Every year, I travel with a group of phenomenal women on a cruise to bond and fellowship in the name of sisterhood. It is also a time for me to get much needed rest. I have been doing African American historical tours for nine months and this cruise was just going to be laying on the beach with a nice cold Pina Colada.
As I was reading the excursions guide, I ran across a tour called the Good Hope Great Plantation. As I was reading the description, I wondered if it was a plantation where men, women and children were enslaved. Before, I booked the trip, I asked a personnel on the cruise who is Jamaican about the plantation and he told me that it was definitely a slave plantation. Even though, I promised myself not to do any black historical tours, I couldn’t resist this opportunity so I booked the tour. The tour company was Chukka Tours.
Good Hope Great Plantation was a sugar plantation where 3,000 enslaved men, women and children labored. The plantation is 600 feet above sea level and 2,000 acres. The plantation was built in 1755 by Col. Thomas Williams as a gift to his wife, Elizabeth Williams. Her husband traveled a lot so Elizabeth maintained the plantation with the overseer (an overseer was a paid white worker that supervised the slaves). Elizabeth died at the age of 24 in 1762. In 1778, John Tharpe at the age of 23 purchased the property. He was the largest slaveowner in Jamaica. The plantation is water resistant and made of wild orange wood. It was said that John Tharpe was nice to his slave that he built a church, school and hospital for his slaves. It is very rare that a slaveowner would provide these buildings for his slaves, but regardless even if he was nice to his slaves, they were still slaves who were kept on a plantation against their will and was not able to be free from bondage. The name “Great Hope” meant that the enslaved had hope that one day they would have their freedom. They felt the plantation would give them some form of hope. The original name of the plantation is unknown.
View from the plantation 600 feet above sea level.
The tour started at a small building near the Big House where Elizabeth Williams, the original owner, is buried. Her last request was never to leave Good Hope Great Plantation.
Elizabeth Williams buried on the lower level.
Elizabeth William's grave on the far left.
Elizabeth William's grave.
This wooden tee pee was used as a smoke signal for emergency purposes.
I went inside the Big House and in the dining room is a painting made by elementary school children with the words from Whitney Houston’s song “The Greatest Love of All.”
Lyrics of the song "Greatest Love Of All" is around the borders of the painting.
The plantation has been featured in a few movies. The dining room is where a scene from the movie “How Stella Got Her Grove Back.” The movies James Bond’s “Live and Let Die" and Jamaican bobsled “Cool Runnings” was made on the plantation.
Scene of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back" was filmed here.
In the backyard of the Big House was the Counting House that is now a Honeymoon Suite. John Tharpe said it was bad luck to do financial business in the Big House and used the Counting House to count money and take care of financial records. Former boxer, Lennox Lewis, spent his honeymoon vacation in this suite.
Counting House is now a Honeymoon Suite.
The lower level of the Honeymoon Suite was a hideaway for plantation owner, John Tharpe, used if there was a slave revolt.
A few feet away from the Counting House/Honeymoon Suite is a statue. I assume its an enslaved woman.
The enslaved used sugar kettles used to boil sugarcanes. Sugar kettles come in many sizes depending the production of the plantation. Today, these kettles are used for outdoor floral ornaments.
After touring the Big House, I got on the tour bus and we stopped at a few sites on the plantation:
The tour guide told a story, not sure if its true lol, there were more enslaved men than women on the plantation. If they wanted to court a female, in order to prove their love, they had to climb and tree with thorns and slide down.
We stopped at the ruins of a birthing home for enslaved women. The birthing home was separated from the slave hospital due to yellow fever and malaria that was prevalent during that time. The home was used to make sure that the enslaved mother and the baby were healthy.
The tour guide showed us the Ackee Fruit. It is a national fruit in Jamaica that was brought from West Africa. It was used as detergent for the enslaved women to wash clothes.
It is also edible but you have to be very careful. If you open the Ackee before it is ripe and consume it, you can die. The Ackee Fruit has to be fully riped when it open up on its own. The Ackee Fruit can be roasted, fried, cooked and baked.
One site that was not toured and talked about was the ruins of the slave hospital. The hospital is surrounded by graves. The hospital had 300 bed (150 for women and 150 for men) for the enslaved. In 1837, the slave hospital became a church named St. Peter’s Chapel . Over the years, when the congregation diminished, the church was in disarray and eventually was toppled due to Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The hospital is now a tropical bird aviary.
Below is the grave of John Harwood who was mulatto. His father was plantation owner, John Tharp, and his mother was a slave. John Harwood became an overseer on the plantation.
Inside the ruins of the slave hospital. Whenever I'm in an area where slaves worked and slept, I always touch any surface to pay my respects to my ancestors.
The slave hospital had two floors. The enslaved men and women were separated.
I am very happy that I toured this planation. I will definitely come back to learn more about slavery in Jamaica. With the beautiful beaches and resorts, there is a dark past of the many slaves that labored in Jamaica that needs to be told and honored.