Memories of Jamaica and its Slave Economy
Sitting in his prison cell on the day before his execution, William Davidson reflects on his life and how it led him to this moment. Davidson was the son of a Scotsman and free black mother, and while his mother may have been free, many others were not. In Part One, Davidson talks about his life growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, and the labour-intensive sugar plantations around him. Slaves in these plantations laboured under the sweltering West Indian sun and worked long hours to produce sugar and rum for their masters. Some slaves ran away and joined the Maroons, a group of escaped slaves fighting to free their brethren from the lashes of their oppressors.
- 1786 – William Davidson born
- 1801 – Davidson boarded a boat to Edinburgh
Background to our William Davidson film:
2020 has also shone the spotlight on Britain’s colonial past and its role in the slave trade. We decided to tell the story of the Cato Street Conspiracy through the eyes of Jamaican conspirator William Davidson. We were able to film actor Michael Lyall in role so that we could highlight a significant individual in Black British history, whose story deserves to be more widely known.
Although the words of the story that follow are not those of William Davidson, they are based mainly on research undertaken by our volunteers Rebecca Simons and Amber Hederer from contemporary sources. Our key source has been: An Authentic History of the Cato-Street Conspiracy,’(1820) and the transcripts of the trial that are available from the Old Bailey Online website www.oldbaileyonline.org. Both of which have provided contemporary accounts of Davidson’s story that we have been able to adapt as if written by Davidson himself.
We are delighted to highlight William Davidson, a significant individual in Black British history, whose story deserves to be more widely known.