Founder of Jenny Harriott Foundation to lead history project as Visiting Fellow of Oxford University’s Exeter College

Dr Deborah Gabriel, the Founder of Jenny Harriott Foundation is to lead a major research project on enslaved members of the Harriott family in Jamaica, after being elected as a Visiting Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford University.

Dr Gabriel’s Fellowship will run from 1 October 2024 to 30 June 2025. In addition to exploring and centring the lives of enslaved Harriotts’ in Jamaica, the research will also investigate familial links between various members of the Harriott family from England, who bought, sold, and owned slaves in the Parishes of Saint Elizabeth and Manchester, between 1789 and 1834.

Dr Gabriel’s project involves collaboration with Professor Christina de Bellaigue, Associate Professor in History at Exeter College, Oxford and Dr Dexnell Peters, Lecturer in Caribbean and Atlantic History, in the Department of History and Archaeology at University of the West Indies Mona Campus, Jamaica. Dr Peters was Project Director of Oxford University’s Exeter College and the Legacies of Slavery Report, and Professor de Bellaigue was a contributor to the project. Also collaborating on the project is Dr Miranda Kaufmann, author of Black Tudors and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Dr Kaufmann also has links to Oxford University having read history at Christ Church. 

Dr Gabriel, who has been researching her ancestral history ‘on and off’ since 2011, located her maternal great, great, great, great grandmother, Jenny Harriott, along with her great, great, great grandfather Francis Harriott, in the 1832 Colonial Slave Registry, at the National Archives, in Kew. Both were enslaved by John Harriott, who was born in 1803.

Relating her experience of the discovery, Dr Gabriel said:

“I had already located my Jamaican ancestors in the online slave register, but I wanted to see and touch the physical register. I felt a spiritual connection to my ancestors when I placed my hand on the parchment page they were listed on, closed my eyes and said a prayer for them. I also whispered to my great, great, great, great grandmother that I would ensure her history and legacy would never be forgotten.

“I am only here because of her love, endurance, resistance, and survival. I was inspired to establish the Jenny Harriott Foundation in her honour. I’m very excited about the opportunity to create a narrative of her life, as an act of unsilencing and emancipation.”

The primary output for the research will be a book edited by Dr Gabriel featuring chapters written by collaborators and contributors.