So I was rummaging through the National Archives at Kew Gardens the other day – okay so maybe not rummaging but I was there with a specific purpose and strayed for a bit! – and I came across some Colonial Office correspondences between Jamaica’s Governor and the Colonial Office in Britian in February 1885 that spoke directly to the possible trafficking of Jamaican children to Haiti to serve as domestic servants in Haitian families. What?!
My historian’s curiousity got the better of me and now I am intrigued to find out more. Of course I did some digging and was surprised at what I found out so far:
- The first hint of any such trafficking activity came to the attention of the Jamaican authorities in March 1881 and again in July 1881.
- It was later suggested to the Haitian consul in Kingston (spelt Haytian in the correspondences) “to note on all Pass ports the names of British children who might go as servants to Hayti…” This was thought a good strategy to register the children and ensure that they were properly looked after.
- In January 1882 a man was identified as being involved in the “traffic” and “the Police were directed to watch the man’s movements.”
- The registering of Jamaican children working as servants in Haiti was not done as promised by the Haitian authorities and in 1884 the Haitian Consul in Kingston was again reminded “of his promise to show on the pass port the names and, when possible, the ages of all Jamaican children going to Hayti.”
- The Governor asked the Attorney General to draft a bill to regulate the traffic in children to Haiti.
That’s all I know so far. It seems this has been known to the authorities since 1881 but could not be confirmed as a definite traffic until 1884. This prompted the Governor to ask for the drafting of a bill to regulate the importation of Jamaican child labour to Haiti.
But more questions remain to be answered, such as:
- Who were the main characters in this traffic?
- Mention is made of a man being identified as involved in the traffic. Who was he and what was his level of involvement in the traffic?
- Who else was involved in the trafficking of children to Haiti as house servants?
- How many children were actually trafficked to Haiti to serve as house servants?
- Were parents willingly letting their children go to work as house servants in Haiti or were their children kidnapped?
As I am now hooked (line and sinker!) in this historical mystery, like any good investigative journalist I am faced with the intriguing task of getting answers to the 5Ws and 1H: Who, What, Where When, Why and How. Does anyone know of this bit of intriguing chapter in our country’s history? If you do, please leave a comment below and let’s talk.
Will I get my answers? I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!
Until next time…