“A God-damned Black son-of-bitch, we gotta keep the Black apes down.”…. Congressman Henderson Lovelace Lanham, Rome, Georgia
The aim of this exercise is to expose the truth as revealed in several sources of information. It is not, however, to take lightly, and/or to disregard the contributions of the other so-called ethnic groups of people to the development of the nation of Guyana.
Sunday, August 1, 2010 marks the one hundred and seventy - second year of the emancipation of physical bondage in the colony of British Guiana.
It is my contention. At least three principal questions are needed to be answered. They must be answered, in the most truthful a manner as humanly possible.
1.What have Africans in the Guianese experience achieved in that duration?
2.What have they squandered?
3.How they may reclaim what they have lost?
I would be remiss if I failed to point out that in that duration numerous scholars, social commentators, and spokespersons have perpetuated misinformation upon the unsuspecting masses of the Guyanese people. The ACDA is numbered amongst these disrespectful enemies of the Black liberation struggle in the colony of British Guiana. The agents of denigration of Black people claim Thursday, July 31, 1834 was the last day of perpetual bondage in British Guiana. Their claim gives the impression our ancestors were legally freed on Friday, August 1, 1834. More over, it is now 176 years after emancipation. Those claims are as ridiculous as they are all simply false. Those claims are as malicious as they are blatantly disrespectful to the struggle waged by the likes of Damon and the other freedom fighters on the Essequebo Coast and elsewhere in the colony of British Guiana. Lieutenant Governor Sir James Carmichael Smyth, was appointed to superintend the Apprenticeship in British Guiana. On Monday, August 4, 1834, apprentices along the Essequebo coast refused to perform more than half the work done during slavery. Local justices were alarmed and requested the establishment of martial law. The leaders of the disturbances were brought to trial in the Supreme Criminal Court in Georgetown. The indictment accused them of assembling together in considerable numbers and conducting themselves in a riotous and seditious manner. Damon was condemned to hang; four were sentenced to transportation, and 32 awarded corporal punishments. Governor Carmichael Smyth simply refused to pardon Damon. He issued some ridiculous statement that Damon seceded himself under another flag. Damon had run up a piece of clothing upon the flagpole of the church. By June 1835, Damon had been executed and of the four men sentenced to transportation, one had died; the other three remained in the Hulks at Woolwich. Lord Glenelg had become Secretary of State and Stephen employed his original arguments to convince Glenelg to pardon the three men awaiting transportation to New South Wales. The three prisoners were returned to British Guiana to serve out their Apprenticeship [P.P.1835 (278) L. pp. 179-207]. If they were totally freed, certainly, their stand would not have been brought to trial.
Major-General Sir James Carmichael Smyth was the Governor of British Guiana between May 26, 1833 and March 1838. It is clear Sir Lionel Smith acted as the Governor of British Guiana for the month of May 1835. Governor Carmichael Smyth issued no proclamation suggesting total freedom of Africans in the colony of British Guiana. Thus, the simple truth remains total and perpetual slavery was replaced by partial or limited freedom, Apprenticeship, on August 1, 1834. In fact, Apprenticeship, a new system of slavery, was scheduled to commence on Friday, August 1, 1834 and end on Friday, July 31, 1840. This fact informs readers that Saturday, August 1, 1840 was slated to be the first day of the emancipation of slavery in the colony of British Guiana.
Governor Smyth had informed Glenelg that all 15 stipendiaries would be required in British Guiana after the projected transition to freedom in 1840. Their presence, he argued, was absolutely essential to the impartial administration of justice: the Negroes would place no confidence in a system of planter-justices, and unless all of the stipendiaries were retained, the tranquility of the colony and the cultivation of estates would be seriously jeopardized. Governor Light concurred in the need to retain the full body of stipendiaries.
During the final months of Apprenticeship Henry Light succeeded Sir James Carmichael Smyth. However, for various reasons, Henry Light, the Governor of the colony of British Guiana saw it fit to expedite the process of freedom. In July 1838 Governor Light issued his First of August Emancipation Proclamation. Thus, Tuesday, July 31, 1838 became the last day of slavery in the colony of British Guiana.
