Grenada: Island of Spice

St. George's, Grenada, W.I.

St. George’s, is the capital of Grenada. The city is surrounded by a hillside of an old volcano crater and is on a horseshoe-shaped harbor.

Composed of seven islands, Grenada is a Commonwealth on the southern end of the Grenadines, an archipelago of over 600 islands in the Windward or Lesser Antilles. These islands are divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. As in the case of most of the West Indies, a timeline of recorded history in Grenada begins with Columbus’s first sighting in 1498, the subsequent French occupation (1650 -1783) and British colonization (1783-1974), and continues through various attempted coups and the short-lived American invasion of 1983.

Pictured from top: Nutmeg, cocoa, cumin, cinnamon, curry, coffee beans

Pictured from top: Nutmeg, cocoa, cumin, cinnamon, curry, coffee beans

On a more peaceful note, Grenada is presently known as the “Island of Spice” thanks to its prolific production of nutmeg and mace. These two spices along with cacao, coffee, rum,cinnamon, and some of the world’s best chocolate make Grenada a “flavorful” island to visit. However,underneath the surface of  this tropical paradise, the legacy of one early slave revolt is viewed by local Grenadians with pride – Fedon’s Rebellion. This revolt is seldom studied by historians despite the fact that Fedon modeled his revolution on that of Haiti and managed to hold off the British for over a year.

THE FEDON REBELLION (MARCH 2, 1795-JUNE 19, 1796)

A  lithograph from the representing Fedon's Rebellion.

Lithograph representing soldiers fightingFedon’s Rebellion.

The revolt apparently began on Belvedere Estate, owned by Julien Fedon, a disgruntled free mulatto who, in 1794 statethat he intended to make Grenada a “Black Republic just like Haiti”. Of French descent, from Fedon’s perspective, the revolt was intended to not only end the oppressions inflicted by British West Indian planters and free the enslaved, but also to empower Blacks and free coloreds to govern Grenada as citizens. However, from the perspective of the British government, the revolt was an insurgency sparked by the evils of the French Revolution, the misguided theology of the Quakers, and the support of “Republican” sympathizers in Guadeloupe and the other islands owned by France. This revolt lasted from March 1795 until June 1796 when the British finally dislodged Fedon’s band of freedom fighters and regained control of Grenada.

Grenada, the country, comprises 7 islands.

Grenada, the country, comprises 7 islands.

As a military rebellion, Fédon’s revolt was not a slave rebellion, but a revolt by the free coloureds in Grenada who were primarily of French descent and persecuted both as non-whites and as advocates for the principles of equality and justice promised by the French Revolution. Thus, the motivation for the Grenada rebellion contrasts sharply with the motivation behind slave revolts on other islands which were typically disorganized and motivated by the desire for freedom, and /or more humane treatment and working conditions.  Fédon had never been enslaved, his parents had never been enslaved, and at the time of the revolt he owned Belvidere Estate, a 450 acre estate purchased from a white planter who couldn’t pay the mortgage, and at least 80 enslaved workers.

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