave trade had been outlawed in Britain. For my analysis, it provides information and insights regarding the legal and social conditions under which a mix of enslaved and “free” women and men routinely undertook the dirty and hazardous manual work of hauling basket-loads of coal, balanced on their heads, to literally fuel European and North American shipping fleets at the height of transatlantic industrial trade and a burgeoning cruise industry. The essay informs my analysis of how early on, disempowered and oppressed segments of the island population functioned as a no- to low-cost “hybrid” labor force, which to varying degrees, was both vulnerable to the workplace and environmental decisions of employers and political elites, and able to exercise leverage through work stoppages and protests.
- DeLoughrey, Elizabeth M., Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley. Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005.
This editors of this collection of essays observe that “there is probably no other region in the world that has been more radically altered in terms of human and botanic migration, transplantation, and settlement than the Caribbean.” The collection simultaneously employs ecocriticism—”the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/ecocriticism.html (Links to an external site.), social history, and post-colonial studies analyses.
I draw on the authors’ theories and methodologies for analyzing Caribbean literatures, in order to “give voice” to members of the hybrid labor force of the St. Thomas coaling station, namely African descendant people on the lowest rung of the Danish West Indies social and economic hierarchy.
- Goebel, “Management of the Port of Saint Thomas, Danish West Indies, during the
Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” Northern Mariner: Journal of the Canadian Nautical Research Society. Vol. 7, No. 4, October 1997, 45 -63. https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_mariner/vol07/tnm_7_4_45-63.pdf (Links to an external site.)
Based on research utilizing primary sources in the Danish National Archives, this article examines the management of the St. Thomas harbor in late 19th century, before the Danish sold and handed the territory over to the United States. The author looks at the staffing and infrastructure of the port as well as the practice of dredging, and commercial and military ship activities at the coaling station. It informs my analysis of continuity and contrast in comparing successive periods of Danish, and then American control, of St. Thomas harbor. It affords insights in comparing the before and after transfer consequences to the natural landscape and the people who inhabited.
- Jensen, Peter Hoxcer. From Serfdom to Fireburn and Strike: The History of Black Labor in the Danish West Indies 1848-1916. Christiansted: Antilles Press, 1998.
“Employing previously unused materials form Danish archival and administrative sources, Jensen traces the ex-slaves’ journey from servitude, through neo-serfdom and revolt on the sugar- and cotton-producing estates where they had previously been slaves, to their emergence as an autonomous labor movement in the early 20th century.” https://antillespressvi.com/serfdom-fireburn-strike/ (Links to an external site.) Jensen’s analysis of the conditions under which organized labor on St. Thomas emerged as a political force informs my analysis of whether, when, and how working people on the island expressed concerns about issues related to the environment (e.g.impacts on island air and drinking water quality) as well as wages, during a period when the economic fortunes of the Danish West Indian colonies were steadily declining, and Denmark was under pressure to sell the territories to the United States as a military outpost during World War I.
- Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.
Nixon’s transnational perspective on the long-term, cumulative effects of climate change and the immediate and after effects of toxic dumping, war, and other assaults on the environment is especially pertinent to the Caribbean where multiple imperial powers routinely converged, and often collaborated, in attempts to manipulate the natural environment, whether for global commercial or military purposes. His conception of “slow violence,” that is, “violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous but instead incremental, whose calamitous repercussions are postponed for years or decades or centuries” https://www.chronicle.com/article/slow-violence/ (Links to an external site.) provides an analytical framework for my overarching argument: that the cumulative impact of centuries of human-induced, irreparable, environmental damage has been at least as harmful as hurricanes and earthquakes, the natural catastrophies that mainstream media routinely represent as the primary source of environmental peril for the Virgin Islands (and Puerto Rico).
6. Special Report: DREDGING, Caribbean Maritime, 34, May 2018
The main thrust of this special issue of the “official journal of the Caribbean Shipping Association” is captured in the opening tagline: “Beauty and the beast: Dredging is eco-sensitive – but regulators must not price it beyond reach.” For my study, this article provides a window into how the shipping industry has deployed the “business climate” argument to justify the longstanding practice of dredging (sand mining)—a practice known to be harmful to coastal environments in myriad ways (e.g. damage to reefs and fish and other wildlife habitats, exacerbation of sea water turpidity (cloudiness due to foreign particles), increases in sewage from docked ships, etc.