When European people moved to the Caribbean they built large plantations to grow food like sugar that you could not grow in Europe. They enslaved Amerindian and African people to work on the plantations, often in awful conditions. Hear from plantation workers to learn more about their experiences.

Plantation Life - 1715

“My name is Evaline. I am 10 years old and I was born on a sugar plantation. I live in a hut that is very cramped. Through my window I can see the huge plantation house up on the hill. It has 10 bedrooms!

I have to be in the fields by 6am and work for 14 hours. There are many jobs to do to make sugar – plant, chop, carry and process it. I work very hard in the hot sun.

My back aches, my fingers bleed but I must not stop or I will get whipped.”

Making sugar - 1735

“My name is Samuel. I am 17 years old. I work in the boiler house.

The sugar cane is crushed in giant rollers. I have to be careful not to trap my fingers. The cane juice is boiled in metal cauldrons. The steam burns my eyes.

When it cools, sugar crystals are made which I shovel into barrels. The sugar is sent by ship to England – they call it white gold, as it is worth so much money. They put it in their tea and make sweets and desserts with it.

I wonder why we are made to work so hard – just for a slice of cake!”

Singing in the fields – 1767

“My name is Oliver and I am 27 years old. I am a field slave but I love to sing.

I am a griot and lead the singing in the fields. I will call out and the other slaves will respond as we chop the sugar cane to the rhythm. This style of music is known as Kaiso.

I have been named the GREAT THUNDERER, as my voice bellows across the fields.”

Griots are West African storytellers who sing stories to music. If you were a griot, what would you be called? Think of a cool name such as ‘The Fantastic Mr Artist’, ‘Miss Mighty Maths’ or ‘Lord Speediness’.

Dance – 1801

“My name is Mary. I am 15 and I work in the grand plantation house, cooking and serving food. The Master and Mistress of the house hold big parties called masked balls. Everyone arrives in beautiful costumes, disguised in masks.

I watch their elegant dances as the ladies gracefully move their skirts, while the men spin them round and round. I teach my friends the dance steps I have seen. Some of the male slaves dress up as the plantation owners’ wives too, which makes us all laugh!”

Bele is a traditional dance mainly performed by females. They were big skirts which they hold and move like gentle waves.

Cannes Brulees – 1820

“My name is Thomas. My favourite time of year is Canne Brulees. After the harvest the sugar cane fields are set on fire so there is no work for us to do on this day. It is our only day off of the year, we are allowed to dance and drum.”

Did you know: ‘Cannes Brulees’ is French for ‘burning cane’?

 In 1807 the British government made a law to end slavery. The African slaves in Trinidad became free in 1834. Freed slaves would act our the Cannes Brulees celebrations in the streets - this would be the beginning of Carnival. 


Q.4: If you had one day off a year to have fun, what would you do?

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Banner image by Flambo from Pexels
Sugar cane image by Adrienne Andersen from Pexels