[Blackstudies-l] Two hundred years since the heroic Barbados slave rebellion

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Apr 26 02:51:09 EDT 2016


One of the positive aspects was that it acted as a spur to further serious
historical work on the legacies of British slave-ownership. We learnt, for
example, that David Cameron’s family—long before the current ‘Panama
Papers’ scandal—had a tradition of making obscene riches and profits
“offshore”. In this case it was by owning slave-worked sugar plantations in
colonial Jamaica.


lisaparavisini posted: " An article by Christian Høgsbjerg for The
Socialist Worker. April 2016 marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in
Dublin, a heroic uprising against the British Empire in its oldest colonial
territory. But this month also marks the bicentenary of an e"
Respond to this post by replying above this line
New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Two hundred years
since the heroic Barbados slave rebellion
<http://repeatingislands.com/2016/04/24/two-hundred-years-since-the-heroic-barbados-slave-rebellion/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: bussa_flag_forweb.jpg]

An article by Christian Høgsbjerg for *The Socialist Worker*.
<https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/42609/Two+hundred+years+since+the+heroic+Barbados+slave+rebellion>

April 2016 marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, a heroic
uprising against the British Empire in its oldest colonial territory.

But this month also marks the bicentenary of an earlier and less well known
heroic “Easter rising” against the brutality of imperial domination in
another longstanding British colony.

This took place in Barbados in 1816, where it has come to be known as “the
Bussa Rebellion” after one of its main leaders. “General Bussa” was an
African-born slave who died in the rising and later became a national hero.

The Bussa Rebellion represented the first of a series of notable “late
slave revolts” across the British West Indies which were central in finally
forcing the British to end colonial slavery across its Empire in 1833.

It saw an uprising spread until over half of the island was engulfed by the
insurgency. An estimated 4,000 or so rebel slaves managed to destroy a
quarter of the island’s annual sugar crop through arson attacks across 70
plantations.

The bicentenary of the moment in 1807 when Britain ended its formal
participation in the barbaric Atlantic slave trade was marked by a huge
public programme of events sponsored by the New Labour government.

One of the positive aspects was that it acted as a spur to further serious
historical work on the legacies of British slave-ownership. We learnt, for
example, that David Cameron’s family—long before the current ‘Panama
Papers’ scandal—had a tradition of making obscene riches and profits
“offshore”. In this case it was by owning slave-worked sugar plantations in
colonial Jamaica.

Slave rebellions against the British received no such public recognition.
Yet revolts like those in Barbados in 1816, Demerara (later part of British
Guiana) in 1823 and Jamaica in 1831-2 should be remembered and celebrated
as a part of working class history.

Abolition

These revolts gave the local colonial master planter class nightmares at
the time and also often made an impact in Britain itself. They inspired
many in the British movement for the abolition of slavery, and the emerging
British working class movement.

The period following 1807’s abolition of the slave trade in the British
Caribbean was supposed to be a peaceful one of slow steady transition.
There was talk of eventual laws to lift the worst aspects of the barbaric
bondage of slavery.

Instead, as historian Michael Craton notes, there was a “rising crescendo
of resistance” from the enslaved themselves, with each revolt from below
“more extensive, disruptive and influential than the one before”.

Barbados in 1816 was a relatively old and stable British slave colony,
whose last revolt had taken place as long ago as 1701.

The ruling planter class existed alongside a tiny white working class, an
intermediate group of about 15,000 “free people of colour” (people of mixed
African and European descent who were not enslaved) and 77,000 black slaves
working on about 400 plantations.

Planters

One important trigger for the revolt came when William Wilberforce
succeeded in forcing through a Registry Bill in the British parliament in
November 1815. This called for the registration of colonial slaves.
This was bitterly resented by local planter class in Barbados, who feared
it as a step which might lead one day to Emancipation and the loss of their
slave “property”. The enslaved of Barbados indeed interpreted Wilberforce’s
efforts in just such a manner, and now began planning in secret for a
rising to secure this Emancipation for themselves “by force”.

