The term ’free village’ is used to describe the communities set up by freed men and women after emancipation. These communities were set up in different areas- on old abandoned estates, on unused crown lands, and in the mountainous interior in various territories. Islands with Free Villages included:
Factors which enabled these territories to establish free villages included: 1. Availability of land: land was important because it provided the best alternative for the freed slaves who wished to break away from the plantations. It could be used to practice small-scale agriculture which was the one occupation that most ex-slaves were skilled in.
2. Support given by Missionary Groups. These groups included: The Wesleyan Methodists
The Scottish Missionaries
Their main contribution was that they helped ex-slaves to acquire land by buying up large areas and re-selling it to their congregation.
3. The Efforts made by the ex-slaves, including:
Pooling their resources with other ex-slaves to acquire land.
Setting up schools and churches – in their desire for education for their children, many ex-slaves put up money and built schools which were to be run by different missionary groups. Often they provided money for the
maintenance of these schools, salary for the teacher and funds to support the church and minister.
A TYPICAL FREE VILLAGE
POPULATION: 200- 10, 000 people. (larger ones usually in Jamaica) SIZE: 100- 5000 acres of land
SCHOOLS : run by missionaries
FACILITIES: tanks, known as ‘lebitz’ tanks for water – rain water was stored here for all villagers. OCCUPATIONS: agriculture, small- scale trading, porters, fishermen, craftsmen, carpenters, shoe-makers, seamstresses.
RESULTS OF FREE VILLAGES:
1. Led to the growth of a large group of black land-owners in the island – 133,000 by 1900 in Jamaica. 2. Led to diversification of the economy – no longer a dependence on monocrop production 3. Opened up areas of employment for slaves
4. Led to an improved standard of living for ex – slaves. 5. Laid the foundation for the establishment of schools, churches and markets.