This chapter examines the lives of St Helena’s liberated Africans after their condemnation to the Crown and subsequent liberation. The freedom afforded to the former slaves was – initially at least – of the most limited kind. Commonly, emancipation was followed by a period working as an unpaid labourer for the colonial government and, in the early 1840s, by a botched and exploitative apprenticeship scheme. Over the longer term, the influx of so many thousands of people to a small and remote island evoked a serious crisis. St Helena had a limited capacity for new inhabitants, rendering the solution of local settlement applied at Sierra Leone unviable. Emigration was a necessary recourse, thus drawing the island into the ‘Mighty Experiment’ of nineteenth-century labour migration across the British Empire. It was, however, a logistically complex and frequently vexed process, in which ideals of free choice for the recaptives conflicted with practical realities. The disapora of liberated Africans from St Helena saw the occupants of its depots scattered across the Atlantic world.
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