Memory of the World Register

Barbados, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, United Kingdom and United States of America - Silver Men: West Indian Labourers at the Panama Canal

The documentary heritage concerning West Indians and their experience in and contribution to the Panama Canal represents one of the most significant movements of voluntary migration to emerge during the post emancipation period after 1838. These records document the movement of over one hundred thousand people to the Isthmus of Panama, the majority of whom never returned. The highly successful recruiting process set in motion by the Isthmian Commission was ultimately responsible, both directly and indirectly, for the extraordinary pattern of West Indian emigration to Panama to work on the Canal project and the efforts of the colonial governments to control and mitigate this phenomenon, the magnitude and scale of which had the potential to erode further the power of the British Empire.

Photos: 

© Barbados Department of Archives Collection
© The Barbados Museum and Historical Society
© Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama

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