Making Freedom Exhibition

Making Freedom Exhibition

The MAKING FREEDOM exhibition, which celebrates the 1838 emancipation of nearly a million Africans in the Caribbean, has been on tour from January 2014.  After successful displays at the Marcus Garvey Library (London) and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in 2013, Windrush Foundation would like to give other organisations the opportunity to host the exhibition. Click here to download the form which has details on how this can be done. It is the first time that important collections from Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the National Maritime Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Archives, Anti-Slavery International, and the Imperial War Museum have been brought together in an exhibition on the Emancipation ...

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Introduction

Introduction

"Slavery is no more than a state of war between a conqueror with absolute power and the conquered…” (John Locke: 1632-1704) Windrush Foundation welcomes you to MAKING FREEDOM, the website that celebrates the 1838 Emancipation of nearly a million Africans in the Caribbean. It was on the First of August 1838 that nearly a million Africans in British colonies won their liberty, having been enslaved for all or most of their lives. Emancipation Day saw the re-birth of the African family unit which had been severely undermined by enslavers during the previous two hundred years. The initiative was led by African women who went out searching for and reclaiming their children from ...

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Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

The trafficking of Africans by Europeans began in the 1500s. From the time Africans were enslaved in their motherland, to the time of their arrival in the New World, they sought ways to rebel, to fight back and escape. There is, therefore, a long history of resistance to enslavement that began before antislavery campaigners took up the cause in the UK. Enslavers responded to those freedom-seeking acts with violence and repression, which prompted more African resistance. The constant threat of uprisings or their actual occurrence meant that there was a perennial state of war in the Caribbean, mainly over sugar.  In his book, Thoughts Upon The African Slave Trade (1788), John Newton, ...

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Haitian Revolution

Haitian Revolution

On every island and in every province in the Caribbean there were rebellions by enslaved Africans. Some lasted hours, others for several days. In 1763 Berbice (Guiana), Africans led by Cuffe (Kofi), militarily defeated their enslavers and placed a revolutionary government in power for almost a year. But it was the uprising in St Domingue (Haiti) from 1791 that was the most notable. Led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian Revolution brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of Africans there. Among those defeated were two French armies, a British army, a Spanish army and an army of local ‘whites’ and ‘coloureds.’ When Haitians declared independence on January 1, 1804, it was estimated ...

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Barbados Rebellion

Barbados Rebellion

Since the 1620s, Barbados was a British colony where the enslaved were worked to death to enrich British planters and investors. The Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807 made illegal the trafficking of Africans. To combat illicit transportation between colonies following this Act, enslavers in the British Colonies were forced by Parliament to keep ‘slave registers’, and they were first introduced in Trinidad in 1812. It caused some Africans in Barbados to feel that freedom was at hand, but that local planters were delaying the process. The patience of many enslaved Africans ran out. The inhumanity of plantation life and the struggle for freedom motivated African-born ‘Bussa’, and ‘Nanny Grigg’, a house ...

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Demerara Rebellion

Demerara Rebellion

In 1823, the British Colonial Secretary sent proposals t o the Governor of Demerara asking that the conditions of the slaves be improved (known as the 'amelioration proposals'). The Court of Policy in Demerara (British Guiana) examined the ‘Proposals’ on 21st July, 1823, and postponed making a decision. Under the belief that planters were delaying emancipation, a rebellion broke out under the leadership of Jack  Gladstone, the son of African-born Quamina. Jack’s surname was that of the enslaver Sir John Gladstone (1764–1851), who was the father of British Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809–1898). Out of an estimated 74,000 enslaved Africans in the colony about 10,000 took part in the rebellion. They were ...

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Jamaica Rebellion

Jamaica Rebellion

The rebellion in Jamaica was the largest in the British Caribbean, and it showed that enslavement could no longer be sustained there. The enslaved had believed that emancipation was about to happen. Baptist deacon Samuel Sharpe was the leader, and his plan was originally to refuse to work after Christmas 1831 unless wages were paid. However, their demands were refused, and with the burning of the Kensington estate in western Jamaica, the protest escalated into a full-scale rebellion. Over the following days it spread, eventually involving over 60,000 enslaved Africans, and damaging estates valued at over £1 million (about £1 billion in today’s money). The rebels were no match for the British Forces ...

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Abolishing Enslavement

Abolishing Enslavement

Revolutions, rebellions and riots in the Caribbean significantly influenced the dismantling of enslavement in British held territories. The enslaved were prepared to become martyrs for the cause of freedom. Abolitionists validated the rebels as agents advancing the anti-enslavement campaign, and acknowledged that the penalties they suffered after failed rebellions revealed the brutality of enslavers. Elizabeth Heyrick from Leicestershire openly disagreed in 1824 with William Wilberforce MP, other Members of Parliament, and the male abolitionists who were lobbying for the gradual emancipation of Africans. She boldly campaigned for immediate emancipation, declaring that the uprisings of enslaved Africans were ‘self-defence from degrading, intolerable oppression...’ The three major rebellions in British colonies should be seen as ...

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African Apprentices

African Apprentices

In St. Kitts, the labourers on the plantations had resolved not to return to work without pay. So, the authorities declared martial law, rounded up the striking ‘apprentices’, and forced them back to work. Harsh punishment, including flogging and imprisonment, was inflicted on them. Some were sentenced to the treadmill. In Trinidad, many Africans protested in Port of Spain for several days, and refused to listen to colonial officials, but local magistrates compelled them to do so. Some of the victims received corporal punishment, and forced to return to sugar plantations as ‘apprentices’. With pressure also from British anti-apprentice activists, including Joseph Sturge, a Quaker businessman, the British Government declared freedom for ...

