Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Letter of the Day | Complete circle of Emancipation

Published:Wednesday | August 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Yesterday, the people who inhabit that part of the Caribbean that was colonised by Britain from the 17th to the 19th century, now called CARICOM, celebrated the 179th anniversary of the ending of that obscenity called slavery.

The struggle to end African enslavement in the Caribbean was a protracted and often bloody one, for Britain was opposed to ending a system that had brought so much wealth to its citizens and developed its nation, and brutally suppressed all liberation wars by anti-slavery activists on the ground.

By 1832, however, the writing was on the wall. The revolutionary actions of the enslaved, especially in the Emancipation War in Jamaica led by Samuel Sharpe, sent a signal to the colonisers that if Emancipation would not come from above, it would come from below.

This resolve, combined with the forces of humanitarianism on both sides of the Atlantic and political/parliamentary actions in the metropole, led to the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1833, to be effected in 1834, but actualised after a system called Apprenticeship, intended to end in 1840, was brought down by the anti-Apprenticeship lobby in 1838.

By this time, of course, Britain had compensated the planters with £20m in cash and £27m via the extension of the free labour system between 1834 and 1838.

The people of the Caribbean have achieved much since 1838, but there is still unfinished business to fully realise the promise of Emancipation the elimination of mental slavery that traps too many of our people in a colonial time warp, reparatory justice from those who wronged our ancestors, and the reorganisation of our post-Independence societies to ensure development and a more secure future for all.


Member, UN Committee on the

Elimination of Racial Discrimination