As a British colonel who would later interrogate rebel slaves noted, “they
maintained to me that the island belonged to them, and not to White Men,
whom they proposed to destroy”.

The rebel leaders were mainly an elite of experienced slave drivers, who
had been given positions of trust and responsibility by the plantocracy,
like Bussa, a “ranger” who was relatively free to travel around the island
as part of his work.

Yet as the later “confession” of one rebel slave on the Simmons plantation,
Robert, revealed, among the prominent rebel slave leaders was a literate
woman, Nanny Grigg, who had been inspired by the Haitian Revolution in the
former French colony of Saint Domingue, and had read that all the slaves in
Barbados were to be freed on New Year’s Day.

Her key message was that the only way to obtain freedom “was to fight for
it, otherwise they would not get it; and the way they were to do, was to
set fire”.

The rebel leaders met on Good Friday, under cover of a dance, and they
planned to rise on 17 April. It began prematurely on the evening of Easter
Sunday on 14 April 1816 with arson attacks on plantations in the south east
of the island which was the signal for a wider uprising.

Militia

While a minority of the free people of colour sided with the rebel slaves,
the majority of this intermediate layer in society had not been won to the
idea of revolt and instead sided with the white colonial elite as committed
members of the local militia, itself about 4,000 strong. The local British
West India Regiment—itself in large part composed of black troops, which
led to a degree of confusion on the part of the rebels—also swung into
action.

The rebel slaves, mostly armed only with pitchforks, soon found themselves
outgunned and outnumbered and were forced to retreat.

Within three days, “order” had been more or less bloodily restored. Only
two whites had been killed in the fighting, as the slaves had just damaged
property and plundered, but the counter-revolution was far more merciless
and ruthless. As one British rear admiral later noted, “under the
irritation of the Moment and exasperated at the atrocity of the Insurgents,
some of the Militia of the Parishes in Insurrection were induced to use
their Arms rather too indiscriminately in pursuit of the Fugitives” and
“put many Men, Women and Children to Death, I fear without much
discrimination”.

Contemporary estimates suggest perhaps 1,000 slaves were killed. We know
144 rebels were publicly executed in the aftermath, 170 were deported and
there were innumerable floggings and the torture of captives to extract
confessions.

The brutality and vindictive nature of the counter-revolutionary violence
led one white Barbadian to report in June 1816 that “the disposition of the
Slaves in general is very bad. They are sullen and sulky and seem to
cherish feelings of deep revenge. We hold the West Indies by a very
precarious Tenure, that of military strength only…”

Today the names of the once famous planters and generals who repressed the
revolt are rightly forgotten in the public consciousness, while the
inspirational fighters against colonial slavery such as General Bussa and
Nanny Grigg are finally beginning to get the belated recognition, attention
and honour they deserve.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
April 24, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/?cat=103> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-oYI

Comment
<http://repeatingislands.com/2016/04/24/two-hundred-years-since-the-heroic-barbados-slave-rebellion/#respond>
   See all comments
<http://repeatingislands.com/2016/04/24/two-hundred-years-since-the-heroic-barbados-slave-rebellion/#comments>

Unsubscribe
<https://subscribe.wordpress.com/?key=a1d4b733677dbe5602c8c120ef6cc9f5&email=lima%40geneseo.edu&b=fLhzI%7Ejqyu0pFIVAq%2Ff24OqOK%3FmeJaJqtTKmvchOvZ9Mhr%25Vq%2F>
to no longer receive posts from Repeating Islands.
Change your email settings at Manage Subscriptions
<https://subscribe.wordpress.com/?key=a1d4b733677dbe5602c8c120ef6cc9f5&email=lima%40geneseo.edu>.


*Trouble clicking?* Copy and paste this URL into your browser:
http://repeatingislands.com/2016/04/24/two-hundred-years-since-the-heroic-barbados-slave-rebellion/
Thanks for flying with WordPress.com <https://wordpress.com>
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mail.geneseo.edu/pipermail/blackstudies-l/attachments/20160426/eeb45d8a/attachment-0001.html>


More information about the Blackstudies-l mailing list