O’Marde wary of Prince Klaas doubters

ST JOHN’S, Antigua- Concerns have been raised about a recent research paper published by the Smithsonian which throws doubt on the nation’s only slavery era national hero Prince Klaas.

Chairperson of the Antigua & Barbuda Reparations Support Commission Dobrene O’Marde said such research is designed to weaken the reparations struggle.

“With the thrust for reparations gaining ground in this region and being placed on the international agenda more firmly, we are going to see a lot more reports like this,” O’Marde said.

“We are going to see a lot more attempts to either discredit the bravery and preparedness for sacrifice of African people to end enslavement or we are going to get a lot more of this renunciation of history,” he added.

O’Marde admits he cannot speak with certainty about the Prince Klaas rebellion but said he can see motives in the research paper.

The paper titled “Antigua’s Disputed Slave Conspiracy of 1736” and published by the Smithsonian – the world’s largest museum and research complex – notes some historians think the panicky British rulers of the island exaggerated the dangers of a lesser plot while a few doubt any conspiracy existed outside the minds of Antigua’s magistrates.

“There is no way of course that I can speak firmly about the King Court rebellion…but I am particularly worried about this attempt that we are going to see coming from very established sources across US and Europe to turn the pages of history against reparations,” O’Marde said.

Klaas was broken on the wheel for masterminding a plot which would involve slaves on a number of large plantations, and had at its heart a daring effort to destroy the island’s planters in a single great explosion.

The slaves planned to smuggle a 10-gallon barrel of gunpowder to blow up a building where a large ball was due to be held in St John’s in October 1736. The detonation was to be the signal for slaves on the surrounding plantations to rise up eventually leading to the establishment of a black kingdom.

O’Marde said the national hero’s story is important to the identity of Antiguans and Barbudans today.

“It’s important to the psyche of the people to understand the sort of thinking and mentality that essentially formed us and made us who we are,” O’Marde said.

The commission chair said he believes there is an effort to portray African slaves as docile.

“It’s important for us today to understand how firm that resistance was to the extent of the number of uprisings that took place across this region around that time,” O’Marde said.