Grenada Heritage: Slavery and negotiating freedom

Slavery and negotiating freedom

Photograph of indentured Indian labourers at Spring Garden Buildings. Jamaica, 1880 Cat ref: CO 137/497/29 f 519. Crown Copyright.Between 1662 and 1807 Britain shipped 3.1 million Africans across the Atlantic Ocean in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  Africans were forcibly brought to British owned colonies in the Caribbean and sold as slaves to work on plantations.  Those engaged in the trade were driven by the huge financial gain to be made, both in the Caribbean and at home in Britain.

Enslaved people constantly rebelled against slavery right up until emancipation in 1834. Most spectacular were the slave revolts during the 18th and 19th centuries, including: Tacky’s rebellion in 1760s Jamaica, the Haitian Revolution (1789), Fedon’s 1790s revolution in Grenada, the 1816 Barbados slave revolt led by Bussa, and the major 1831 slave revolt in Jamaica led by Sam Sharpe.  Also voices of dissent began emerging in Britain, highlighting the poor conditions of enslaved people.  Whilst the Abolition movement was growing, so was the opposition by those with financial interests in the Caribbean.

In 1790 orders were issued for the Flank Companies of the nine regiments that composed a peace establishment, here’s an extract:

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Orders issued for the Flank Companies of the nine regiments that composed a peace establishment, extract. Grenada, 1790. Catalogue reference: CO 101/31/6 folio 46. Crown Copyright.

Transcript:

I have had some conversation with Louis La Grenade, a Mulatto of this Colony, of considerable property, well known for many years, and upon many occasions, for his active services against the Runaway Negroes. He is now employed in suggesting this idea to his Friends, over whom he has great influence, from his character, property, and situation as Captain of a colored Company, attached to the St. George’s Regiment“.

UK National Archive Catalogue reference: CO 101/31/6 folio 46.

 

Report on Fedon’s Revolution, Grenada 1795.

Report of Fedon’s Revolution. Grenada, 1795. Catalogue reference: CO 101/34/9 folio 22. Crown Copyright.

Transcript:

Grenada 28th March 1795

My Lord Duke,
I have great concern in ac: quainting Your Grace that a General Insurrection of the French Free Coloured People broke out in this Island on the Night of the 2nd instant, and commenced by the massacre of the English white Inhabitants at Grenville Bay, and the seizure of the persons of the English white Inhabitants at Charlottetown and on several Estates in the Country.
The Lieutenant Governor had gone on the afternoon of the 2nd to the windward side of the Island and in attempting to return next morning to Saint George’s by water, was unfortunately captured by the Insurgents off Charlottetown in consequence of which it became necessary for me to assume the command as senior resident Member of His Majesty’s Council.

UK National Archive Catalogue reference: CO 101/34/9 folio 22.

 

After Fedon

The British slave trade officially ended in 1807, making the buying and selling of slaves from Africa illegal; however, slavery itself had not ended.  It was not until 1 August 1834 that slavery ended in the British Caribbean following legislation passed the previous year. This was followed by a period of apprenticeship with freedom coming in 1838.

Even after the end of slavery and apprenticeship the Caribbean was not totally free. Former enslaved people received no compensation and had limited representation in the legislaturesIndentured labour from India and China was introduced after slavery. This system resulted in much abuse and was not abolished until the early part of the 20th century. After indenture, Indians and Africans struggled to own land and create their own communities.

 


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