Unsilencing Slavery

Telling Truths About Rose Hall Plantation, Jamaica

Title Details

Pages: 274

Illustrations: 21 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 07/01/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6215-1

List Price: $29.95


Pub Date: 07/01/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6214-4

List Price: $114.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

A copublication of Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the University of Georgia Press

Unsilencing Slavery

Telling Truths About Rose Hall Plantation, Jamaica

A microhistory of enslaved people’s experiences at Rose Hall and an exploration of the complexities of its past in the present

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

Popular references to the Rose Hall Great House in Jamaica often focus on the legend of the “White Witch of Rose Hall.” Over one hundred thousand people visit this plantation every year, many hoping to catch a glimpse of Annie Palmer’s ghost. After experiencing this tour with her daughter in 2013 and leaving Jamaica haunted by the silences of the tour, Celia E. Naylor resolved to write a history of Rose Hall about those people who actually had a right to haunt this place of terror and trauma—the enslaved. Naylor deftly guides us through a strikingly different Rose Hall. She introduces readers to the silences of the archives and unearths the names and experiences of the enslaved at Rose Hall in the decades immediately before the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. She then offers a careful reading of Herbert G. de Lisser’s 1929 novel, The White Witch of Rosehall—which gave rise to the myth of the “White Witch”—and a critical analysis of the current tours at Rose Hall Great House.

Naylor’s interdisciplinary examination engages different modes of history making, history telling, and truth telling to excavate the lives of enslaved people, highlighting enslaved women as they navigated the violences of the Jamaican slavocracy and plantationscape. Moving beyond the legend, she examines iterations of the afterlives of slavery in the ongoing construction of slavery museums, memorializations, and movements for Black lives and the enduring case for Black humanity. Alongside her book, she has created a website as another way for readers to explore the truths of Rose Hall: rosehallproject.columbia.edu.

In Unsilencing Slavery, Celia E. Naylor weaves together a gripping history of Jamaica’s Rose Hall Plantation that excavates the invisible lives of enslaved Black women and exposes the obfuscating and troubling legend of the 'White Witch.' Naylor spins gold out of the straw of limited and biased sources, offering a sensitively radiant account of the seasonal, spatial, and gendered dimensions of forced labor and creative resistance in the British Caribbean.

—Tiya Miles, author of the National Book Award winner All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

Ranging from the nineteenth century to the present day, Unsilencing Slavery offers a much-needed reassessment of Rose Hall Plantation in Jamaica and the myths and historical silences that pervade this popular tourist destination. Her focus is on the forgotten history and experiences of the many enslaved people—particularly enslaved women and children—who lived and died at Rose Hall Plantation. Naylor blends detailed archival research, literary analysis, and public history to explore how Rose Hall and other former Caribbean and American plantation sites have been transformed into sanitized spaces of amusement and historical erasure.

—Brooke N. Newman, author of A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race and Sex in Colonial Jamaica

Dignified and elegant in its telling, Unsilencing Slavery is a remarkable monument to the humanity of the enslaved Africans and their descendants, too often deemed not spectacular enough for memorializing. Celia E. Naylor’s innovative and creative probing of the archive and its silences using various disciplinary methods, including ethnography, anthropology, and literary studies, challenges deeply entrenched mythologies of gender and slavery and how we gather and tell histories. This is an exquisite work of art, telling truths that must be told yet reverent and restrained in recognizing and respecting sacred and sovereign silence.

—Sasha Turner, author of Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica

An impressively ambitious interdisciplinary work.

—Simon Newman, author of A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic

About the Author/Editor

CELIA E. NAYLOR is a professor in the Africana Studies and History departments at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of African Cherokees in Indian Territory: From Chattel to Citizens. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Naylor currently lives in New York City.