August 10, 2010
Dr Fraser takes historical trip down memory lane

The first in what the University of the West Indies Open Campus hopes to be a series of lectures, designed to stimulate national debate and discourse on emancipation, took place on Thursday at the campus site in Richmond Hill.{{more}}

Resident tutor and head of the campus Dr. Adrian Fraser gave the inaugural Emancipation Lecture, in which he took a historical trip down memory lane; focusing on the region’s colonization, slavery, emancipation and post emancipation.

With St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the focal point, Dr. Fraser started with the British colonization of this country which took place in 1763 and their attempts to set up the sugar industry here.

Dr. Fraser touched also on the expulsion of the indigenous Caribs and the introduction of slaves to the country.

The abolition movement headed by persons like William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharpe, and the effects of their work on the slaves as well as the slave owners, played a critical part in the slaves’ emancipation.

Fraser also touched on August 1, 1834, the day that the Emancipation Act came into effect.

“It was a Friday August 1, 1834. The slaves had spent part of the day attending church services giving thanks to the Lord.”

“Ebenezer Duncan, in his brief history of St. Vincent, states that the day was ushered in with loud praises to the Almighty God.”

“He writes ‘The lieutenant Governor requested that all chapels and churches in the island be open for general thanksgiving.’”

“At Kingstown, services were held at the Anglican Church and Methodist Chapel; the latter being over crowded with the black folk who began to assemble in the evening of July 31, sometime before midnight.’”

“Of course, the Methodist catered to the slaves, while the Anglican was the home of the planters. So it was not unusual that the Methodist chapel would have been overcrowded with the slaves.”

“Service began and as the clock struck 12 o’clock there was poured forth in the Anglican church, high praises in a psalm of thanksgiving, while in the Methodist chapel, a whole congregation of newly freed people leapt to their feet and sang with joy and thankfulness Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Blow ye the trumpet, blow’.”

So on that day 18,102 slaves became apprentices, along with some 2,959 children under six years who were fully emancipated. There were 1,189 aged, sick or otherwise incapacitated. The total ex-slave population was 22,250 and the total compensation paid to the planters was one million, six hundred and one thousand, three hundred and seven pounds.”

“… I refer to 1838 as the real date of emancipation (because) the slaves still had to undergo a period of apprenticeship where they worked a part of the time for their masters – free for part of the time. But a lot of the abuses of slavery continued….”

The lecture was followed by a discussion period, during which persons attending made their contributions to the event.

The series is expected to continue next year. (JJ)