Slavery as a legal institution was abolished on Wednesday, August 1, 1838 in the colony of British Guiana. Numerous ceremonies were held in various locations marking the occasion in the colony of British Guiana. The Governor Henry Light and other officials of his administration, Ministers of religion and others attended them. The Right Honorable Reverend Mr. John Richard Moore was recalled from Plantation Skeldon on the Corentyne River. He had been banished by the Anglican diocese. On Wednesday, August 1, 1888, Reverend Mr. John Richard Moore delivered the sermon, which marked the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation at St. George’s Cathedral in Georgetown.
Despatches and other items found in The House of Commons Parliamentary Papers clearly demonstrated the Africans begun purchasing land well over a year before 83 nationalists including five females, purchased Plantation Northbrook on the East Sea Coast of Demerara on November 18, 1839.
Almost immediately following the emancipation of slavery Africans began to purchase land. The purchases were as small as a few roods, and house lots, and as large as a few acres.
1.In August 1838, Tom Seikirk purchased a piece of land 21 roods from W. Napier
2. In October 1838, the representatives of Saffon sold Thrisby Cuche Lot of land 17 Charlestown
3.In October 1838, Thrisby Cuche sold half of lot 17 Charlestown and a quarter of lot 17 Charlestown to Dirk Willebers and John McIntosh respectively. (P.P. 1841(321): 211). The stated dates are likely those in which transport was passed.
It is beyond my imagination why the academic professionals continue to ignore the land purchases prior to Plantation Northbrook. Further more those conspirators continue to perpetuate misinformation. They continue to stated Africans purchased villages. Nothing could be more false. The simple and unadulterated truth remains’ Africans purchased abandoned Plantations. Those plantations were, for the most part, formerly cotton and plantain estates. It was the colonial authority, with a few strokes of their pens, established the villages. The Village ordinances, as they are called, commandeered the plantations owned by Africans. They turned the plantations into villages managed by colonial officials - such as Stipendiary Magistrates, Central Board of Health and the Inspector of Villages.
The period between November 18, 1839 and December 31, 1852 is referred to as the Village Movement. In that era Africans purchased numerous plantations beginning with Plantation Northbrook. Again, and it bears repeating, for whatever their reasons, the purchases of land, other than the plantations receive no mention whatsoever by the academic community. That’s really sad and perplexing at the same time - for there are ample sources of information - it is very difficult for me to admit that’s it possible for the acclaimed scholars of Guyana are all guilty of gross negligence, irresponsible and deceitful scholarship. Purchases were also made in Berbice as had occurred in the counties of Demerara and Essequebo. Several lots were purchased in New Amsterdam long before Plantation Northbrook was purchased. I know it is noteworthy to state here and now, that the Parliamentary Papers also states;
1.Roderick Merchant and two others purchased seven acres of Plantation Cumberland, Canje on December 27, 1839.
2.On March 13, 1840, John F. L. Cameron purchased one and three quarter acres of Plantation Cumberland, Canje.
3.John Monday Kirkwood and three others - Part of Plantation Cumberland, Canje.
4.William Alien - Part of Plantation Cumberland, Canje.
5.Hector Fothergill - Part of Plantation Cumberland, Canje.(PP 1841 (321): 239 -241).
