Afro-Caribbeans are Caribbean people who trace their heritage to Africa in the period since Christopher Columbus's arrival in the region in 1492. Other names for the group include African-Caribbean (especially in the UK branch of the diaspora), Afro-Antillean or Afro-West Indian. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, most Africans arrived in the Caribbean during the era of the slave trade and were enslaved in forced-labour camps known as plantations controlled by Spanish, French, British, and Dutch colonial powers. Afro-Caribbean resistance, revolutions and uprisings led to the abolition of slavery, and their involvement in subsequent campaigns for independence led to the establishment of the region's nation states.
The archipelagos and islands of the Caribbean were the first sites of African-Diaspora dispersal in the western Atlantic during the post-Columbian era. Specifically, in 1492, Pedro Alonso Niño, a black Spanish seafarer, piloted one of Columbus's ships. He returned in 1499, but did not settle. In the early 16th century, more Africans began to enter the population of the Spanish Caribbean colonies, sometimes as freedmen, but increasingly as enslaved servants, workers and labourers. This increasing demand for African labour in the Caribbean was in part the result of massive depopulation caused by the massacres, harsh conditions and disease brought by European colonists to the Taino and other indigenous peoples of the region. By the mid-16th century, the slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean was so profitable that Francis Drake and John Hawkins were prepared to engage in piracy as well as break Spanish colonial laws, in order to forcibly transport approximately 1500 enslaved people from Sierra Leone to San Domingo (modern day Haiti and Dominican Republic). During the 17th and 18th centuries, European colonialism in the Caribbean became increasingly reliant on plantation slavery, so that, by the end of the 18th century, on many islands, enslaved (and free) Afro-Caribbeans far outnumbered their European rulers. Harsh conditions, constant inter-imperial warfare and growing revolutionary sentiments resulted in the Haitian Revolution led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines.
In 1804, Haiti, with its overwhelmingly black population and leadership, thus became the second nation in the Americas to win independence from a European state. During the 19th century, continuous waves of rebellion, such as the Baptist War, led by Sam Sharpe in Jamaica, created the conditions for the incremental abolition of slavery in the region, with Cuba the last emancipated island. During the 20th century, Afro-Caribbean people began to assert their cultural, economic and political rights with ever more vigor on the world stage, starting with Marcus Garvey's UNIA movement in the U.S., continuing with Aimé Césaire's negritude movement. From the 1960s, the West Indian territories began to win their independence from British colonial rule, and were pre-eminent in creating new cultural forms such as reggae music, calypso and rastafarianism within the Caribbean itself. However, beyond the region, a developing Afro-Caribbean diaspora, including such figures as Stokely Carmichael and DJ Kool Herc was influential in the creation of the Black Power and hip-hop movements in the US, as well as cultural developments in Europe, as evidenced by influential theorists such as Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall.
List of major figures in African-Caribbean history
^Martin, Tony. Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggle of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.
^Nigel C. Gibson, Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003: Oxford, Polity Press)
^Chen, Kuan-Hsing. "The Formation of a Diasporic Intellectual: An interview with Stuart Hall," collected in David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (eds), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, New York: Routledge, 1996.