Sun | Jan 29, 2023

Letter of the Day | Mixed feelings as we celebrate Emancipation Day

Published:Friday | July 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM


As we celebrate the 179th anniversary of the end of slavery on the first of August, Emancipation Day, it is important that we fully understand what emancipation was all about.

Enslaved people had no say in how slavery, this crime against humanity, was to be brought to an end. What we now know was hidden from our eyes for over 100 years. The planters were paid £20,000,000 by the British government for their "loss" of business opportunity.

This £20,000,000 was voted on by the British Parliament, a forum in which the enslaved people had no say. It represented reparation to the planters for the loss of their slaves.

The abolition of our enslavement was originally scheduled to take place in 1834 by virtue of the Abolition Act of 1833.

The preamble of this Act stated: "For promoting the industry of the manumitted slaves; and for compensating the persons hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves."

This preamble clearly denotes that our freedom was inextricably bound up with compensating the planters, or, put another way, our freedom came about as a consequence of compensating them.

The hidden fact, alluded to above, is that slavery ought to have ended in 1834 however, the planter class was very concerned that the grant of £20,000,000 was not sufficient.




As a consequence, this powerful group of bloodsuckers lobbied for an ingenious, but inhumane and vicious concept, labelled "the apprenticeship system".

This apprenticeship system was intended to be a further four years of free labour for non-praedials and six years for enslaved field workers, given to the planters as an add-on to their already hefty and immoral payout of £20,000,000.

Happily, anti-apprenticeship lobby ended the system in 1838 and not 1840 as the planters wanted.

The experience of the enslaved peoples during this last lap of forced labour was the draining of the last ounce of blood from them to maximise the value of these final four years.

Historians have quantified the value of these additional years handed to the planters to be a further £27,000,000. The total payout to those who never cut a joint of cane or tilled the soil was therefore £47,000,000!

It is, therefore, with mixed feelings that we celebrate Emancipation Day. Our freedom, which we had to pay for; our enslavement, we have not yet been paid for.

The call for reparation must, therefore, go hand in hand with the celebration of August 1, 1838. £20,000,000 and four further years cannot be how the story ends.

Justice is overdue and we will not remain silent and dishonour those on whose shoulders we stand today to celebrate as a free people this coming Emancipation Day!

Bert Samuels

Reparation Council of Jamaica Member