African Slave Life Should Never be Reenacted — A Response

1787 medallion designed by Josiah Wedgwood for the British anti-slavery campaign

by Newton Alexander, St Patrick

This is the third year that the National heritage and Cultural Committee has been charged with “doing something” to celebrate April as National Heritage Month. I served on that committee for the first 2 years. Circumstances prevented me from taking part this year.

Not being party to the discussion which went on before the decision was taken to stage the “Reenactment”, I’ll limit my response to Mr Edwin’s assertion (of 26 April) ‘That Slave Life should never be reenacted.’

It is ironic that 2 days ago, The Grenada National Trust received an email from someone called ‘George’ berating The Trust for not “teaching about slavery” …and now this.

I don’t know anything about Mr Edwin’s background, but may I humbly point out that there is no unique method of “teaching history” and most certainly it is not the tedious fashion of stuffing enormous chunks of dates of events down the throats of students to be regurgitated at appropriate times to the glorification and satisfaction of teachers and ideologues with no one asking, or perhaps caring how much the students have learnt or even understood.

At this stage, may I point out to Mr Edwin that there is such a concept as “living history” where students, particularly young children are encouraged to ‘feel’ and wherever possible to ‘touch’ the events about which they are being taught. I am sure he is familiar with the term “learning by doing.”

One last point. He, like many people has linked the teaching of heritage with tourism. Valuable as tourism is to our economy, Heritage teaching, preservation and promotion particularly among the young is an activity in its own right. Its purpose is to educate our future generation about the road we have travelled to get to where we are today.

To conclude, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a graduate historian almost 30 years ago. When I suggested that we should look at a certain period in history with the possibility of teaching about it, I was told “ah can do dat, ah din study dat in university.”

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