Enslaved Women and Subversion- Stella Dadzie

Entry Question

Do you have a particular life hack that helps you regain time for yourself, your loved ones, and the activities you care about?

Enslaved Women and Subversion: the Violence of Turbulent Women

In her chapter, Stella Dadzie presents a number of quotidian cases in which enslaved women presented opposition to slavery, subverted plantation hierarchies, resisted labor exploitation, and worked toward manumission (buying their freedom). Dadzie also looks at escapes, conspirations, and insurrections. Lastly, she examines how many enslaved women were conveyors of culture and spiritual and healing rituals. She considers these practices as forms of rebellion too because colonial and plantation systems were designed to discourage or fully eliminate African and Afro-descendants’ cultural knowledge.

Some examples from Dadzie’s chapter:

.refusing to do assigned tasks or going to strike (114-5)

.disobedience and negligence (119-21)

.physical or psychological retaliation (116)

.using domestic intimacy and sexual labor as a way to gain freedom (118-9)

.escapes (122-4)

.plotting and instigating rebellions (124-8)

.killing and poisoning their enslavers and overseers (128-30)

.learning new languages and European/colonial cultural practices while preserving theirs (130-2)

Oral presentation on “Enslaved Women and Subversion.”

Mejia De La Cruz,Juan M

Peralta, Monica A

Siddika, Shamma

Group Discussion: chain reactions

How enslaved and (free) folk defy, rebel, and subvert exploitation and oppression on a daily basis?

Briefly discuss examples from Dadzie’s text, the short stories and the novel we read, and/or contemporary examples.

Asynchronous Assignment on Wages Paid (Part IV, V and VI pages 47-72)

Asynchronous Assignment

In the comment section down below  write a response (225-words minimum) to ONE of these prompts (due on 3/16 before class):


Describe the match between Mary and Mr. Johnson. How she uses Mr. Johnson’s fears, anger, prejudices, and/or violence in her favor?


How do you interpret the increasing presence of Jamaican creole in these last parts? How this linguistic factor transforms the short novel? Do you think it is a sign of a changing social structure?


Could the end of the story be considered a revolt against the plantation system? Yes? No? Explain by referring to the text.


How do you interpret the title Wages Paid? Why do you think Carnegie choose that title? What systems of oppression presented by Carnegie in his novella are still present in our societies?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Wages Paid do you want to bring to the discussion?

Wages Paid (Parts III and IV pages 33-59)



Recap: character analysis:

Mr. Johnson: a member of a plantocracy; educated man aware of the latest news from Europe and the Caribbean; immoral (see Césaire); attentive of appearances;  a pessimist and pioneer of the breeding system in Jamaica.

Johnson: cautious with Mr. Johnson; father to many children in the plantation; aware of the repercussions of the breeding system and of the role of women in the forced labor camp; had pride in some of his daughters; had fears of having to copulate one of his daughters or to render her to Mr. Johnson.

Mary: spiteful; focused on revenge against Johnson and Mr. Johnson; she used psychological means and seductive performance to achieve it; she accepted the violent cost of it;

Oral presentation on Wages Paid “Part III Lunch and Part IV Early Afternoon.”

Colon,Amanda A


Part III: Lunch

Group Discussion

Group 1 and 2

How Cho Cho’s analyses the possibilities of rebellion by considering different generations of enslaved people (section VI 41-2)

Group 3 and 4

.How Johnson’s search for his daughter Alice demonstrates a different side of his life at the labor camp? What ideas he meditates on during his walk? How do you interpret the interaction between Johnson, Alice, and Abel? (45-47)

Part IV: Early Afternoon

How Mary achieved the first phase of her revenge against Johnson and Mr. Johnson?

Part IV (Section II 48)

Mary identifies Johnson and Mr. Johnson’s weaknesses: sex; Johnson’s daughter, Alice.

Part IV  (Section IV 49)

“Mary decides to work up a pretext to see Mr. Johnson and get the words  she wanted to his ears and let them stay there.”

“Dis food taste funny.”

Part IV (Section IV 52)

Mr. Johnson thought of how women could pressure men and “tear them apart in ways that were not necessarily physical.”

Part IV (Section VI 52-3)

Mary tells Mister Johnson that one of the enslaved women is “messin with your business.”

Part IV (Section X 53-54)

Mr. Johnson was frightened of poisoning. “Heavy damage in terms of loss of life.”

“She had upset Mr. Johnson, turned the tables on him without his really knowing, while he was feeling that he was in control.”

Part IV (Section XIV 55)

“Mary sneaked that in, nicely, slyly, under Mr. Johnson’s anger. She had successfully got it taken for granted that it was Johnson who was guilty…”

Part IV (Section XV 55)

Mary suggests that Johnson will poison the food again and that he is the one responsible for the spread of venereal diseases. She asks Mr. Johnson what is he going to do?

Part IV (Section XI 56)

“Mary had jolted him badly and caused him personal physical fear that his precarious world was falling.”

Part IV (Section XIII; XIV 56-7)

“You and Johnson really love woman”

“He realized that he was now talking to Mary like an equal.”

Part IV (Sections XVIII; XIX; XX; XXI 58-9)

After being punished, Mary gives the final blow by suggesting that Johnson should have sex with Alice, Johnson’s daughter as a way to get revenge and supposedly to cure his venereal disease.

Wages Paid (Part I and II pages 17-28)- James Carnegie

Written by Jamaican author and intellectual, James Carnegie, and first published in 1976, Wages Paid is a short novel set on a sugar plantation in Jamaica during the 1800s. Mr. Johnson, the owner, commands the bodies of any of the women he wants. He also owns enslaved men as studs and women as breeders. In Carnegie’s story, Mr. Johnson suspects he may have caught the clap from Johnson, his main stud. Mary, the cook, who has created some space for herself through her skills, has reason to want to punish both Johnsons for the way they have treated her. The novella explores gender and sexual abuses in the context of slavery and the construction of masculinity.

Key Concept: Breeding systems

The practices of enslavers of forcing the reproduction of enslaved people to increase their profits. It included coerced sexual relations between enslaved men and women, forced pregnancies, and favoring women who could produce a relatively large number of children. The objective was to increase the number of slaves without incurring the cost of purchase and to fill labor shortages caused by the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade during the early nineteenth century.


Oral presentation on the novella “Wages Paid: Part I Morning and Part II Mid-Morning”(Pages 17-39)

Buttigieg, Lourdes M

Cando, Kevin

Castro, Roky Baltasar

Plantation Society in Wages Paid (Part I 17-28)

.James Carnegie describes the plantation as a forced labor environment in which physical punishment and torture are daily occurrences. (17, 21, 27, 28)

.At Mr. Johnson’s plantation “privileges”  and rivalry exist between the plantation owners and the enslaved and among different enslaved people. Their roles in the plantation and within the breeding system, the proximity and service to Mr. Johnson, as well as gender and colorism were all factors that determined the hierarchy of the place. (18, 19, 20, 24, 25)

.Because of the breeding system in place, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases were common as well as gender and sexual violence. (18, 19, 22, 23)

Group Work

Wages Paid (Part II 28-39)

In groups describe the background and the physical, psychological, and emotional state of these characters:

.Mr. Johnson (I-V 28-31)

.Mr. Johnson (VI-X 31-33)

.Johnson (33-36)

.Mary (36-39)