The Cost of Freedom: The Violent Exploitation of Black Labor as Essential to Nation Building in Jamaica and the United States of America


  • Janelle O. Levy
  • Damien M. Sojoyner



With a specific focus on labor, our goal is to demonstrate the inherent violence located within nation-building projects that have performed the slippage of equating freedom with the freedom of people to choose their labor (i.e., wage labor). It is within this context that we situate “work” and “labor” as antithetical to Blackness. Similar to the transmutation of freedom to free labor by the financial and industrial class during Reconstruction, Western constructions of labor and work have been utilized as modalities to suppress liberation. Utilizing interlocutors within Black studies who have theorized the relationship between statecraft and Blackness, we foreground Blackness as a way to move beyond the geographic boundaries of nations in order to understand the intent of capital formations that have demanded the gross exploitation of Black labor throughout the African diaspora. To this end, while our argument is based within Jamaica and the United States, we utilize models of the plantation and the carceral state to demonstrate that the usages of labor as a racialized disciplining force are not bounded to national demarcations. Further, we document how Western nations react to Black radical organizing and communal development in order to suppress ideological formations that expose the decadent and corrupt nature of Western modalities of being that are centered on vile exploitation.