Today my brother called me to wish me a happy ‘Freedom Day’. He was, of course, referring to the marking of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade by the British Parliament in 1807.
Though I understood his sentiments, I was at pains to point out to him that in the case of our ancestors (in Jamaica at least) real freedom or Emancipation didn’t actually arrive until August 1, 1838. The 1807 act abolished the trading of slaves by British subjects and companies, it did not free enslaved Africans, in Britain nor it’s colonies.
A second act was passed to abolish slavery in 1833 and was introduced with little resistance, due in part to continued revolts by enslaved Africans, the decline of the sugar industry and the work of abolitionists.
In Jamaica, all slaves were declared free on August 1st 1834. Yet still, the British instituted a system of ‘Apprenticeships’ designed to ‘prepare’ ex-slaves for life as free people.
This system was abandoned in 1838, and all apprentices were declared free. So you see, regarding Bicentenaries, this one is not really for descendants of enslaved Africans, we have another 31 years (if we’re Jamaican descendants) more if you are descended from slaves in other colonies).