Quakers on Barbados

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Quakers on Barbados

Postby bimjim » Wed Mar 26, 2014 1:02 pm


Quakers on Barbados

    1655 Quakers Mary Fisher and Ann Austin traveled to Barbados and are said to have been the first Quakers in America.

    "The island of Barbados was during the 17th century the great port of entry to the colonies in the western world. In the last half of the century it was a veritable hive of Quakerism. Quakers wishing to reach any part of the American colony sailed most frequently for Barbados, then reshipped to their definite locality. Quakers generally spent weeks or months in Barbados propagating their doctrines there and in surrounding islands before proceeding to their final destinations." (Gordon Trueblood)

By 1671, there was a huge community of Quakers in Barbados. Prior to the Quakers’ large-scale migration to Pennsylvania, Barbados had more Quakers than any other English colony. But on this island of sugar plantations, Quakers confronted material temptations and had to temper founder George Fox’s admonitions regarding slavery with the demoralizing realities of daily life in a slave-based economy — one where even most Quakers owned slaves.

They were one of the first Christian churches to encourage the slaves to join them resulting in the legislation of 1676 that made it illegal for blacks in Barbados to attend a Quaker meeting, and by the time a census was taken in 1680, some 500 of the 20,000 white people on Barbados were Quakers. Despite their efforts, the Quakers failed in their experiment to transform the culture of Barbados.

    According to historian Larry Gragg:

    "Ultimately, the Quaker movement on Barbados "ended with a whimper. They challenged the very powerful plantation power structure and lost ... It was an extraordinary challenge, but today there's little evidence that they had much impact. But they did have the local government frightened for two decades."
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