TU students taking the interdisciplinary class “The Roots of Hamilton: Relics of Resistance in the Black Atlantic World” had the chance to travel to St. Croix. They were able to visit Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood home and see different sites of enslavement and freedom in the Caribbean. Psychology major and anthropology minor, Kimberly Bartlett shares her experience on the third day of the trip.
Today was our first day experiencing the island of St. Croix. We started the day off by going on a walking tour of Alexander Hamilton’s old haunts in the seaside town of Christiansted led by our wonderful tour guide: Yulette George. While we viewed many historical sights – the old customs building, the street where Hamilton lived, and where Hamilton worked as a clerk for importers – during our tour, my favorite was when we explored Fort Christianvaern. During the time of Hamilton, the fort was used as a prison and it was fascinating to go through the fort. It had finished raining a few minutes before we toured the cells, making the already warm, enclosed air feel suffocating.
Unbeknownst to me, there was a dungeon under the fort. What we had been touring before was reserved for free individuals, whereas the dungeon was solely used for delinquent slaves. The room was tiny. Many of the taller people in our ragtag group could not stand straight and had to hunch over in order to fit inside the room. There was a single barred window that allowed in some light and air into the space, but it was so small that it was almost insignificant. Honestly, I probably should have seen that coming. The longer I stayed in the dungeon, the more I needed the freedom of open space and fresh air. I craved it. It was only when Yulette, our tour guide, began talking about how slavery is a conversation worth having. She went on to say that it does us, as a country and a people, no good to try and move forward by ignoring a part vital part of our history.
Instead, that it should be accepted and acknowledged that we cannot fix the past, but we can create a better future. And, incredibly, it was then that I began to feel calm within this painful place.