The Cost of Sugar

In her presentation, UC Regents’ lecturer Cynthia McLeod takes us back to the 18th-century Caribbean plantation colony Suriname. She presents Surinamese society through the eyes of two Jewish sisters, Elza and Sarith, descendants of the settlers of the “New Jerusalem of the River,” known today as the Jodensavanne, the oldest Jewish settlement in Suriname which boasts the first synagogue in the Western hemisphere. The Cost of Sugar is a frank exposé of life in the Dutch slave colony when sugar ruled as kind – and the tragic toll it took on the lives of colonists and slaves alike. 


Cynthia McLeod is a black Surinamese writer and activist. She is the daughter of the first democratically elected president of Suriname, Johan Ferrier. Her literary work is considered the main gateway to literature in Surinamese schools. As a former plantation colony, Suriname has a history that is deeply marked by slavery. Not surprisingly, then, slavery is the main topic in McLeod’s literary work. She not only focuses on the history of slavery but also shows how the social injustice that originated during the era of slavery continued to mark Surinamese society long after the abolition. McLeod is also a highly respected public intellectual who regularly appears in local media to discuss cultural and political issues.