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Talking History with Orlando Patterson

Academic professor stops by SoFla for inaugural lecture

Why is Barbados so economically ahead of Jamaica? That was the question of the night, as esteemed Jamaican-born Dr. Orlando Patterson stopped by FAU Davie Campus this past weekend, delivering the first talk in new lecture series, “The Evolution after the Revolution: Jamaica at 60.”

The John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University presented his paper “Institutions, Culture and economic performance in Jamaica: A comparison with Barbados.” To a fully engaged and enthralled crowd, Patterson explained his analysis of how both countries’ distinctive colonial histories led to the economic and political disparities between the two Caribbean nations. Patterson argued that blacks during and after slavery were given more bureaucratic power than their contemporaries on other islands, due to the social conflict between the wealthy planter class and Barbados’ working class white residents, known disparagingly as “Red Legs.” He cited an early example of the colonial government decision to disband the white-dominated militia for a professional police force mostly dominated by black residents. This gave Barbadian early and practice exposure to Western-modelled political and economic systems, compared to newly liberated blacks after Emancipation in Jamaica, where many opted to live apart from colonial bureaucratic powers, preferring to live in independent rural communities.

The new lecture series is presented by UWI Alumni Association Florida Chapter, the Coalition of Jamaican Alumni Associations of Florida, and local education non-profit, Reading Pays More Inc., led by attorney and local community advocate, Georgia Robinson.

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