The first sugar plantation in Antigua was establish in 1674. Within four years half of the island’s population was made of up African slaves — most of them from West Africa. As the industry grew, there was at one time as many as 190 slave labor sugar plantations on the island.
Slavery was abolished in 1834. But many former slaves and their descendants continued to work on the sugar plantations for paltry wages. The sugar plantations in the Caribbean were the birthplace of western capitalism. And they are a rotten smear on our shared history. Whole generations of Africans were kidnapped and shipped across the ocean to live in horrendous conditions in the service of white masters.
The largest sugar plantation — Betty’s Hope, which produced 20 plus tons of sugar a day — housed some 400 slaves. But while many of us are aware of how sugar built the British empire, very few of us are aware of the day to day lives of those that did the actual work. To this day, very little is known, other than the fact that the island’s population is comprised mostly of descendants of those British owned slaves.
This afternoon at the Sir Vivian Richards Oval in Antigua — five miles or so as the crow flies from the site of Betty’s Hope plantation — those same descendants pummeled their former masters at their own game. England played poorly, surely, but that shouldn’t take away from how brilliant the Windies were. England were out-batted, out-bowled, out-thought and out-played. It was a thorough and aggressive beheading of what was though to be a very good England side by a Windies side that no one really gave all that much thought to.
Watching Campbell put Anderson’s first ball of the third over into the seats to win the match was about an emphatic an ending as one would hope for. A whallop that traveled back in time and sent a warm breeze through the worn out hands of their great, great, great, great-grandparents.
Trivially, it’s been said a thousand times before and it will be said again, but cricket needs a strong West Indies team, and that includes their Test playing team. Today we saw 11 Windies players play Test cricket at the absolute height of brilliance, wiping the floor with the 3rd ranked Test team in the world. A team of Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson, brushed aside with ease by the long arms of Jason Holder. If this is the future of West Indies cricket, then it’s the future of cricket, and that future looks very bright indeed.