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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



The Chaney Children of the Danish West Indies: Slavery and Colonialism in Captive Performance

Rashida Shaw McMahon • Wesleyan University

February 21st @ 6 P.M. via Zoom: https://wesleyan.zoom.us/j/98168770558  

Chaney fragments, broken shards of European pottery from the 18th and 19th centuries, are embedded within the soil and surrounding sea of the island of St. Croix. A sign of enslavement, colonialism, wealth, possession, and industry, these shattered remnants were repurposed across two centuries by Black slave, and eventually emancipated, children who rounded out their edges and used them as coins and markers in their games. Advancing the label Chaney Children as a means of capturing the complex milieu of racial subjugation, captivity, violence, survival, and loss in which these Crucian children made toys from the artifacts of their oppressors, this talk meditates on the fragmented lives of two of these children who were taken from the island in 1905 and made to perform in an amusement park exhibit in Copenhagen. This project of restitution and voicing looks beyond the documented archive to sketch an incomplete picture of the silenced colonial legacies, consequences and trauma that are bound within these histories of stolen, caged, and lost Black Caribbean children.

Islands as Metaphor and Method
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