It is my contention. The purchases of land by Africans between August 1838 and December 31, 1852 are the pillars of the modern nation of the cooperative republic of Guyana. The mouthpieces of the political parties, especially the PPP and the PNC, could attempt to rewrite history all they want, but the facts will always be unflattering indictments of those two personal platforms. The simple fact remains the founders of those two political platforms are not the nation builders, national heroes, and fathers of the nation as perpetuate by their followers and fanatics. The truth is. Our unsung heroes are the real nation builders. Owning land is the true basis of freedom. The freed slaves, the shareholders of plantations understood the Landed Proprietor is as free a man they could ever be under the politics of the colonial system of the British Empire. Our people continued to propagate an agriculture-based economy. Most were self-employed. They were primarily farmers. However, at the beginnings of the twentieth century, principally the second generation after the emancipation of slavery began to abandon the rural communities for salaried positions in the major urban centers in the colony of British Guiana. That in itself set into motion the decline of the village economy. They sold land their ancestors had purchased. It is doubtful that today, they could repurchase those lands. The process of migration from the rural communities did not stop at Georgetown, New Amsterdam, and Linden and elsewhere in the colony. Our people began to emigrate to the United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Panama and other political boundaries. The land owners began selling their land to members of the other so-called ethnic groups, prior to the movement of our people to the urban centers and overseas - How then could East Indians, Chinese and Portuguese become owners of land in the African communities in British Guiana? The Africans sold land to others. Yet, whenever they felt slighted, they rioted. Africans rioted three times against the Portuguese. The first was in 1847 on the East Bank of the Berbice River. The second was in Demerara in February 1856. The third was again in Demerara in March 1884.
A worrying feature remains Africans planted their crops. Then sold the produce at wholesale prices to the Portuguese. Then the Africans repurchased the commodities at retail prices from the Portuguese. Yet, the Africans wondered how come the Portuguese rose up to be the major business people in the African Communities. Also, the Africans got drunk at the Portuguese liquor stores. As late as 1872 there was less than 10 identifiable African owned liquor stores in the colony of British Guiana. I am sure I did not recall any with an East Indian name. That’s not saying that they were not such owned by East Indians. After all, in the last half of the nineteenth century, numerous East Indians adopted Eurocentric names.
On April 18, 1917, another important emancipation transpired. It was the abolition of the new system of slavery known as indentureship. The system of Indentured Labourers differed marginally from that of slavery. The Indentured Labourers signed a contract. The contract stipulated a number of conditions were to be met. However, in practice, those contracted labourers caught nothing but pure hell in the colony of British Guiana, 1835 - 1917. I am absolute; no Portuguese, East Indian and Chinese were celebrating any arrival day in British Guiana between 1835 and 1917. For crying out loud; the playing of tajah drums without permission was seen as a criminal offence. Can you imagine that?
I must argue that a third and perhaps, final emancipation is necessary in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. This emancipation must result in the abolition of ethnic cleavage. It must promote the greatest good of the Guyanese people. This sort of emancipation is absolutely necessary to move the Guyanese people into a semblance of national unity. It is my conviction, the ills of Guyana, is predominantly all man-made. They can be eradicated. The key to achieving such is education. The curriculum must be geared to reproduce a Guyanese mind set. The texts must show national interests and not British and/or European as it were prior to May 26, 1966.
Guyanese must emancipate themselves from the propaganda of the PPP and the PNC. I had assumed Guyanese people were intelligent people. Certainly, the slaves and the indentured labourers reacted to their oppression demonstrating self-worth and integrity. During the last 60 years, the facts have proven otherwise. They aren’t intelligent enough to understand that the consequence of 57 years of the PPP and the PNC are as retarding as almost 350 years of European colonization of Guyana. The avenue of migration remains the major form of Emancipation Guyanese has been enjoying over the last 60 years. Migration will continue to be a factor as long as such conditions as one US dollar being equaled to 205 Guyana dollars and more, high unemployment - scarcity of jobs. The skilled and unskilled labour force will migrate to nations where they fancy their chances of economic development are greatly improved.
