Historical Antigua: Cannons, Forts, and Sugar Mills

There’s a lot more to Antigua than white sandy beaches, clear turquoise water, and exotic island cuisine.

It’s a small island rich with history and exploring its historical sites is such a rewarding experience. Antigua’s neighbors are St. Kitts, Montserrat, and it’s sister island, Barbuda. So grab your backpack, notepad, and camera and immerse yourself in a wonderland of historical gems. What’s great about the islands is that a lot of its history is preserved. You don’t have to dig too deep to get to the goods.

A trip to the Museum of Antigua gives you a nice overview of some of what the island has to offer. If you love history like me, I urge you to take a trip to Antigua and stand in awe at the old iron cannons, stone forts, and the sugar mills.

I’m excited to say that my first paid article was just published by Travelicious.world. So if you really want to know why this island is so special, feel free to check it out now:

Read it here!

Discover some of Antigua’s best kept secrets.

An Epic Review of Beowolf

When I got to the end of “Beowulf”, I was almost disappointed. It was an ending fitting for an epic tale of heroism, valor, and strength. Nevertheless, it was action packed and easy to follow and left me wishing Beowulf would somehow supernaturally resurrect from the funeral pyre and live out his days as the immortal he had seemed. The plot, filled with action, bravery, otherworldly opponents, and great moments of conflict, are what legends are made of. I am now inclined to research the character of Beowulf and discover whether he was based on a real person or was an actual person in ancient British history and read the contexts. I have yet to see the film based on the tale.

I found it interesting that the monster and creature characters in the story, Grendel and the dragon, are likened to demonic forces. It seems as though religion was a major part of Danish life, infiltrating several of its aspects. When Grendel is introduced, he is said to have come from the line of the Biblical Cain, who was forsaken by God for killing his brother Abel and that all monsters came from Cain’s line. The text reads, “For the killing of Abel, the eternal Lord had exacted a price: Cain got no good from committing that murder because the Almighty made him anathema, and out of the curse of his exile there sprang ogres and elves and evil phantoms and the giants too who strove with God time and again until He gave them their reward”. This is a very interesting take on the origins of these creatures and gives context to Grendel’s evil powers and the supernaturalism of the great warriors in the text, namely Beowulf, for they must be supernatural to take on supernatural forces of evil.

Though Beowulf seemed supernatural up until his point of death, there was foreshadowing that he was not immortal. When Beowulf defeated Grendel’s mother and was preparing to leave Denmark, the king felt that he would never see him face to face again. The text reads, “And so the good and gray-haired Dane, that highborn king, kissed Beowulf and embraced his neck, then broke down in sudden tears. Two forebodings disturbed him in his wisdom but one was stronger: nevermore would they meet each other face to face.”

I also found it interesting that Beowulf was able to ally two enemy peoples, the Geats and the Danes, and that this alliance ended with his own death. The fact that one man was powerful enough to bring these enemies together and that upon his death the feud would resume is astonishing. When Beowulf is preparing to leave Denmark, king Hrothgar says to him “What you have done is to draw two peoples, the Geat nation and us neighboring Danes, into shared peace, and a pact of friendship in spite of hatreds we have harbored in the past”. In the end, a messenger announces to Beowulf’s warriors, “So this bad blood between us and the Swedes, this vicious feud, I am convinced, is bound to revive; they will cross our borders and attack in force when they find out that Beowulf is dead”.

I also noticed a connection between king Hrothgar and Beowulf. King Hrothgar, much like Beowulf, had been a great warrior in his youth and won many battles. He had brought peace to his territory and had not expected Grendel to show up and attack Heorot in his old age. He states to Beowulf before he departs to Geatland, “Just so I ruled the Ring-Danes country for fifty years, defended them in wartime with spear and sword against constant assaults by many tribes: I came to believe my enemies had faded from the face of the earth. Still, what happened was a hard reversal from bliss to grief. Grendel struck after lying in wait”. This foreshadows what happened to Beowulf when he became king. His reign almost parallels that of Hrothgars. He had fought and won many battles in his youth, and then, in his old age, a dragon is awoken which, unlike Hrothgar, he alone must fight. Because he chooses to fight, he loses his life, and dies a true warrior king’s death.

