Round Table with Oscar
August 9, 2016

Emancipation language

In the accounts offered below I have tried to place struggles over colonial slavery in context and to show that anti-slavery was often imposed on metropolitan decision-makers by external pressures. (Robin Blackburn, 1988. P29; The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848) – my emphasis.

‘To emancipate’ has the Dictionary meaning of ‘to take a person or population out of the hand of another’. To emancipate enslaved people therefore means that some other persons or authority have to do it for the enslaved people, take them out of the hands of the slave owners. The slaves do not, cannot emancipate themselves according to the dictionary.{{more}} Another term, ‘Deliverance’ is sometimes used to describe emancipation, as in the August 1st theme, ‘Celebrate Deliverance… ‘ The dictionary meaning of to ‘Deliver’, in this context, is ‘to set free’, to hand over, to take someone out of a situation of distress or domination. The original Latin verb ‘de liberare’: to liberate from, became the English word, ‘deliver’. You may remember the emancipation message that Yahweh shared with Moses: ‘I have come down to deliver them (my people) out of the hands of the Egyptians’. Exodus 3.8. Again, we see here that slaves do not, cannot deliver themselves, someone else must do it for them. The language that we have used to speak about the ending of colonial slavery makes it clear to us that it was others, those with colonial authority and power who gave us freedom. An Act of the British Parliament, ratified by the British King set us free, emancipated and delivered us.


These terms Emancipation, and Deliverance, ‘mystify’ the August 1 story, suggesting less than a half-truth; that emancipation was a discrete Act, the outcome of a one-time discussion and decision in The British Parliament, rather than a long and bloody struggle and campaign. To speak of emancipation and deliverance attempts to erase from the record the life-and-death resistance of Africans on the continent, their revolt and escapes on the ships, their resistance in the slave pens, their open and their strategic rebellions on the individual estates and across estates, their retreat to the safe and militant hills and their ‘roundtrip’ seaways escapes. These two terms and others from ruling class vocabulary, elevate the virtual surrender of ‘metropolitan decision-makers’ into autonomous moral accomplishments, as if the enslavers acted on their own to set the enslaved population free. ‘Emancipation’ proposes a blotting out of the alliance that our fore parents forged with others in Britain to publish their stories and take their personal face to face testimonies to the British public and so deepen the moral and political economic content of the anti-slavery intellectual base. That is why some writers prefer to use words like ‘Overthrow’ or Abolition when they refer to the ending of slavery. Such expressions do bring to mind an effective movement of revolt, challenge and destruction. Robin Blackburn in his 500 page study makes the point right from the start, on age 29, ‘that anti-slavery was often imposed on metropolitan decision-makers by external pressures’. Parliament and King did what they had to do when confronted with militant peoples’ struggles in the Caribbean and in Britain. Emancipation was a tightly waged battle.


When we examine specific cases of deliverance and emancipation, we begin to see and appreciate that within deliverance… there is an antecedent influence. A jury delivers a verdict after its own deliberations, but based on how it interprets the argumentation and guidance given in the court, not out of its own imagination. It has the authority to issue the verdict, based on what others have presented to it. Similar to the Emancipation of women, the emancipation from slavery was not a gift from those above.

When for example, I order a suit from a tailor, or you, a set of curtains from a seamstress, he or she delivers it, but based on the specifications and features that we outlined. Deliverance is not a one-way street, from the maker to the receiver.

We too, like those who use the language of authority, speak of emancipation and deliverance from slavery, but as Mr Curtis King points out, we must unmask the relations, the trials and triumphs of our fore parents that led to the verdict: ‘Guilty of inhuman conduct and crass exploitation’.

We do not reject the ruling ‘class’ expressions ‘deliverance’ or’ emancipation’, rather we insert into them the underclass first cause and networking forces that resulted in the deliverance and emancipation. We imbue the verdict with the argumentation of our ancestors’ blood and strategy and courage and struggle. We constrain the jury to come to its divided conclusion, and the King to sign the Act and pronounce the Judgement; “FREEDOM”. Deliverance ‘from above’ had its foundation and driving force in the effective and resolute struggles carried out on the estates, in the hidden places and open rallies, outside of Parliament and the Royal Court.

Let us Celebrate Deliverance, Repair the Damage, this August 2016.

When this conversation continues, let us look closely at ‘Repair the Damage’ as emancipators.