02 August 2010

Former and Current British Caribbean Colonies Commemorate Emancipation Day

Emancipation from slavery was won in 1834

The Emancipation Act
from blackhistorypages.net

Freedom, More or Less

On August 1, 1834, the Emancipation Act came into force, after fifty years of bitter debate in Britain over the morality and profitability of slavery. It did not abolish servitude, but it was the first significant promise of freedom.

This act did not make a difference to the more than half million slaves in Britain's Caribbean colonies, for although the Emancipation Act outlawed slavery in theory, the slaves had to wait another four years for the most elementary liberties.

The government was afraid of liberating half a million slaves without controls, while the planters did not want their estates to collapse, as forced labour would no longer be available.

The Emancipation Act simply transformed the slaves into apprenticed labourers for a further four to six years. The only slaves to be immediately free were those under six years old, while the incubus of slavery persisted for the others.

2010 Emancipation Day Message
Prime Minister Dr. W. Baldwin Spencer
Antigua and Barbuda

Address to the Nation
on Emancipation Day August 1, 2010
“Embracing the birth of a Caribbean Nation”

Fellow citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda, it is yet another occasion for us to take time out to officially recognize Emancipation Day 2010.

Our commemoration is not just about recognizing a historic moment, but the celebration of the birth of a Caribbean nation and people who share a common history and culture. This history is shaped by various factors, including the presence of indigenous Amerindian people, European conquest and colonization, the plantation system, slavery and eventualemancipation.

Emerging from this common history and culture iswhat we now call the Caribbean, a nation comprising of English, Dutch and French speaking countries with a total estimated population of over 14million people.

Our celebration of Emancipation Day 2010 should help us to begin the process of deepening our understanding and appreciation for the Caribbean as a Nation in order for us to further explore the contemporary realities of our current economic and social conditions and the future challenges of dealing with natural disasters, world economic and financial fall outs and threats to our region as a zone of peace.

As thelegendary reggae icon Bob Marley said, we need ‘to emancipate ourselves frommental slavery, non but ourselves can free our mind’…..

Emancipation therefore is not just freedom from the dehumanizing experience of slavery and plantation life, but freedom to chart a course and set an agenda for the future of all our people.

This process of emancipation is ongoing requiring us to become responsible citizens, honest leaders and disciplined patriots working for the good of all and betterment of our brothers and sisters.

The late Professor RexNettleford once said that…. “Our people were able to survive the traumas of separation from ancestral hearths as part of the transatlantic slave trade and the indignity of dehumanization in slavery for the vast majority by the exercise of their creative imagination. What results from this has been the germ of a culture which shares more in common than many like to believe. The products may differ one from another but the region shares a similar process of becoming.”

As an emancipated people it this process of ‘becoming’ a nation that grabs my attention as we engage in the celebration of emancipation and the promotion of our cultural festival carnival.

Fellow citizens and residents:

Over the past 176 years, we in Antigua and Barbuda and the wider Caribbean, including Haiti and Surinam, have catapulted into the 21st century with a strong sense of pride and knowledge that as an emancipated people, we are resourceful, skilled and ready to take our place in the global market.

We have given to the world the steel pan, the only acoustic instrument to have been invented in the twentieth century, legendary cricketers, reggae singers,athletes, actors, painters, writers and noble laureates, in economics and theliterary arts.

As a region we are evolving into an important and relevant player on the global geo-political landscape as we forged partnerships and bring to bear our creativeness in solving the challenges brought on by climate change, natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricane, economic and financial fall outs.

In this regard we are therefore challenged to strengthen our capacities and improve our attitude to work at the national and regional levels in order for the Caribbean to maintain and forge regional integration and improve its global competitiveness.

We must recognize that as a people we are now challenged to come together and build a strong alliance and community of support to ensure the rebuilding of Haiti in a timely reasonable manner.

The efforts of the main leader of the Haitian revolution, Francois Toussaint L’Ouverture, grandson of an African chief, must not be allowed to go in vain.

As an emancipated people we are now challenged to embrace, Haiti, the 'Mother of our Liberation’ from the oppressive and dehumanizing system of slavery. As a community we are now challenged to increase our advocacy efforts and work in solidarity to help the leaders of Haiti manage the political and economicprocess of rebuilding. It is also our task to ensure that the international community of nations stay true to their pledge of providing Haiti with the necessary financial and technical support that is needed for its short, medium and long term recovery.

Recently the Caricom Heads of Government strongly urged the international donor community to make good on the pledges and promises made to Haiti for itsrecovery and reconstruction. As a Caricom community the implementation of the action plan for the reconstruction and National Development of Haiti will be of paramount importance in the near future.

I want to take this opportunity to say a special thank you once again to the people of Antigua and Barbuda for contributing over $800,000.00 EC dollars to the people of Haiti. The efforts by the Red Cross, Friends of Haiti, private sector organizations , Ministry of Education and citizens for their generous contributions.

This kind of response is indicative of the how important it is for us as‘Emancipated People’ to work in solidarity and build alliances that will further our efforts towards full regional integration.

As we reflect on emancipation and we examine the current under development existing in Haiti after 200 years of liberating itself from the shackles of slavery, we will recognize how important it is for us as a Caribbean nation to speak in one organized and structured voice regarding the need for reparations as a means of seeking redress for the injustice suffered by African slaves and their descendents.


Therefore as a people, a nation and region, let us for Emancipation 2010 focus on ways that we could build solidarity and collaborative actions in our communities.

Let us be guided by the principles enshrined in the Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community, which is an important element of the regions structure of unity to deal with matters such as free press, a fair and open democratic process, the effective functioning of the parliamentary system, morality in public affairs, respect for fundamental civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of women and children, respect for religious diversity, and greater accountability and transparency in government.’

I therefore want to urge all Antiguans and Barbudans to embrace the birth of a Caribbean nation through emancipation and to continue the debate and discussions about reparations and to do so in solidarity with the rest of our Caribbean brothers and sisters.

Thank you and have a peaceful and dignified Emancipation Day.

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