Domestic Servant of White Militia Man, Barbados, 1830s

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Image Reference

J. Colthurst , "Journal as a Special Magistrate . . . 1835-36...", Boston Public Library, Manuscripts.

Caption, "West Indies-Barbados militia Sergeant Redshanks moving to muster." Shows lower-class white appearing for militia duty, accompanied by his slave-servant. The white is inappropriately dressed and the slave carries the rest of his uniform and rifle, while keeping up with the horse's pace by holding its tail. This drawing satirizes the military ineptitude and social pretenstions of poor whites ("redshanks" is a pejorative). John Waller, who lived in Barbados in 1807-08, described a horse-ride he took one day: "In the course of this ride, I noticed . . . a custom very prevalent here, and which to a European appears ridiculous. The negro slaves that accompanied us, took hold of our horse's tails to keep up with us. This is frequent all over the West Indies..." (A Voyage in the West Indies [London, 1820], p. 18). Another visitor to the West Indies wrote: "When a West Indian gentleman rides out to horseback, he is usually followed by a negro who runs after him with surprising swiftness; unwearied, he pursues, nor stops till he helps his master to alight" (Anon. Authentic History of the English West Indies [London, 1810], p. 41). The illustration also published in Jill Sheppard, The Red Legs of Barbados (Millwood, NY: KTO Press, 1977).(Photograph, courtesy of Boston Public Library, and the late John Alden).