A Jamaican Roots Actress Helps Bring To Life A Painful Story About Slavery In Jamaica

Born to an enslaved mother and white overseer father, July, played by Tamara Lawrance, right, was taken from her mother Kitty, played by Sharon Duncan Brewster, to be trained to be a ladies' maid. (Heyday Television Limited image)
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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 19, 2021: A PBS Masterpiece series is putting the spotlight on slavery in Jamaica and the 1831 Christmas Rebellion this Black History Month.

The story was brought to life from the 2010 novel, “The Long Song,” by British Jamaican novelist Andrea Levy, who sadly died from breast cancer in 2019 at 62.

Most interestingly, the new series also features another Jamaican link. Tamara Lawrance, who plays a teen girl forced to become an enslaved housemaid to plantation mistress Caroline Mortimer, played by Hayley Atwell, also has roots in Jamaica. Known as the Christmas Rebellion or the Baptist War, the 1831 uprising involved approximately 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 enslaved people.

After British troops were sent in, the strike quickly evolved into a slave rebellion. Before it ended on Jan. 4, 1832, 14 white planters and 200 enslaved people had been killed, with 300 more being executed by the Jamaican government after the uprising was quelled. The Slavery Abolition Act would be passed by the British Parliament the following year.

Lawrance was born in Northwest London to a Jamaican immigrant mother. “The Long Song” tells the story of an enslaved teenage girl named July (Lawrance), who was taken from her mother as a small child to become a maid for Caroline Mortimer (Atwell), the newly wedded owner of a prosperous sugarcane plantation.

Lawrance also hopes “The Long Song” further shines a light on the contributions Jamaica in particular has given the world.

“There’s a real power in Jamaican people that I think sometimes goes beyond what we can even fully comprehend. They’ve influenced culture in every corner of the Earth. It’s incredible,” she told NBC. “And a lot of that comes from that spirit of rebellion and of self-respect, and of knowing your own power.”

“The Long Song” is also notable for being the first Masterpiece historical series to center on the Black experience. The three-part BBC miniseries aired is streaming on PBS Masterpiece on Amazon Prime.