Over this winter period the BBC had a three part story looking at the overturning of slavery in Jamaica. Starring Tamara Lawrence as July and Hayley Atwell as Caroline Mortimer it was one of the best things to come out of BBC all year round.
I know little to nothing about slavery in Jamaica, I know little to nothing about Jamaica at all so it was a interesting watch just to learn something new. At times it was difficult to watch as you can imagine and nothing seemed to ever get better for the characters even after transitioning from slaves to free people but it was made even harder to watch just because July was such a fantastic character.
We meet her as a free spirited young lady, taken from her mother at a young age by wealthy white people, renamed and trained to be a house servant, she didn’t care. She knew the lady whom she was serving wouldn’t get rid of her because she had no one else so our very first introduction to July is her stealing the pearl buttons off of her mistresses dress. Tamara Lawrence was captivating as July and in the first episode even when bad things happened you felt that she would over come but as the episodes went by and the things that happened to her got worse and worse you saw such a strong character slowly be broken down. Bit by bit.
She was human. I didn’t always agree with things she did, I didn’t always think she made the right choice but she made he human choice and you could never put yourself in her shoes because she went from being a slave who had no voice to a free person with no voice. Her former owners held all the cards in so much as they might have been set free but like most things it was up to the former slaves to pay back their masters for their freedom and then be dumped into “real life” of having to pay them rent for their homes and so on. Even when it came to things as simple as just saying no to a task their masters treated them like they were still slaves so whilst July had the attitude of not caring she also was stuck in a world that made little sense.
It was her relationship with Robert Goodwin that really defined her transition into a Free Person.
From the moment he walked onto the screen I felt we couldn’t trust him. A White man preaching kindness to former slaves who fell in love with July just to come up with a elaborate plan involving marrying Caroline just came across as wrong to me. He became the face of something much worse then a spoilt woman like Caroline or even one of the former slave owners. His decent into madness that led his entire work force away, made him attack July and ended with him and Caroline running back to England whilst kidnapping July’s baby Emily was easy to see from a mile off and Jack Lowden played it perfectly. I didn’t trust him and ended up hating him, just another person who wanted to be seen as a good person but who got a bit of power and abused it.
It was nice that the story ended on some sort of happy note but it was a hard watch from beginning to end.
Sad wasn’t really the word to use for it. It wrenched every last emotion out of you as you watched this woman, whose very existence was only due to a white man raping her mother, struggle through everything the world had to throw at her and still keep her individuality and this underlying burning passion to prove to the world that she was better then the world thought she was. She was more human then a lot of characters you see on TV and whilst as I said you’ll never understand her because you’ll never go through what she had too at the same time you felt you took every step with her.
Honestly the slow lead up to her losing Emily and Robert was one of the most difficult bits of television to watch, you kind of saw it coming but hoped he would snap out of it and really, truly be the nice man we all thought he was. It didn’t happen and it left you speechless as you realised that even another former slave would be so cruel as to take another persons child from them and run away.
Overall it was just a sad tale and one that was done perfectly by the BBC. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend finding it on iPlayer and giving it a watch. It is captivating, heart warming and at the same time one of the saddest tales you’ll ever see.