Birds and history around Paramaribo

This is a video about a Rusty-margined flycatcher (Myiozetetes cayanensis).

Suriname, 4 February.

The bus to Paramaribo passes Clevia. In the eighteenth century, Clevia used to be one of the plantations owned by Ms Elisabeth Samson. She was the first Black woman in Surinamese history allowed, after a long legal fight, to marry a white husband. Before that, in another long legal fight, she had been exiled from Suriname to the Netherlands “forever”. The background to that: Governor Raye tried to introduce some minor reforms, like allowing African slaves as witnesses in trials against their masters. There was much anger against those proposals among white slave owners. When Governor Raye asked her, Elisabeth Samson reported to him a seditious remark about the governor by a slave owner. This caused much anger against this free African-Surinamese woman among the slavocracy. Governor Raye shamefully betrayed her. Defamed as a “whore”, she had to board a ship to the Netherlands.

There, she got much insight into the trade networks between Suriname and the Netherlands. After her appeal against the exile verdict was granted and she was allowed to return to Paramaribo, this knowledge helped her to become a successful trader and plantation owner. Surinamese author Cynthia Mc Leod wrote about her.

Cover of book about Elisabeth Samson

South of Clevia, there used to be Geyersvlijt coffee plantation, owned by a German in the eighteenth century. The old manager’s mansion can still be seen from the road. It stands empty today. In front of it, an old well, with a rusty-margined flycatcher and a female silver-beaked tanager sitting on top of it.

Germans in Surinamese history: here.

A bit further, an osprey flying over the Suriname river.

Tri-colored herons. A juvenile little blue heron; still white, not blue yet. A snowy egret. Black vultures.

Later, in the numismatic museum in Paramaribo, another bird. Not alive, but on the paper of a banknote: the Guianan cock-of-the-rock.

16 thoughts on “Birds and history around Paramaribo

  1. Celebrate Black History Month

    On Black History Month we remember the contributions of African people in advancing humanity’s knowledge of science, medicine and philosophy. Also, we get a rich history filled with inspiring and courageous struggles against colonialism, imperialism, slavery and repression around the world and here in the U.S. Following are some selections from leftbooks honoring this legacy.

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    The Autobiography
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    As scholar, author, lecturer and organizer, Dr. Du Bois was a leader since the turn of the century in the movement for Black liberation. The story of his personal life is thus inseparable from the entire course of this struggle.

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    The World and Africa –
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    DVD: The Great Debaters

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    Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery
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    A beautifully rendered and true account from the life of the famous writer and activist Frederick Douglass. This book is a timeless reminder that freedom is something never to be taken for granted.

    Lee & Low, Hardcover

    No More!
    Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance
    By Doreen Rappaport. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

    Ever since the first boatload of human cargo sailed to the New World, people of African descent have waged a courageous struggle for dignity and freedom from slavery. Using true accounts, author Doreen Rappaport puts readers in the shoes of eleven extraordinary individuals, and documents many forms of slave resistance: subversion, uprisings, escape, poetry, religion and song

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    Candlewick, Hardcover, Important Dates appendix, Bibliography & Notes, Index, 60pp


  2. Allow me a remark about this: “There, she got much insight into the trade networks between Suriname and the Netherlands. After her appeal against the exile verdict was granted and she was allowed to return to Paramaribo, this knowledge helped her to become a successful trader and plantation owner. Surinamese author Cynthia Mc Leod wrote about her.”

    It is not right to say that Elisabeth got her insight into the trade networks between Suriname and the Netherlands during her period of exile and that that knowledge helped her to become a successful trader and plantation owner.

    Cynthia Mc Leod’s study about this remarkable woman clearly states that Elisabeth was born free; she has never been a slave and was homeschooled by private teachers, could read and write perfectly and play the piano remarkably. She even amazed the church leaders with her thoroughly knowledge of the bible at the very young age of 10 years old.

    Before her exile, Elisabeth worked for her brother in law and did most of his correspondence with different European traders. Besides that, she also owned her own business that imported a diversity of products from Europe, which she sold in Suriname. When this woman went to Holland (the Netherlands) she already was a very educated and rich woman. Before she arrived in the Netherlands she already employed a lawyer in that country to take care of her legal business in Holland.


  3. Hi Maria, thanks for your comment. In itself, you are right. However, I wanted to point out the paradox that the exile, intended as a punishment, in the long run helped Elisabeth’s business career. Indeed, she did already have her own business in Paramaribo before her exile, when she was in her early twenties. During her exile, she met traders in Holland face to face, at first hand: usually more effective for establishing commercial relationships than if one is dependent on mail by a ship which takes months to arrive. Also, in Holland she could see with her own eyes, not from some description in a letter from Amsterdam arriving in Paramaribo after months, goods not yet available in Suriname; but which people in Suriname might be interested in buying. Cynthia Mc Leod also describes how Elisabeth bought law books to study Dutch law in The Hague; that will also have helped her after she went back to Suriname.

    That she had been vindicated in the Netherlands by the highest authorities who had annulled her punishment will also probably have contributed to her standing in society.

    I wrote in the blog entry that paradoxically, in the long run, the exile “helped” Elisabeth’s business career; implying that it was not the only factor in her success, but one of a number of factors.


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