A New Novel Gives Wings — and a Megaphone — to a Complex Woman

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2021-10-27 19:26Z by Steven

A New Novel Gives Wings — and a Megaphone — to a Complex Woman

The New York Times

Carole V. Bell

Steffi Walthall

By Vanessa Riley

Vanessa Riley was intrigued when she encountered the figure of Miss Lambe in Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel, “Sanditon.” Given the dearth of people of color in 18th- and 19th-century British literature, she wanted to know where the wealthy colored debutante had come from. Was she a product of a progressive authorial imagination? Or had real-life Miss Lambes merely been excised from popular culture and public memory?

The quest to “find Miss Lambe” turned into a long and meaningful one for the author — a 10-year journey, which revealed that Austen’s aims may have been progressive but they weren’t born of fantasy. As Riley wrote, “Finding Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, the women of the Entertainment Society, and so many other Black women who had agency and access to all levels of power has restored my soul.”

Riley’s commitment to restoring these unsung women to their rightful place in the popular imagination was a driving force behind her riveting and transformative new novel. Yet her chosen subject bears little resemblance to a pampered heiress like Miss Lambe; the contours of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas’s life have a much harsher bent. Called “Doll” or “Dolly” when she was young, Dorothy was born to an Irish planter and an enslaved woman in 1756 on the island of Montserrat. In her 90 years, she endured bondage, assault and abuse, secured her own freedom against incredible odds, accumulated great wealth and considerable influence, and became the founding matriarch of a prosperous Caribbean clan…

Read the entire book review here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Island Queen, A Novel

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery on 2021-10-25 14:16Z by Steven

Island Queen, A Novel

William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins)
592 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780063002845
Paperback ISBN: 9780063002852
E-book ISBN: 9780063002869
Digital Audio, MP3 ISBN: 9780063002876

Vanessa Riley

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ever wondered why Montserrat have a day off for St Patrick’s Day too?

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2016-03-20 19:29Z by Steven

Ever wondered why Montserrat have a day off for St Patrick’s Day too?

Dublin, Ireland

Laura McAtackney, Associate Professor in Sustainable Heritage Management (Archaeology)
Arhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Krysta Ryzewski, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

This edited article, written by Laura McAtackney and Krysta Ryzewski, is part of a chapter ‘Historic and contemporary Irish identity on Montserrat, the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’ in Alison Donnell, Maria McGarrity & Evelyn O’Callaghan ‘s book: Caribbean Irish Connections for University of West Indies Press.

CONTEMPORARY MONTSERRAT IS marketed globally as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”. This tagline inspires tourists and scholars to visualise a verdant, fertile paradise bolstered by genuine and lasting historic links to Ireland.

The island’s Irish connections have long been a source of interest for local residents and tourists alike, and over the past two decades government agencies, the tourism industry and local communities have made concerted efforts to bolster its Irish legacy and build upon perceived connections between present-day Montserrat and historic Irish communities.

Its most prominent example of these efforts is St Patrick’s Day, a national holiday that simultaneously commemorates the island’s Irish heritage and a failed uprising by Afro-Caribbean slaves and members of the island’s free black community on the same day in 1768.

The St Patrick’s holiday has grown into a week-long festival that attracts international tourists and acts as a major homecoming event for Montserrat’s diaspora community.

Today, Montserrat’s connection to an ‘Irish’ identity is strong but this has not always been the case…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

How Green Was My Surname; Via Ireland, a Chapter in the Story of Black America

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-12-29 03:58Z by Steven

How Green Was My Surname; Via Ireland, a Chapter in the Story of Black America

The New York Times

S. Lee Jamison

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Shaquille O’Neal!

So many African-Americans have Irish-sounding last names—Eddie Murphy, Isaac Hayes, Mariah Carey, Dizzy Gillespie, Toni Morrison, H. Carl McCall—that you would think that the long story of blacks and Irish coming together would be well documented. You would be wrong.

Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of ”Interracial Intimacies; Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption,” said that when it comes to written historical exploration of black-Irish sexual encounters, ”there are little mentions, but not much.”

And most African-Americans do not know a lot about their family names.

“Quite frankly, I always thought my name was Scotch, not Irish.” said Mr. McCall, the former New York State comptroller.

But the Irish names almost certainly do not come from Southern slaveholders with names like Scarlett O’Hara. Most Irish were too poor to own land. And some blacks, even before the Civil War, were not slaves.

…Elizabeth Shown Mills, who recently retired as the editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, said that unlike native-born whites, “Irish were more willing to accept and acknowledge interracial allegiances.”

Before the Civil War, she said, “the free mulatto population had the same number of black moms as white moms.”

Ms. Mills said that mixed-race children would have been given Irish surnames when their Irish fathers married their black mothers, or when their unmarried Irish mothers named children after themselves.

The Irish ended up in the Caribbean, too. Britain sent hundreds of Irish people to penal colonies in the West Indies in the mid-1600’s, and more went over as indentured servants.

Mr. [Charles L.] Blockson noted that “Lord Oliver Cromwell’s boatloads of men and women” sent to Barbados and Jamaica intermingled with the African slaves already there.

Montserrat ended up with the largest Irish community in the West Indies…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,