I am what you might call a “barrel child”, one of those who was left behind by a parent who took advantage of the liberal US immigration policies of the 60s and 70s. After ten years of being apart, our family reunified in America as part of what we call “chain migration” and perhaps the most painful period of our lives..
However, I discovered that in the 40s and 50s, the Migrant Farm Worker Act opened up migration to hundreds of Barbadian men who would come to the US to work as contract farm workers in Florida and then return home. Many of these men found opportunities to remain in America permanently and pursued the dream. Dennis Goring, my adopted Godfather and family friend, was such a man. He arrived in the US and was taken to a work camp in Belleglade, Florida where sugar cane was the main crop. Once the season ended, he would take a train up to Connecticut to work in the tobacco crop for the Tobacco Growers Association. He didn’t return to Barbados. He met and married a Floridian and they settled down in Connecticut with their four children.
In the early 20th century, hundreds of Barbados migrants were part of the wave that came to the United States under the War Manpower Act to replace workers who were absent due to war. While the majority of those Barbadians arrived at Ellis Island and settled in New York City, hundreds more went to Boston, Massachusetts and other parts. In the US, they met up with branches of the family who had helped to build the Panama Canal for the US government and ultimately came to live on the US mainland. My aunt Daisy was part of this wave. As a young woman in Barbados he worked as a housekeeper for a local family, but she wanted more. When the opportunity arose, she took the voyage on the Vauban, took up residence at a room house in New York City and started a new life. She left behind two daughters, Ruby and Shug. She married their father Richie King and he also moved to NYC where the family lived out their complicated lives.
But even before that, Barbadians, under British colonial rule, had been engaged in trade with the United States and were traveling back and forth to conduct business. The West Indies Trade between the Barbados and New England went on for 150 years. It kept the sugar plantations stocked with supplies and merchant ships busy across the Atlantic. Supplies that were shipped and traded included rum, sugar, molasses, and even our ancestors, the enslaved.