The start of August marks one of the most significant events in Caribbean history. English-speaking countries across the Caribbean commemorate the end of centuries of oppression. August 1, 1834, marked the abolition of slavery in the former British Empire. Many consider the date to be the “birth of the Caribbean,” which is usually celebrated on the 1st of the month.
Emancipation Day was first established after the British Parliament passed the Slave Emancipation Act in 1833, “banning its policy of enslaving and transporting Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean islands.”
Today, this historic moment is commemorated in Britain’s former colonies in the Caribbean and Canada.
More than two million enslaved people toiled on sugar plantations in Britain’s colonies in the Caribbean during the slave trade. Over time, enslaved people began pushing back against the atrocities of slavery through massive revolts, including Bussa’s Rebellion in Barbados, Fedeon’s Rebellion in Grenada, and The Berbice Slave Rebellion in Guyana.
These acts of bravery helped pave the way for emancipation in the 1800s. In observance of 189 years since the end of slavery in this part of the Caribbean, here are some facts you should know about the journey towards freedom among these countries.
1. These Are The Countries That Celebrate Emancipation Day On August 1
Emancipation Day commemorates the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, St.Vincent and The Grenadines, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, The Bahamas, and The British Virgin Islands. August 1 is also observed as Emancipation Day in Canada as the date marked the end of enslavement there too.
2. Enslaved people Were Emancipated But Forced Into ‘Apprenticeships’
Even after emancipation was officially declared on August 1, 1834, the newly ‘freed’ enslaved people were forced into a period of apprenticeship. Apprenticeship was touted as a period to transition from enslavement into freedom while earning a small stipend. However, there were little changes in treatment and working conditions under apprenticeship. Formerly enslaved people in the Caribbean were still expected to remain on the plantations and continue to work for little to no pay. The system of apprenticeship was not abolished until four years later when the Parliament voted for complete emancipation to take effect from August 1, 1838.
3. Trinidad and Tobago Was The First Country In The World To Declare Emancipation Day A National Holiday
The twin-island Republic declared Emancipation Day a national holiday in 1985. The holiday replaced the country’s Columbus Discovery Day, commemorating Columbus’ landing at Moruga on July 31, 1498. August 1 was selected as the date because it was on that day in 1838 that the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect.
4. Slavery Was Abolished In The Caribbean Before It Was In The United States
Throughout the early 1800s, discussions regarding emancipation began throughout the Caribbean. On August 1, 1833, the Slave Emancipation Act was passed and slavery was totally abolished on August 1, 1838, after the institution of ‘apprenticeship’ ceased on August 1, 1834. Slavery was abolished in the French colonies in 1848. Slavery was not abolished in the United States until 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment, and slavery was formally banned in Brazil in 1888.