The Tale of Imandra

There was a beautiful woman, more fair than any other. She lived alone in a crude hut near the river where it was it’s marshiest and the reeds grew tall and thick. It was rumored that she had traveled from a distant land seeking shelter for an unknown offense and that her lineage was also unknown. Her skin was golden brown and her eyes were deepest green. Her lips were soft and colored like a tulip flower. Her curly, dark hair hung about her shoulders. It was the color of darkest night and shone like lapis lazuli. She wore gems of ruby and carnelian and her hair was adorned with golden ornaments. Her smile would light up the darkest night. It was so rare that when she did, you were glad to be in her presence. Her speech was eloquent and calculated. She was not one to engage in idle chatter. It was evident to all that she had been fashioned by the gods.

A farmer spotted her bathing in a lake one day while attending to business in the fields. He was struck with love. He immediately inquired about her but no one knew about her business. One day he found her playing by the lake. He dared approach her and, to his surprise, she welcomed his presence. She told him that she was lonely. Her name was Imandra. He would visit her every night after a hard day out in the field. They became fond of each other and fell in love. One night she presented him with a task. She would love him forever if he would bear to her all of his secrets. He unhesitatingly complied.

Not long into their courtship, she would notice that his visits became less frequent. She begged him to tell her of his whereabouts but he refused. She told him that if he did not consent to her wishes, that he would forever be alone. He continued to elude her. The secret was that he had become interested in men and had been frequenting social gatherings at a farmers house, not far from his own. One night, at such a gathering, there was a knock on the door. A man from out of town came to visit. He said he had traveled far and had become lost. He had eyes of the deepest green and striking dark hair. They had never seen a more handsome fellow in town. He was weary. When the man entered the house, he spotted the farmer whom Imandra loved. The man grabbed the farmer by his testicles as the others stood by. As he twisted, the man transformed into someone familiar. Imandra grinned evilly as she continued to twist and then took out a flint knife and chopped off the testicles. Blood spurted everywhere and Imandra finished the job by feeding him his own testicles to eat. As he writhed on the ground, he looked up and saw the man staring back at him again. He said to the farmer, “You could have had everything you wanted if only you’d been faithful, for this is my true form. Now, you will forever be alone.”

On Olaudah Equiano

Olauduah Equiano’s life as a slave was uncommonly more bearable than that of most other slaves. Though passed countless times from master to master, his experiences exempted the cruel punishments and torture of which he was witness to. However, he was, nonetheless, betrayed and cheated by many of the whites he came into contact with.

Equiano deemed himself inferior to the whites. Hence, he adopted their manners, customs, and their religion. His assimilation into their culture placed him a step up from the unbaptized, savage Negro in the eyes of the whites. Equiano’s mobility as a slave allowed him to eventually gain his freedom. But this mobility resulted from his conformance to “civilized” society and, consequently, a rejection of his own culture. However, it seems that his conformance  to English society was borne out of a will to survive. His opening statement alone evidences this assimilation. He evokes the Christian god and his rhetoric is very much English. His rhetoric is reminiscent of Phillis Wheatley, an African American poet who similarly evokes the Christian god and colors her poetry with decorative rhetoric.

Equiano’s many near death experiences and primarily kind treatment throughout his travels nearly render the account questionable. It appears that positive slave narratives are those that are published, promoted, and widely circulated. Other than Equiano, the other instances that come to mind are Harriet Jacob’s and Frederick Douglass’s narratives. The fact that most slaves could not read or write may account for this slant. A slave’s ability to read and write typically meant that he was better treated than those who could not. And a slave’s literacy also put him in a better position for further mobility.