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Compensation for Enslavers

Compensation for Enslavers

In view of the Jamaica uprising of December 1831 / January 1832 and the campaigning of abolitionists, the British government abolished enslavement in most British colonies in 1834. The 1833 Abolition Act gave the enslavers £20 million in compensation; enslaved Africans received nothing. At a time when the British state was much smaller, the £20 million represented 40 per cent of annual government expenditure. £15 million of the £20 million was raised in a loan led by Rothschilds (the bankers); the rest was paid through the issue of government stock direct to enslavers. (In 2013, the £20 million would be worth over £20 billion). Over the years that followed the 1830s, the ...

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Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day, 1st August 1838, was celebrated throughout the Caribbean and in other British colonies. In the Caribbean, the day passed off quietly, and some people attended church services. Thousands of Africans congregated in villages and towns to celebrate the end of enslavement, and to hope for its abolition in the United States of America. The emancipated Africans in Canada, along with American runaways, also adopted  the 1st August as an important expression of their anti-enslavement sentiments. Although emancipation was legislated by Parliament, the freedom of Africans was restricted after the 1st August 1838. Also, racially discriminatory laws were enacted, and African families struggled to make a living. After Emancipation Day, African ...

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Indentureship

Indentureship

With the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, planters anticipated a labour shortage even though the Apprenticeship system had forced former enslaved Africans to continue to provide free labour. Planters in British Guiana began to look overseas to obtain an additional work force. Despite the recruitment of African, Portuguese and other European labourers, it did not ease the labour shortage. Sir John Gladstone applied for permission from the British Government to recruit South Asians to work in British Guiana for a five-year period of Indentureship. Of the 396 Indians who arrived in May 1838, 48 had died by January 1839. By the end of their indentured period in 1843, an additional ...

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Race & Colour

Race & Colour

Caribbean colonies were dominated by a small minority of Europeans and, to some extent, a smaller number of 'coloured' people, with the majority Africans and Asian indentured population as the working people. Before 1838, some free 'coloureds' had become politically, socially and economically powerful. Although from the union of white men and African women, the 'coloureds' identified closely with the 'white' population and were aware of both their African and European heritage, though very proud only of the latter. During the enslavement era, some of them (mainly women) also became enslavers. Most of the 'coloured' people saw themselves as a separate ethnic group, usually renouncing their African heritage, and often refusing ...

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Morant Bay Rebellion

Morant Bay Rebellion

This rebellion was the largest since 1831/32 in Jamaica. On October 11, 1865, hundreds of Africans, led by Paul Bogle (1820–1865), a native Baptist deacon, walked into the town of St Thomas in the east of Jamaica. The major problem was the injustice they suffered. The people believed that they owned their provision grounds and that they should not have to pay high rents. In addition, there were repeated complaints about the low level of wages, often less than one shilling per day for plantation work. Governor Edward John Eyre declared martial law; he ordered British troops, including a battalion of the West India Regiment, to crush the rebellion. He also ...

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Making a Living After 1838

Making a Living After 1838

Emancipation allowed a small number of family members, who had been separated during enslavement, to be reunited. According to the Antiguan labourer Samuel Smith (1877-1982), 'People badly want to unite with the family - particularly the womankind. I hear that the women was [sic] furious and desperate to find their people.' There were strong feelings about the care of the elderly and the need for children to be kept from working on the plantations. African family units were cohesive: 'There is a connexion of the negroes that is not generally known in this country; that is, as godfathers and godmothers, which is as binding as the relation of the parents ...

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Religion & Education

Religion & Education

Spirituality and faith were most important aspects in the lives of the majority of Africans in the Caribbean. Before and after Emancipation Day they were under the influence of Christianity as churches competed for African membership and loyalty. Missionaries were usually the ones who provided their educational needs, and there was an upsurge of interest in particular denominations. Africans were put under tremendous pressures to abandon African spirituality and confirm to European versions of Christianity. But African religious influences remained strong. Many of them found it advantageous to preserve their beliefs, rituals and other forms of African spiritual systems by relocating them into Christian formats. Missionaries began to set up primary ...

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Leisure and Entertainment

Leisure and Entertainment

After 1838 cultural traditions gave rise to major festivals, like Junkonnu (John Canoe) and Carnival, and to significant musical forms like kaiso (calypso), mento which led to contemporary reggae, and to musical innovations like the steel pan. Most of the Caribbean colonies had some form of Christmas Festival which went through to New Year’s Day. During enslavement the period was the only extended holiday, and the custom continued after 1838. Junkonnu was important after Emancipation. When police tried to stop it in 1841 in Kingston, Jamaica, a riot followed, and British troops were brought in to restore order; the mayor had to hide on board a ship. Carnival were celebrated in several ...

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Labour Relations

Labour Relations

The end of enslavement in 1838 saw the enactment of laws that severely restricted the rights of labourers, making the formation of workers’ organisations a criminal offence. Some laws prevented them from owning land or property. Fines, physical punishment, imprisonment or eviction from homes could be imposed for breaking the laws. The economic situation for the vast majority of the Caribbean population by the end of the 1800s and early 1900s showed little difference to that which was imposed on them by planters before 1838. It was an era that had seen two industrial revolutions in Britain, and huge profits made by British companies, but at the expense of African workers. ...

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Caribbean Soldiers

Caribbean Soldiers

During the 1600s and 1700s enslaved Africans were taken against their will to fight alongside British soldiers, but the former usually carried the latter's ammunitions, etc, but were not allowed to carry loaded guns. The practice ended in 1795 when West India Regiments, comprising mainly of black soldiers, were formed because they were seen as being more capable of withstanding the tropical climate. There were many battalions within the West India Regiments deployed in the colonies to maintain order, to quell riots and rebellions. Also, they fought for Britain in the conquests of African colonies. The first and second West India Regiments were called to action during the World War 1 ...

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