Monday, August 6, 2012

Slavery in Barbados - In Black & White

Originally inhabited by the Arawak Indians, Barbados has a very ancient history which dates back to about 1623 BC (the date was recently rewritten after artifacts were discovered around Port Charles)

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on the island but it was British Captain Henry Powell, who arrived with 80 settlers and 10 slaves and established the first colony there in 1627.

The expedition landed in Holetown formerly known as Jamestown. Today the small village of Holetown is located in the parish of St James on the west coast of Barbados in the middle of the most popular tourist area on the island

Colonists first cultivated tobacco and cotton, but by the 1640s had switched to sugar. Tobacco and cotton were heavily reliant on the indenture of servants. White civilians who wanted to emigrate overseas could do so by signing an agreement to serve a planter in Barbados for a period of 5 or 7 years.

The production of sugar was enormously profitable making it necessary to import more slaves to meet the growing labor demands. Africa was the obvious choice because the people were strong and Africa was closer than Europe. Also the ships could travel faster due to the trade winds.

The African slaves came from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon.  Eventually there was a large black population.
In 1645, there were an estimated 5,680 Black slaves in Barbados, by 1667 there were more than 40,000, and by 1685, the numbers had grown to around 60,000. In 1700 it was estimated that there were about 135,000 African-born slaves in Barbados. Around 387,000 Africans were shipped to Barbados between 1627 and 1807.

During the 1600's, there were 3 unsuccessful rebellions in Barbados; 1649, 1675 and 1692.

in 1816 a huge slave revolt took place, lasting for 3 days and killing over 800 slaves. This was the beginning of the abolishment of slavery in Barbados in which dates back to1834.
Emancipation Statue
In 1838 the Masters and Servant Act (Contract Law) made discrimination against persons of color in Barbados illegal.

Today the ethnic makeup in Barbados by race is: black 90%, white 4%, Asian and mixed 6%

Barbados remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted  in 1961. The Island gained full independence in 1966, and maintains ties to the Britain monarch represented in Barbados by the Governor General. It is a member of the Commonwealth.

By 1834 slavery was abolished in all the territories of British rule. This was mainly due to the Consolidated Slave Law (The Emancipation Act) and (3) major uprisings; Bussa Rebellion (Barbados - 1816) / Demerara Revolt (now Guyana - 1823) / Jamaica Revolt (1832). 

Because of the instability within the Caribbean, the British Parliament was forced to emancipate over 80,000 slaves at this time.
Here is a BBC documentary on White Slaves in Barbados. 
Very interesting. Please check it out

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