Round Table with Oscar
July 29, 2016

Emancipation, fact, fiction and function

One of the primary methods used to dominate a people is to take away from them the memory of their history. The first task in a liberation process will be for the people to recapture their historical memory, make it function again and so draw strength from it to pursue their emancipation (1991 Ruben Dri, Casa de las Americas, No 184).

Fact, Fiction and Silences surround our history as a people, and on the subject of European invasion, colonial slavery and its emancipation, the FFS complex is still very powerful.{{more}} At this season, as we approach the anniversary of Emancipation Day, some reflection on the fact, fiction and silence on this theme will enrich our memory.


The British Emancipation Act was not a revolutionary abolition of colonial slavery in British colonies. Under this Act, the estate owners:

Kept all the land, kept all the money from 200 years of slave labour power, got 20 million pounds extra money from the British government. On the other hand the former slaves received no land, got no back pay, and got only their naked labour power to survive on.

In short, Britain was embracing and expanding its industrial revolution, while holding back the Caribbean revolution that could make all one half million people strive to develop a society of justice here in the region.

The intention of the British lawmakers was not to yield to the slaves an independent quality of life and relationships, but to settle their conscience, and also make of the slaves grateful well-behaved servants.


After Emancipation, the fiction spread that the new labourers downed their arms and stopped working on the plantations/estates. However, our historians, like Douglas Hall, Woodville Marshall, Adrian Fraser and Walter Rodney, showed otherwise. As Rodney put it, the former slaves intensified their work on the plantations, but under conditions and for terms which they now negotiated with the estates. More than that, these new workers had a definite vision and goal which motivated them.

The freed Africans had a revolutionary vision to work, save and invest in recreating their own civilization. Of the 20,000 slaves in SVG in 1838, 15 years later, by 1854, 7,466 persons were living in new villages built since emancipation! They were quitting estate residence, not work, seeking their own great new space. There was no lazy man syndrome, people sleeping under coconut trees and drinking rum during day-time, as the fiction held. Post-emancipation workers were a militant enterprising vanguard, seeking a counter community, an alternative homeland.


The function of emancipation focus is to reconnect, or restore the story in our consciousness, to reclaim the dignity of our fore parents, to draw confidence from their exploits, and from the unbroken spirt of their leaders at all levels. Most of all, the function of emancipation is to inspire emancipatory theory to ensure and take us further towards ‘Never Again Slavery,’ a set of principles and a narrative/commentary for inventing a community that develops each person within the same process that develops all persons, with no one left aside or behind.

With a focus on emancipation, we do not remember a dead episode in the past. Rather, we reconnect to a stream and pick up on a journey with insights that guide our strategies and steel our wills and solidarity for the emancipation that beckons us to fullness of life.

Our Emancipation anniversary 2016 demands that we join again the march towards a militant mentality, a resurgent memory and a community building vision. During the month long festival, an opportunity waits for us to seize it and come out knowing a clearer path of struggle and a destination of harmony, equity and peace for our nation and people.