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About Claudius Fergus

Claudius Fergus
Claudius Fergus is a retired Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at UWI’s St Augustine Campus who specialises in the abolition of British colonial slavery and its transatlantic slave trade. His major work on the subject is Revolutionary Emancipation: Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies (2013). He has other extensive publications in peer-reviewed journals and edited books.

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Judging Columbus through history (Pt 4): Genocide and white supremacy in Trinidad

The following is the last in a four part series by historian Dr Claudius Fergus …

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20 comments

  1. Great piece
    Eagerly awaiting part 2.
    Especially liked the part of calling on every modern day historian to revisit the histology given to us with our mordern tools and fresh questions in presenting the answers.
    Our people, all of us has the inherent right to the untainted truth in forming through Caribbean identity.
    As a Principal I would like to see the our printed texts explain to our primary school children the true history of our land.
    We have the tools and owe it to our next generation so that they can affirm a true indentity that is based on pride in building this nation.
    Continue the great work

  2. I am a big fan of Dr Fergus, his pieces are always enlightening. However, I honestly cannot come to terms with his mollycoddling of Ricardo Bharath “Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez of the SRFP has unequivocally condemned Columbus for the evils he unleashed in the Caribbean, but reiterated to the CRFP that he could not support removing the statue, unless the anti-Columbus advocates could satisfy his curiosity about the benefits for his people from its removal.” Ricardo has been a disgrace to the indigenous community, I have publicly branded him a Traitor based on his public utterances in favour of keeping the statue which go against the grain of Indigenous people all across the America’s such as, “It is because of Columbus that we have the clothes we wear today,” or “instead of removing the statue we should erect, a little indigenous person a little bigger next to Columbus”, an idea that Dr Fergus himself branded as absurd.

  3. I am a big fan of Dr Fergus, his pieces are always enlightening. However, I honestly cannot come to terms with his mollycoddling of Ricardo Bharath “Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez of the SRFP has unequivocally condemned Columbus for the evils he unleashed in the Caribbean,….., could satisfy his curiosity about the benefits for his people from its removal.” Ricardo has been a disgrace to the indigenous community, I have publicly branded him a Traitor based on his public utterances in favour of keeping the statue which go against the grain of Indigenous people all across the America’s such as, “It is because of Columbus that we have the clothes we wear today,” or “instead of removing the statue we should erect, a little indigenous person a little bigger next to Columbus”, an idea that Dr Fergus himself branded as absurd.

  4. “As ‘protector of Indians’, de las Casas was one of the first missionaries to uphold the rights of the oppressed and protect the lives of indigenous peoples. A contemporary of Christopher Columbus, de las Casas had travelled in 1502 to La Española, a Caribbean island now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which at the time was inhabited by the indigenous Taínos people. On landing, the Spanish settlers already on shore reportedly told the new arrivals, ‘The island is doing well, because much gold is being mined.’ Initially he settled as a merchant and encomendero – an Indian slave owner – on ‘a hill almost encircled by a beautiful and sparkling little river’, and recounted that ‘these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness.’

    If the Indians were devoid of wickedness, the conquistadors made up for it. It is thought that when the conquistadors arrived in the Americas, there were 100 million inhabitants. 90% died on contact, many succumbing to diseases, to which they had no immunity, brought in by the Europeans. Those who didn’t die from imported diseases were treated with ‘strange cruelty’ by the aggressive invaders. They fed Indian babies to dogs, hunted adults for sport and roasted men alive. ‘They think no more of killing ten or twenty Indians for a pastime, or to test the sharpness of their swords,’ wrote de Las Casas, continuing: ’One day … the Spanish dismembered, beheaded or raped 3,000 Indian people. They cut off the legs of the children that ran before them. They poured people full of boiling soup. I saw all the above things … and numberless others.’
    https://wsimag.com/economy-and-politics/12002-bartolome-de-las-casas

    • “Las Casas was an imperialist thinker, slave owner and coloniser, first as encomendero and then as priest.”

      That one line from Dr Fergus pretty much sums up how I think de Las Casas should be seen. I do not see him as being this friend of the First Peoples he is touted to be. He was just a more humane coloniser. His outlook was just as ethnocentric as the most vile killer settler-colonial.

      I wrote in an essay about two years ago that his historic debate with Juan de Sepulveda in 1550-51 essentially set the tone for all discussions about the fate of other peoples right up to today. Sepulveda felt, drawing from the philosophies of Aristotle, that some people are meant to be enslaved and that any degree of force is justifiable to bring them under control. De las Casas instead had a completely different opinion. His position was that the Native Peoples were like children and they needed the firm but benevolent guidance of Europeans, under Christianity.

      The one thing that was NOT being debated was whether the Europeans had any business colonising and occupying the lands and people. *That* was a given on both sides. We can see this form of reasoning being replicated over and over from the abolition debates, to the colonising of the global south to how and what form of government and economic structure other countries and cultures must adopt (a Western-centric model). This is why, for instance, it really does not matter to me whether the Republicans or Democrats run the White House, Senate or the House. One is just a politer racist and imperialist but they both espouse racist imperialist ideas about how the world is to function.

      It even informs how we debate how to deal with violent crime here. At no point does it enter into anyone’s head apparently that there should be some form of consultation and consent by the *subjects* of these discussions; their sovereignty, their forms of organised governance and conflict resolutions have no bearing on anything.

    • A Corey Gilkes no doubt it is easy to be branded a “humanitarian” in those days when you’re “merely enslaving” Amerinidians while the other chap is feeding them to his dogs for sport.
      I fully agree.
      Again the biggest travesty is we allowed our colonizers to write our history.
      What confuses me a bit is why Dr Eric Williams allowed that. He knew better.

    • I personally could only speculate Lasana. Williams may have challenged colonial rule, but he, like many of his generation were nonetheless prisoners of that indoctrination (did you ever see any picture of him in a jersey?). Most of them only wanted to possess the trappings of colonial power and not necessarily transform the institutions into something more indigenous and progressive (In all fairness and as a sort of defense, the reality of the Cold War meant that many of them didn’t have *that* much room to do much without risking being removed from power like what happened to Jagan, Lumumba, Nkrumah, Arbenz).

      But this troubling issue is something that needs to be examined much more closely.

  5. Imagine a race of aliens rocking up on your front door with illnesses you have no immunity against, plus they have cannon

    • Ian Ricky Jones straight out a horror movie! Can you imagine how terrible it was! Peace loving, humble , simple, honest folk set upon by violent , bloodthirsty, evil pinkish – beige aliens! Oh what ah morning😬

  6. You would be hard pressed to find in public USSR monuments in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In Lithuania one savvy man collected all or most of the USSR statutes and other objects of that era and set up a huge museum in the style of a park. USSR history preserved but not celebrated.

  7. Fool!
    You celebrate my coming
    I will not go
    Not from your mind
    Restore me for all to see


  8. “Mental slavery is the worst form of Slavery. It gives you the illusion of freedom, makes you trust, love and defend your oppressor while making an enemy of those who are trying to free you or open your eyes.”