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Newsletter No 16 - Year of the Lash

A crowd of Afro Cubans protesting in the streets

Good morning, afternoon and evening, family,

First, let me apologise for being away last week; I hope you missed me; after taking some time out to be with my family, I came down with a nasty virus that I’m still recovering from. I’ve managed to muster up enough energy to put my fingers on the keyboard and am thrilled to present the 16th edition of my Black History Buff newsletter.

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Featured story: The Year of the Lash

an illustration of a enslaved person being tortured using a ladder

This week, we delve into a dark and harrowing period in Cuban history: the Year of the Lash, also known as the Conspiracy of La Escalera, which took place in 1844. This was a time when the Spanish colonial authorities brutally suppressed an alleged slave revolt and movement to abolish slavery in Cuba.

The Conspiracy of La Escalera (the ladder) refers to the cruel practice of binding slave suspects to ladders and whipping them with the lash during interrogations. Thousands of Afro-Cubans, both enslaved and free, faced execution, imprisonment, or banishment from the island as the Spanish authorities sought to maintain control and suppress any signs of rebellion.

Historians continue to debate the authenticity of the Conspiracy of La Escalera, with some suggesting that it was a pretext for Spanish authorities to crack down on abolitionists and the Afro-Cuban population. Despite this, there seems to be a consensus that some form of revolt was planned. Notably, British consul David Turnbull, expelled from Cuba two years prior, was convicted in absentia for being the "prime mover" of the conspiracy.

As we remember the Year of the Lash, let us honour the resilience and courage of those who fought for justice and freedom and work towards building a more equitable world.

I will be delving into this subject in greater detail over the next few weeks and will be sharing my findings in a separate post over at Steady HQ, so if you’d like to learn with me, head over to Steady HQ (Opens in a new window), bookmark the page and join me on my journey.

Links & resources:

For more information on the Year of the Lash and the Conspiracy of La Escalera, consider reading the book "The Year of the Lash: Free People of Color in Cuba and the Nineteenth Century" by Michele Reid-Vazquez. (Opens in a new window)

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