They were initially suspicious of me, but the fact that I had worked in the area helped to break the ice.And as one of them exclaimed, “Ah, that makes you Bajan.” The Redlegs have retained a racial pride and a degree of aloofness from their black neighbors, mostly marrying within their own community.
In 1689, the governor of Barbados, Colonel James Kendall, described the Redlegs as being “dominated over and used like dogs.” He suggested to the local assembly that the emancipated slaves be given two acres (0.8 hectares) of land, as was their due, but the assembly contemptuously turned down the request.
Today, the few hundred remaining Redlegs in Barbados, also known as the Baccra, a name they were given as they were only allowed to sit in the back row at church, stand out as anomalies in a predominantly black population, struggling for survival in a society that has no niche for them, looked down upon by both blacks and better-off whites.
Ann Banfield proudly shows me the photograph of her grand daughter’s graduation.
“If I need to eat, I go next door, and if they need to eat, they come to me,” 86-year-old Eustace Norris, who spent 30 years working in a factory in England before returning to Barbados, told me. Despite having lived in Barbados for a number of years, I had only glimpsed these conspicuously poor, bare-footed individuals hauling coconuts up the hill in the New Castle district of Saint John Parish on the east coast of Barbados.
In order to get to know them better, I spent time with them in 2000 and again in 20.