A Response to Antonio Moore’s Comment About Chattel Slavery in the Caribbean: More Intellectual Dishonesty

What I find especially concerning about the ADOS movement is how easily the leaders of the movement are able to spread false information. What I find even more concerning is that as the ADOS movement continues to gain support on social media, there seems to be little attempt to correct some of these factual inaccuracies within the movement itself. This is also why I have said in the past that ADOS is intellectually dishonest because many of the movement’s leaders (and supporters like Cornel West) have resorted to misrepresenting information or blatantly lying about information to push a certain narrative. The reason why I began writing these articles to address these many false claims and to help properly educate people on these issues.

So much of the misinformation that comes from the ADOS movement are things that are so basic that it baffles me at times how these people can get it wrong. For example, around 14:50 in the video above, Antonio Moore says that chattel slavery did not exist in the Caribbean. He says very specifically that slavery in the Caribbean was “fundamentally different” from slavery in the United States, but Moore does not go into details about these differences — probably because no such differences really existed.

People who really believe this should read the accounts of slavery in the Caribbean by Mary Prince and Olaudah Equiano. Enslaved Africans in the Caribbean were treated like chattel, the same as enslaved Africans everywhere throughout the Americas. Prince and Equiano provide graphic detail about the various tortures that were inflicted upon enslaved Africans. Both Prince and Equiano were themselves subjected to some of these tortures.

Clairmont Chung demonstrates in this article that there was a direct connection between slavery in North America and slavery in the Caribbean. Chung explains:

When in September 1751 George Washington arrived on the island of Barbados, he integrated into a society carved by ‘American’ and British born colonists. The USA did not exist and the American Revolution less than two decades away. Instead, there were British colonies with little political difference be it Massachusetts Bay, Virginia, Nevis or Barbados. But already benefits from appropriating African bodies and labor were enjoyed by those that would become American and what would become America. Over the next four months Washington and his brother Lawrence dined nightly with Gedney Clarke a Massachusetts-born slaver and planter and cavorted with others of White British, American, and Barbadian born gentry. Clarke and his family were deep in every aspect of human trafficking across the Atlantic and the lands those captives cultivated including plantations in the Dutch administered Demerara and Essequibo[4].

Those meals the Washingtons enjoyed with the Clarkes were cultivated, prepared and served by captive labor of African ascent. The servers were no more Barbadian than the Washingtons or Clarkes were ‘American’[5]. That would come. The relation was of captive and captor. Similarly, Clarke’s estate in Massachusetts (Bay) was maintained on the backs of these Africans. This history had to be ignored by Dr. West and others in finding some separate and peculiar ‘American’ slavery apart from the enslavement system which the USA had a major hand in creating and maintaining; beginning even before there was a USA and continuing thereafter.

The Caribbean islands were often the first stop for many Africans before being brought to North America. In one of my books I gave the specific example of an enslaved African prince who was captured and brought to Dominica before being sold to the United States. There is also Denmark Vesey who was enslaved in the Caribbean and then brought to the United States where he gained his freedom. Trying to present slavery in the Caribbean as a separate system from slavery in the United States is completely ahistorical because the reality is that slavery throughout the Americas was the same system of chattel slavery, which reduced African people to being mere property, often to be disposed of as slave owners saw fit.

I am not sure where this “fundamental difference” exists, except for in Moore’s imagination. Moore uses terms like “chattel slavery” versus “plantation slavery” in an attempt to obfuscate the reality that it was the same system. It is telling that Moore just throws out these phrases, but does not even attempt to define the difference between chattel slavery and plantation slavery because there is no difference. Africans in the Caribbean worked on plantations just as Africans in the United States did.

This is not the first time Moore has done something like this. I wrote a prior article in response to Moore’s misinformed comments about CARICOM. Moore, like Yvette Carnell, has rejected Pan-Africanism, but still feels the need to comment on what is going on with Africans outside of the United States. The problem with this is that Moore simply is not informed enough to have these discussions. When Moore spoke on CARICOM, he gave the false impression that no one criticizes CARICOM for being against Pan-Africanism. The reality is that Caribbean people have criticized CARICOM for decades precisely because of the disunity among Caribbean political leaders, but Moore is apparently not aware of this.

This is also the same issue I raised when Moore suggested that people in Africa do not refer to themselves as African. You have to be very ignorant of African politics to believe that no one in Africa refers to themselves as African. Moore continues to speak in very broad and generalized terms to make it appear as if no one in Africa refers to themselves as African, when in fact there are numerous Pan-African organizations and political parties across the continent. Again, Moore probably is not aware of this.

I do not understand why Moore thinks lying about the experiences of Africans in other parts of the world will help advance the ADOS agenda. It also seems a bit hypocritical of Moore to highlight whenever Caribbean people expressed their support of reparations for African Americans, while at the same time downplaying the struggles that Caribbean people have endured by suggesting that there was no chattel slavery in the Caribbean.

Misinformed comments like the one that Moore made about slavery in the Caribbean is why people such as myself accuse the ADOS movement of being divisive. Much of the disunity that exists among African people is because we don’t understand each other’s history and struggles, and ADOS has only helped to contribute to this misunderstanding by misinforming people. It does not help the reparations fight in America to trick people into thinking that slavery in the Caribbean was fundamentally different than slavery in the United States, but it does help to further the division among African people by trying to create differences where none truly exist.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.