Though centered on a single Jamaican sugar estate, Worthy Park, and dealing largely with the period of formal slavery, this book is firmly placed in far wider contexts of place and time. The “Invisible Man” of the title is found, in the end, to be not just the formal slave but the ordinary black worker throughout the history of the plantation system.
Michael Craton uses computer techniques in the first of three main parts of his study to provide a dynamic analysis of the demographic, health, and socioeconomic characteristics of the Worthy Park slaves as a whole. The surprising diversity and complex interrelation of the population are underlined in Part Two, consisting of detailed biographies of more than 40 individual members of the plantation’s society, including whites and mulattoes as well as black slaves. This is the most ambitious attempt yet made to overcome the stereotyping ignorance of contemporary white writers and the muteness of the slaves themselves.
Part Three is perhaps the most original section of the book. After tracing the fate of the population between the emancipation of 1838 and the present day through genealogies and oral interviews, Craton concludes that the predominant feature of plantation life has not been change but continuity, and that the accepted definitions of slavery need considerable modification.