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. Continue Reading

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 themselves.’ (Select Committee 1842, para. 1280) Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

Race & Colour


The Barbados Mulatto Girl

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. Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

Labour Relations


climate and vegetation

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. Continue Reading

Leisure and Entertainment


west indian cricket team

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. Continue Reading

Caribbean Soldiers


British West Indies Regiment

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. Continue Reading

Caribbean Future


When the British Government appointed the Moyne Commission in 1938, it had hoped to
exclude constitutional issues from its investigations and recommendations. But, among the Commission’s recommendations was the recognition of trade unions and political parties, first in Jamaica and Barbados. Universal adult suffrage followed, Continue Reading