Black people are the minority in Guyana. This has been the fact since the 1911 census. Black people (Africans) have to make a conscious effort to regain lost prestige. They need to do so not only in Guyana but wherever they dwell upon the face of the earth. The Africans must employ a self-help program. Some do-for-self programs as it were it-is-already-too-late and/or a do-it-right-now philosophy. (Courtesy of Malcolm X). They must examine what they gain by casting their ballots for the PNC. It is high-time, the people of the rural communities, especially those communities which were the leading lights as late as the 1920s analyze the roles of the political parties in their underdevelopment and stagnation. I am referring to those villages such as Victoria, Buxton, Friendship, Plaisance, Beterverwagting, Golden Grove and Nabaclis which continually throw away their vote behind the PNC for they receive nothing but devaluation and underdevelopment during the last 60 years. The Africans must begin to bargain their ballots. What are the Politicians and Political Parties have on their agendas for socioeconomic development of the communities? I am requesting that every rural community demand that the politicians show them what’s on their agenda for development of their community. It is high time, the Guyanese people become sophisticated voters and little by little begins to reclaim their stolen and/or squandered legacies.
I remain very proud of the generations of the nineteenth century. I am not at all respecting of those who supported the personal platforms, 1953 - 1997. I admire those who supported Nelson Cannon, Webber, Robertson, Straughan and others between 1887 and 1931. They laid the foundation for the struggle for political, Constitutional development in the colony of British Guiana. The roles of Bishop William Piercy Austin, the British Guiana teachers’ Association, and the Village chairmen’s Conference must not be underestimated.
The personal emancipation must be to ascertain knowledge of self. By that I am referring to acquiring knowledge of the contributions your representatives made to the development of the nation of Guyana. I support the cliche a man must know and not believe. Did your ancestor participate in the purchasing of land 1838 -1852? Can you identify your ancestors who were residents in the colony of British Guiana on Wednesday, August 1, 1838?
Long live the people of Guyana, everywhere. I pray that one day you will truly emancipate yourself and be freed of all the ills that handcuff you over the years . . . indeed that’s my prayer for all of humanity . . .
Hetep . . . the struggle continues . . .
Proclamation - Free Men of the First of August -The Royal Gazette of British Guiana, Saturday, July 21, 1838.
Editorial -The Royal Gazette of British Guiana, Thursday, August 2, 1838.
Parliamentary Papers 1835 (278) L. pp. 179-207.
Parliamentary Papers 1841 Session 1 (321) Papers relative to the West Indies. 1841. British Guiana. Copy of a Despatch from Governor Light to lord John Russell - Enclosure in No. 115 House of Commons Parliamentary Papers.
1.Transports of land passed to labourers in the counties of Demerara and Essequibo in the Colony of British Guiana, from 1st of August 1838 to 31st of December 1840 pages 211 - 215
2.List of Transports of land passed in the county of Berbice, from 1st of August 1838 to 31st of December 1840, to persons who had previously been apprenticed Labourers. Pages 239 - 241.
3.Return of Estates or Lots of Land purchased by the labourers in District 1, West Coast, County Berbice, as requested by C. H. Strut, Esq., Stipendiary Magistrate, by letter of the 9th December 1840, on the requisition of his Excellency, the Governor- General. Pages 241 - 243.
4.Statement of Transports of Land executed in favour of Purchasers (formerly Apprenticed Labourers) from 1st of August 1838 to 5th April, 1840, exclusive of Lots of Land situated in Georgetown. Pages 113 - 114.
Parliamentary Papers 1842 (479) XIII. Select Committee on the West Indian Colonies, Evidence of John Scoble, 4215.
Chanderbali, David (1994) A Portrait of Paternalism: Governor Henry Light of British Guiana, 1838 -1848. Georgetown, Guyana: Guyana National Printers Ltd., 1994.
Green, William A., (1969), The Apprenticeship in British Guiana, 1834-1838. Institute of Caribbean Studies, UPR, Rio Piedras Campus. Caribbean Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jul., 1969), pp. 44-66.
Payne, Hugh "Tommy" (2001) 10 days in August 1834: 10 days that changed the world. Brooklyn, N.Y. : Caribbean Diaspora Press, c2001.
Roberts, G. W. "Immigration of Africans into the British Caribbean," Population Studies, Vol. VII, No. 3, March, 1958.
Rodney, Walter (1981) A History of The Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905. Baltimore, Maryland. : The Johns Hopkins University Press, c. 1981.