5. What other sources provide information on West Indian immigration?
There are various sources that one could use. For example, you could look at the Universal Negro Improvement Association records. The chapter records within the United States provide a wealth of information. The Negro World, the main newspaper of the UNIA, also provides a valuable resource, because frequently some of these island organizations would report the community activities. And so you might find some of these women, their names or their activities within these newspapers or within the UNIA records. Trying to trace individual women into Harlem or through New York can be a very difficult task. One could try to look at organization records, but theres no guarantee that ones going to be able to necessarily find Edith, the woman on this particular ship. But I think that the value of these documents is not necessarily in tracing one individual woman, but rather being able to understand the larger migration process, the experience of West Indian women in New York City and who they were.
Frequently they would state that they were coming only for a short period of time, for six months, for one year, for two years. And in that case, they might bring letters. They might bring various commodities, food items. Some items were very difficult to find in New York, and so their family members would bring food and maybe newspapers, word of other family members. But even beyond that, you find a large amount of exchange in terms of money, the remittances that were sent home from West Indian immigrants and then family members sending various goods home.
You can learn about the remittances by looking at Jamaica and other island census records. The postal records state that a certain amount of money, American dollars, came into Jamaica. Or a certain amount of money from the United States came into Trinidad. So youre able to trace that over a period of time. And the remittances make up another kind of fascinating feature of Caribbean history and almost a certain reliance on remittances within Caribbean culture.
And then through oral interviews, we can also begin to try to tease out some of this information, where you find a woman who may just have a job as a domestic, but she is sending money. She may have left her children back home in Jamaica or Trinidad, and so its very important that she send a significant portion of her earnings. So it becomes a matter of piecing various documents together and, again, the manifest records provide one part of that larger puzzle.
Some West Indians left family records, letters, that were written between family members in New York and family members in the islands in addition to various organization and association records, which point to the role of West Indian women in New York, their community activism. The records, again, led me all the way back to Jamaica, to try to piece together who these women were before they left Jamaica. The push factors in terms of why choose migration. And although I was not necessarily able to track one particular woman, I was able to begin to put together a picture of the process of migration. What went into the decision to migrate? Also, in terms of their occupations as domestic servants in Jamaica, which allows for a certain amount of comparison between life as a domestic servant in Jamaica versus life as a domestic servant in Harlem.