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

I am sharing this from the wonderful Repeating Islands blog that covers all things Caribbean culture. Distinguished Jamaican writer Olive Senior, who is based in Canada nowadays, will be in Jamaica to give the 5th Biennial lecture from the National Library of Jamaica: “Colon Man a Come.” Here is some background information on her book, “Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the building of the Panama Canal.” Ms. Senior will deliver the lecture in Kingston this coming Sunday, September 21, 2014, at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall at 2:00pm; and also in Montego Bay on Sunday, October 1, at the Western Jamaica Campus of the University of the West Indies at 5:30pm. This should be a fascinating lecture, one not to be missed!

Repeating Islands


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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