New Book—“Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the building of the Panama Canal”

Repeating Islands

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Acclaimed Jamaican writer Olive Senior has just published a fascinating non-fiction work—Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the building of the Panama Canal. Published by UWI Press, Mona, Jamaica, its release date is September 1, 2014.

Description: The popular West Indian migration narrative often starts with the “Windrush Generation” in 1950’s England, but in Dying to Better Themselves Olive Senior examines an earlier narrative: that of the neglected post-emancipation generation of the 1850’s who were lured to Panama by the promise of lucrative work and who initiated a pattern of circular migration that would transform the islands economically, socially and politically well into the twentieth century. West Indians provided the bulk of the workforce for the construction of the Panama Railroad and the Panama Canal, and between 1850 and 1914 untold numbers sacrificed their lives, limbs and mental faculties to the Panama projects. Many West Indians…

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