9 FEBRUARY

SLAVE HUNG AND HIS HEAD IMPALED ON A POLE FOR RUNNING AWAY

Illustration by William Blake c. 1796.
The William Blake Archive via Wikimedia.

[ 9 February 1752 ]

On 9 February 1752, plantation overseer Thomas Thistlewood, who had arrived in the British colony of Jamaica two years earlier, noted that ‘Robin’, a slave on his estate, was hung for repeatedly running away. As a lesson to the others, Robin’s head was then impaled on a pole and ‘stuck… in the home pasture’ where it remained for four months exposed to carrion crows.1 We only know about the event because of Thistlewood’s meticulous diary keeping. Otherwise, such savage executions of runaways, though routine throughout the British Caribbean, were rarely mentioned in newspapers or even private correspondence, as they were generally considered unremarkable events.

FOOTNOTE

  1. Thomas Thistlewood cited in Trevor Burnard, Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2004, p. 7.

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