Introduction

Image of Ann Tuitt and Cornelius Jarvis. Part of a larger photograph of people serving prison sentences for obeah in the Antigua prison, 1905. TNA CO 152/287. Courtesy of The National Archives, UK

Image of Ann Tuitt and Cornelius Jarvis. Part of a larger photograph of people serving prison sentences for obeah in the Antigua prison, 1905. TNA CO 152/287. Courtesy of The National Archives, UK

Thousands of people in the Caribbean have been subject to prosecution for their religious and  spiritual healing practice, since the first law against obeah was passed in Jamaica during slavery, until the recent past. As well as the obeah laws, which still exist in many Caribbean countries, there have also been laws against specific religious groups, including the Spiritual Baptist faith, which was outlawed for a substantial part of the twentieth century in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, and Grenada. Other people faced prosecution for independent religious and healing work under laws against practicing medicine without a license, vagrancy, and ‘night noises’, among others.

Although stories about some of these individuals have been passed down within families, there has been little memory of most of them. Painstaking work in newspapers and colonial archives, however, has revealed information about hundreds of people who were prosecuted for crimes relating to religion between the eighteenth and twentieth century. This website tells some of their stories, explains the legal context of the laws under which they were prosecuted, and directs interested readers to where they might find out more.

Thank you for visiting. We welcome comments and feedback; please use the comments box below or on any of the pages, or use the contact us page.

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9 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. mghachem

    Great website on a very important topic. Thanks for undertaking this. Might be a good idea to draw attention to some of the Law and Religion/religious liberty blogs/sites if you haven’t done so.

  2. Diana Paton Post author

    Dear Malick

    Thanks for the comment. What are the sites that you’re referring to? I may add a ‘useful links’ page somewhere so it would be good to have some suggestions.

    Best wishes

    Diana

  3. Joan Cambridge

    Although obeah was legalized in Guyana in the 1970′s the practice is still frowned upon even by people of African descent.

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