Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, October 28, 2016

Please welcome Bish Denham

Thanks for letting me lurk on your blog, Karen! Today I’m going to share about one of first and most *successful* slave revolts to take place in New World.

1733 Was a Very Bad Year. There were 109 plantations on the tiny island of St. John in the U. S. Virgin Islands. The population was 208 whites and 1,087 blacks.

To supplement the food staples supplied by plantation owners (rice, flour, corn flour, and such) slaves were given plots of land on which to cultivate vegetables like okra, pigeon peas, and squash. They had to work their gardens after they had labored all day, and sometimes into the night. What meat they ate might have come from the sea or the occasional goat or sheep. Rarer, there might have been pork. Rarer still, beef. In good years, the slaves might have eaten quite well.

But like I said, 1733 was a very bad year. Early on there was a plague of insects (probably grasshoppers) which ate up crops. This was followed by a terrible drought and two hurricanes. These natural disasters led to hunger and deprivation, which led to unrest. Then, in September, an extremely harsh slave code was adopted, by which slaves could be punished in the most severe ways (hand, foot, ear, tongue amputations, terrible beatings, torture etc) for different infractions.

Among the 1,087 slaves, were a group of Africans call the Amina, a fiercely proud and intelligent people who had, in their homeland, been royals and slave owners themselves. It was they who carefully planned the revolt. For days before the first attack, drums could be heard across the island beating out messages. Then they went silent.

In the early dawn hours on November 23, 1733, a group of men, armed with cane knives, attacked the small fort in Coral Bay, killing six of the seven men garrisoned there.



The ruins of Frederiks Fort at Fortsberg at Coral Bay, St. John, where the revolt began. (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHABS_Frederiks_Fort_St_John_USVI.jpg)

The seventh man escaped and was able to get to St. Thomas to tell authorities what was happening. For six months the Amina held the island. Their goal was to take the island for themselves, run the plantations, and become independent. But it was not to be. The Danes, unable to capture or kill the rebels, eventually called in the French army from Marinique, which included among the 200 men, some Swiss and an extra 34 “free Negros.” Between the 23rd of April and the end of May, 1734, the rebels were beaten back. Those who did not surrender, which was most of them, chose instead to commit suicide. Those who did surrender, or were captured, were most horribly executed through torture with hot pincers, being burned at the stake, sawed in half, or having hands and heads cut off.

In the end between 30 and 40 whites were killed and 35 sugar plantations and other buildings were “pillaged and burned to the ground.” It made the Danish plantation owners uneasy, caused them to look over their shoulders, as it were.

Today the revolt marks the first step in a long struggle for human freedom which eventually led to the slaves, through their own efforts, winning emancipation in 1848. It is unique in that emancipation wasn’t given to them, as England gave freedom to their slaves. Nor was a war fought for them, as in the case of the American Civil War. It makes for a certain sense of independence and self-respect which Virgin Islanders wear with pride.
***
Although the slave revolt plays no part in my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, the violence and degradation of slavery does. In this excerpt, Sam and her best friend Nick come face to face with the brutality when they discover how the ghost that’s been haunting them, was killed.

Excerpt
He (the slave owner) has Ersgumé dragged out of the house, chained to a pole, and whipped until his back is raw and bloody. I cringe, remembering what I saw at the quarry; him kneeling, blood dripping from his shoulders, and the drops hissing as they hit the ground.

It’s getting hard for me to focus…. His suffering is more than I can take, and I want to turn away, but I’m locked in the waters of the bowl, and can’t shift my gaze away.

Bloody and broken, Ersgumé is half-carried, half-dragged between two other slaves. The white man leads the way. Slaves line the path. They’re keening and reaching out their hands wanting to touch Ersgumé one last time.

They take him to where the slaves live, crowded together in tiny stone huts. Near one of them is a dried up well. The white man orders the slaves carrying Ersgumé to throw him into the well. His pistol is drawn. They could refuse and overpower the white man, even run away, but they realize it’s useless. In time they’d be found and punished. There’s nothing they can do except obey him, even when ordered to throw dirt and rocks into the well.

Ersgumé is buried alive.

And here's the scoop about Bish's new novel.



Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.

It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? 

As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

Available now at:



About the Author

Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Bish, you can visit her blog, Random Thoughts, at www.http:/bish-randomthoughts.blogspot.com.
She can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BishDenham/Author
Twitter @BishDenham


10 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bish and Karen - good to see Bish here - and you've certainly reminded us of the horrors that humans can do to others ... and it's good you've brought it into the book ...

It is interesting how much history the Virgin Islands have come across ... and you bring folk lore and history to light in your books and posts ... cheers Hilary

Mason Canyon said...

Bish, congratulations on your release. I'm like Hilary in that I like that you bring folk lore and history together in your book. We humans, to tend to be inhuman sometimes.

Hi, Karen. :)

Thoughts in Progress
and MC Book Tours

Bish Denham said...

Hilary, There's so much history in the islands... I've only scratched the surface.

Mason, Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it's sad how we humans can be so inhumane.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I don't blame them for revolting, even if it didn't end well. At least the slaves did get their freedom in the end.

Stephanie Faris said...

I've seen this cover around and it sounds like such a great book. Congrats to Bish!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They did some grisly things to those slaves.

Karen Walker said...

Welcome, Bish - sorry I'm late to the party - but it's only 7 am here in NM.

Bish Denham said...

Diane, Indeed, they had every right to revolt.

Stephanie, Thanks for stopping by!

Alex, Slavery is never a good thing.

Thanks for letting me share my book on your blog, Karen!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Whipped horribly then buried alive? What an awful death. Many slaves died for the freedoms many have today. Thanks for coming Bish.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Congratulations on your release, Bish!! And thank you so much for sharing.