Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Emancipation Day

Today is a national holiday....... Emancipation Day here in Barbados.
Every year on August 1st, we celebrate the abolition of slavery.  Yes, today we remember the day when all the slaves were legally liberated by the Parliament of our former British Empire.
We all know the very emotional story of the Slave Trade, which resulted in thousands of slaves being brought over from Africa to the West Indian islands to work on the plantations to cultivate not only sugarcane, but other crops as well. 
Here on the island, Emancipation Day is centred around Bussa, the slave who led the island's slave revolt in 1816.
Bussa was a domestic slave, actually a head Ranger, on Bayley's Plantation(*) in the southern parish of St. Philip.  Domestic slaves did not have to work as hard as the field slaves, and they thought that they were above the field slaves. They would also keep their masters informed of any planned slave rebellions, in order to gain favour in their masters' eyes.
Bussa's privileged position did not stop him from helping to plan the revolt. The desire to remove the oppressive white aristocracy and gain freedom was his goal.
Bussa  rose up against his master and led almost 400 slaves to revolt. They set fire to many cane fields. The revolt spread throughout several parishes on the island, including St.Philip, Christ Church, St. George, St.Thomas and St.Lucy. It was a tremendous blow for the white plantation owners, and it took about four days for them to gain control again of the revolting slaves.
Bussa was killed during the battle and all those who were involved in orchestrating the revolt were executed.
Even though the revolt was not successful, it left an indelible mark on the landscape  of slavery on the island.  Slavery was abolished in 1834.

Over a century later, Bussa was declared a National Hero of Barbados, and in his honour,  a 9ft bronze statue was created by Barbados's best known sculptor, Karl Broodhagen, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of slave emancipation in Barbados.
The statue is officially named "Slave in Revolt", and it symbolizes the "breaking of the chains" of slavery at Emancipation. It is situated at the Emancipation Roundabout, Haggatt Hall, St. Michael.

The inscription on the plaque reads as follows:
"De Ting come from England to set we free
Now Lick and Lock-up done wid
Hurrah fuh Jin-Jin."    
A Barbadian Folk Song

To commemorate Emancipation Day
August 01, 1834

At this site
On this Day
Barbadians gathered to pay tribute to the struggle of their foreparents in the fight for freedom.

And this day must forever live as a reminder to all of our people, that we should never ever again allow ourselves to become slaves or bond servants, whether physically or mentally.

Unveiled Aug 1st, 1997"

(*) Today Bayley's Plantation is the home of musician Eddy Grant, who also has his recording studio there.


  1. I'm not typically a person who likes to learn... Still, I love this history lesson.
    Thank you for that!

  2. I love learning something new every day. With kids around, how can you not help but learn something new every day? Kids are always coming with something new, be it homework problems or new lingo they have learned from their friends.
    Happy to assist with the history lesson.


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