This series of images were taken from a popular 17th Century cartoon series done about the life and exploits of a fictional character called Johnny Newcome, he was depicted as the atypical white male from the British Isles who came out to the island of Jamaica. This series attempts to highlight the life of a principal character who appeared along side Johnny Newcome while he stayed in Jamaica, Mimbo Wampo, his fictional Afro-Jamaican love interest. Through her we are made to understand and see the complexities which made up Jamaican life in the 17th Century and how those aspects still persist today in modern-day Jamaica.
The original cartoon was done by William Holland and published by him in April of 1803, at Codespur Street in London.
Johnny Newcome falls in Love
During the 17th - 19th Century, it was very common place for 'white' men in Jamaica to have a 'negress', as women of African descent were called at the time, as his mistress. Though the modern interpretation of these relationships almost always suggest that they were relationships of cohesion and rape. The truth is far more complex. As with all human relationships there is never the proverbial black and white line, there were many shades of grey as well. Love, social mobility, social advantage, and sex for financial gain or favour, was in fact as equally prevalent as coercion and rape. As can be seen in this segment taken from a 19th Century Jamaican Cartoon strip.
Johnny Newcome consults the Obeah man to win his Love
Consulting the local Obeahman, a practitioner of Akan Witchcraft was practiced by all facets of Jamaican society in the 17th to 19th century, and to a major extent they are still consulted today by a wide cross section of persons, however visits to the obeah man or obi man were usually associated mostly with the art of acquiring a loved ones affections, love potions and love knotting spells were most very common. But what is less known is that some White men were so enamored by the occasional 'Negress', that he too could be seen frequenting the dusty thatch huts of the 'Obi' man looking to gain her affections, through spells and potions, in Jamaican parlance,' to tie her or him to you' usually forever, or so it was believed, was the order of the day.
Johnny Newcome happy with his consort makes her the Queen of his Harem
Johnny Newcome, like so many white planters of his time, had a harem of ladies, a mix of enslaved women and free mixed race women, ranging according to the particular man's tastes from girls as young as twelve years old to as old as he wished. Jamaica's sexual consent laws were only changed in the late 20th century, from 12 years old to 16 years old. These women and young girls were often provided for variously, from the lofty status as Mistress of the Great House, if indeed there was no official wife present, to the well maintained enslaved girl who was allowed a small or large hut of her own on the estate, or the well looked after mixed race lady, with her beautifully constructed town cottage, however most only received minor financial assistance and a modicum of gift giving to appease the ladies heart. Such were the carnal pleasures of Jamaica in the 17th -19th centuries, for a man of means or should I dare say just a man, for even the Overseer, Estate Carpenter, mason, or whatever trade to the lowly Book keeper could have his fair share of ladies of African descent who was either enslaved or free. As long as his pocket could oblige.
The Young Mulatto Newcomes
1.Lucretia Diana Newcome, a delicate Girl very much like her Mother; only that she has a great antipathy to a pipe, and cannot bear the smell of Rum.—2 Penelope Mimbo Newcome. 3 Quaco Dash Newcome prodigiously like his father.—4 Cuffy Cato Newcome. 5. Caesar Cudjoe Newcome.—6 Helena Quashebah Newcome— 7 Aristides Juba Newcome.—8 Hector Sammy Newcome, a child of great spirit, can already Damnme Liberty and Equality and promises fair to be the Toussaint of his country.—9 Hannibal Pompey Wampo Newcome.
Mulatto children were the product of a Caucasian person and an African person or a Afro-Jamaican person. There were many laws designed to control the lives of these offspring if they were fortunate enough to be granted freedom by their White fathers. As all children shared in the social status of their mother's, so if a person's mother was a slave then all her children were as well, only through a process called Manumission could those children be granted freedom, usually at a high financial cost. If the children did not infact belong to their father as property. Jamaican society was heavily stratified and based on colourism. And its this stratification which evolved into our modern- day classism based society, where a person's colour can denote their social standing as it did in the centuries before Emancipation in 1838. This has lead to numerous stereotypes of dark complexioned people being stigmatized in Jamaican society irrespective of their educational level or actual social standing, in favour of light complexioned persons.