The skills that Equiano developed during his travels enabled him to eventually free himself. But the fact that he even acquired these skills was the sheer luck or “Providence” of being led to humane situations with individuals who cared for him and perceived him as a man. “Providence’” was certainly on his side during his several near death experiences and also enabled him to earn his freedom. He caught a fatalistic fever, small pox, was nearly killed on board his ships more than once, nearly died from injuries, among other incidences. Captain Doran’s death also happened at the right time. Equiano states that if the captain had died five months earlier, he would not have acquired his freedom, for it was Captain Doran that appealed to his master that allowed Equiano to get permission to draw up his manumission. Incidences such as these demonstrate the exceptionality of Equiano’s life as a slave.

Equiano’s life as a sailor also enabled him to travel and work in a position uncommon to many slaves. He learned new skills and he fought in naval battles. He was not out working in the fields and therefore was spared many of the horrific treatments that commonly befell slaves. He also manned slavers and witnessed many slaves come on board. In one such incident, the ship he was manning, the Nancy, became shipwrecked and the entire crew and slaves were almost decimated. However, due to Equiano’s cunning and foresight, he and three other black sailors were able to save everyone on board. The captain wanted him to latch the slaves down so that they could not escape into the small lifeboat. However, Equiano could not bear to do such a thing—to condemn them to die in that way. This and several other instances such as the time he shared his fruit with an elderly slave who had been robbed demonstrates that he definitely empathized with his people, though he was, apparently, greater than they were in the hierarchy. His relation of and horrific reaction to the instances of cruelty endured by his fellow slaves also evidences this empathy. For example, he states that he had to submit to the will of the whites and was unable to help his fellow slaves on board the ships. He speaks of the rape of African girls and the inequalities in the way they are allowed to be treated as compared to white women. He states that these atrocities are the “disgrace not of Christians only, but of men” (Equiano 74).

Equiano’s travels as a sailor also led him to be present at a few great historical events. He mentions that he was present at a celebration in Charlestown at the “repeal of the stamp-act” (Equiano 94). The  Stamp Act was repealed in 1765 and was a major influence on the American Revolution. The colonies felt oppressed by it. Another historical event or figure that Equiano came into contact with was Reverend George Whitfield. He was able to listen in on one of Whitfield’s sermons and from this experience understood why the church was so crowded.  Equiano was impressed at the fervor and passion Whitfield exerted. He states that “I saw this pious man exhorting the people with the greatest fervor and earnestness, and sweating as much as I ever did while in slavery on Montserrat-beach” (Equiano 98). The comparison Equiano makes here is interesting. He compares Whitfield’s sweating to that of himself working hard as a slave. Whitfield was an excellent orator and was also a trained actor.

Equiano foreshadowed the conflicts he would endure as a free man. Earlier on, he recounts the story of a free mulatto man who was snatched and taken into slavery. It was well known that he was a free man by the inhabitants on the island and by those on board Equiano’s ship. Despite his protests and proof that he was free, he was unable to defend himself. This man had a family whom he more than likely never saw again. Equiano states that it was thought to be better to be a slave because free men lived “in constant alarm for their liberty”. They could be snatched at any given moment and could not defend themselves. He states that,  “. . .is it surprising that slaves, when mildly treated , should prefer even the misery of slavery to such a mockery of freedom?” (Equiano 89). Equiano relates stories of his own struggles as a free man. He is threatened to be whipped along with another man and a woman even though he is free. In another instance, two white men pretend to recognize him as one of their runaway slaves. He is ability to speak good English helps him escape them and also his knowledge that such tricks were commonly played on other free black men.

Equiano’s knowledge and skills assisted him greatly in his life as a slave and thereafter. His belief in the Christian god, knowledge of the English language, knowledge of travel, good conduct and reputation, helped him to get into a position to help others who shared his fate.  As with Phillis Wheatley, Equiano’s rhetoric and belief in the Christian god allowed them to have a voice—to get a foot in the door to help others. Equiano’s position as a sailor put him in a position to where advancement was much easier.