Case Histories

I have found hundreds of reports of court cases of individuals prosecuted for religious crime in the Caribbean over the last three centuries. At some point, I hope to be able to make available a database of all this material. At the moment, that’s not feasible, so instead I have chosen to present a selection of some of the most interesting cases I found. The cases chosen reveal particular aspects of the way that the laws against obeah and against independent religion worked. They cover the periods from the late eighteenth century to the last case I’ve found, which took place in Jamaica in the 1960s. The first ‘case’ presented, that of the ‘Woman of the Popo Country‘, never came to a formal trial. The report instead comes from the writings of a Jamaican planter. The later cases are all based on trial records, some found in the archives of the Colonial Office, others in newspapers.

The cases can be accessed via the drop-down menu, or through the links below. They are:

The Woman of the Popo Country: a story about a woman whose name we don’t know, in Jamaica during the 1770s.

Polydore, an enslaved man prosecuted for obeah in Jamaica in 1831, and sentenced to transportation.

Pierre, a free African man convicted of obeah in Grenada during the period of apprenticeship.

Charles Dolly, a spiritual worker with a prodigious reputation, sentenced to imprisonment and flogging on multiple occasions between 1898 and 1908 for practicing obeah in Montserrat.

Rose Ann Forbes (Mammy Forbes) and her husband George, who operated a balm yard in Jamaica in the early twentieth century and were prosecuted twice, for obeah and for practicing medicine without a license.

Daniel Young, a migrant from St Vincent living in Trinidad, who was convicted of practicing obeah in 1931.

Cindy Brooks, a Jamaican woman who in 1964 was convicted for having received parcels including pamphlets and with using holy oil which came from the De Laurence company in the United States.

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