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Celia Naylor

Celia Naylor is a professor in the Departments of Africana Studies and History at Barnard College, Columbia University. Her latest book is Unsilencing Slavery: Telling Truths about Rose Hall Plantation, Jamaica. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Naylor currently lives in New York City.

More than one hundred thousand people visit Rose Hall Great House in Jamaica every year, many hoping to catch a glimpse of Annie Palmer’s ghost, the “White Witch of Rose Hall.” After experiencing this plantation tour with her daughter in 2013 and leaving Jamaica haunted by the silences of the tour, Celia E. Naylor resolved to write about those people who actually had a right to haunt this place of terror and trauma—the enslaved. In Unsilencing Slavery: Telling Truths about Rose Hall Plantation, Jamaica, Naylor deftly guides us through the silences of the archives and unearths the names and experiences of the enslaved at Rose Hall in the decades immediately before the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. She then offers a careful reading of Herbert G. de Lisser’s 1929 novel, The White Witch of Rosehall, which gave rise to the myth of the “White Witch,” and a critical analysis of the current tours at Rose Hall Great House.

Naylor’s interdisciplinary examination engages different modes of history making, history telling, and truth telling to excavate the lives of enslaved people, highlighting enslaved women as they navigated the violences of the Jamaican slavocracy and plantationscape. Moving beyond the legend, she examines iterations of the afterlives of slavery in the ongoing construction of slavery museums, memorializations, and movements for Black lives and the enduring case for Black humanity. Alongside her book, she has created a website as another way for readers to explore the truths of Rose Hall:

Unsilencing Slavery: Telling Truths about Rose Hall Plantation, Jamaica is a co-publication of Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the University of Georgia Press.