Embrace the Caribbean

By: Barbara Chandler, Manager of Hannibal Square Heritage Center
February 20, 2024

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s also acknowledge how the Caribbean Diaspora has significantly contributed to the rich tapestry of Black history, leaving a permanent mark on the various aspects of society. By acknowledging and uplifting these contributions we not only honor the individuals and communities behind them, we also challenge the mandate to deny and erase Black History. It’s through our collective efforts that we can ensure a more inclusive and accurate representation of the Black experience, paving the way for meaningful progress and sustainable change.

Barbados and South Carolina Connections:

I recently learned about the interconnectedness between Barbados and South Carolina during the seventeenth century is an important aspect in Black History. The migration of enslaved labors from Barbados to South Carolina underscores the human movement within the Caribbean and the American colonies. This connection not only influenced the economy but also contributed to the social, cultural and political dynamics of both regions. Historian Peter Wood describes South Carolina as a “colony of a colony” highlighting the profound influence Barbados had on shaping Carolina’s early development. In making these historical connections, it continues to magnify the legacy of slavery and its enduring impact on societies in the Caribbean and in  America.


Harlem Renaissance Jamaican Author & Poet:

Claude McKay’s role in the Harlem Renaissance is also pivotal. His literary contributions not only showcased the talent within the Caribbean community but also provided a platform to address systemic racism and inequality. “If We Must Die” stands as a powerful testament to resilience and defiance in the face of oppression, resonating with the struggles and aspirations of all Black People.


Virgin Islands Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen:


Herbert H. Heywood and Henry E. Rohlen’s contributions as Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen highlight the significant role played by Virgin Islanders in breaking barriers and proving the capabilities of Afro Americans and Caribbean pilots in the United States military.  Their dedication and bravery paved the way for future generations and helped challenge racial discrimination within the armed forces.  It is unfortunate that Heywood and Rohlen did not live to see the full recognition of their service during the 2007 ceremony held by President George Bush. Honoring the contributions of individuals like Heywood and Rohlen is essential for ensuring that their stories are not forgotten and must be celebrated in connection to Black and military history.


I strongly believe by embracing the Caribbean Diaspora within the larger narrative of Black history we honor our shared heritage, struggles and triumphs that have shaped our collective identity. Join us this Saturday, February 24, from 2-4, to keep the celebration of Black history and culture alive at Heart & Soul. This year, we're honoring the Caribbean with vibrant music, captivating spoken word, dynamic dance, and inspiring art from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and the US Virgin Islands. It’s through initiatives like Heart & Soul that we can foster solidarity and amplify voices that have historically been marginalized or overlooked. 


Barbara Chandler, Manager of Hannibal Square Heritage Center

Native of St. Thomas Virgin Islands