Caribbean planter compensated by the British government when it emancipated the 257 people enslaved by her in 1833. She was born free around 1760, either on Carriacou or Petit Martinique, near Grenada, to a white Frenchman and a free African woman he once owned and later freed. Judith’s childhood coincided with the Seven Years War, when British colonial rule replaced French and slavery expanded rapidly. By 1778 enslaved Africans outnumbered whites on Carriacou by 29 to 1. A small number of slave owners were free people of color, including Judith’s mother, Jeanette, who owns all of Petit Martinique and a 160-acre plantation on Carriacou, which Judith later inherited. The vast majority of African descended women and men on those islands, however, were enslaved and labored on sugar, coffee, and cotton plantations like Judith Phillip’s Grand Anse. Through shrewd acquisitions she became one of the most respected and successful planters in the region. Her success continued through the early 19th century, despite the pro-French sympathies of her brother, Joachim, who aided Grenada’s Fédon Rebellion and slave uprising against the British in 1795.
Judith then forged a business and family alliance with William Thornton, a British attorney and estate manager. Like many such couples in the Caribbean, they did not marry, but lived together (including a decade in London). Their five children all took Thornton’s name even though Thornton was by then legally married to an Englishwoman. In 1808 Philip returned to Carriacou. When the British government abolished slavery in 1834, she received over 6,603 pounds sterling compensation for her property of 275 slaves. That wealth was created in Grenada and the Grenadines by enslaved labor and free colored owners but it was not reinvested on the islands. Philip’s children all choose to remain in Britain, part of a wealthy Victorian elite who continued to reap the benefits of slavery long after emancipation.
Slave Voyages: The Liverpool slave ship, Judith, which disembarked in Grenada in 1758, two years before Judith Philip’s birth. http://www.slavevoyages.org/voyage/90640/variables
Details on the British government’s compensation paid to Judith Philip for the loss of her enslaved property (275 people) on three plantations
Brinkley, Frances Kay, “An Analysis of the 1750 Carriacou Census,” Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1/2 (March – June, 1978), pp. 44-60.
Candlin, Kit, The Last Caribbean Frontier, 1790–1815. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2012.
Candlin, Kit, and Cassandra Pybus. Enterprising Women: Gender, Race and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic, 1760–1840. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2014.
Phillip, Nicole. “Producers, Reproducers, and Rebels: Grenadian Slave Women 1783-1833” http://www.open.uwi.edu/sites/default/files/bnccde/grenada/
Steele, Beverly E. Grenada: A History of Its People (MacMillan Caribbean, 2003).
Steven J. Niven and Briona Jones
Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Oxford University Press (USA) African American Studies Center.