December 3, 2021

Statement from Professor Sir Hilary Beckles on “Liberation Day”

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Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, Friday, October 22, 2021. The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI.

In 1636 the English Governor of Barbados, Henry Hawley, under pressure from slave investors, and with the full support of King Charles I, declared that all black people brought to the island shall be deemed under law non-human, chattel, and property in perpetuity. The western commercial markets and their political sovereigns embraced and elevated the island as it became a unique and very special place.

From there on, the monarchy of Britain, as patron of the slave merchants and planters, wallowed in the slave-produced wealth and deemed Barbados “the richest spot of land in the world”. Queen Elizabeth I had laid the policy foundation for the crime; King James I and King Charles I built the political and constitutional slavery infrastructure. Through the decades down to Elizabeth II, the Royal family that had created and owned the “Royal African Slave Trading Company” ruled the island. 

But Barbados did not just become the first black majority Caribbean island, it was host to the first Black Holocaust. It was Britain’s genocide island. The British imported 600,000 enslaved Africans into the colony between 1627 and 1833. When the Act to end chattel slavery came into full effect in 1838, there were a mere 83,000 remaining on the island. Today, there are less than 300,000, half the number imported. What has happened to these Africans? Genocide. Slavery and genocide constituted the cause and effect of the business model.

Now black people are free from the monarchy and its parliament that had deemed their ancestors’ property forever. Independence in 1966 gave them the tools to complete their liberation. His Right Excellent Errol Barrow cracked the mould; The Honourable Mia Mottley shattered the remaining scaffold and dismantled its indignity. She proclaimed the end of the Empire and declared the country free at last.

It took the power and passion of two magnificent women to bring an end to the historic sin. Two women of consciousness, commitment and courage carried us over the line to liberty. Her Excellency Dame Sandra and Honourable Prime Minister Mottley are now the symbols of the new sovereignty. And this is as it should be. 

Since the 1730s women have outnumbered men on the island. Women have been the majority for some 250 years. The island has been a woman’s place for more than 70% of its modern history. No other colony or country in the Americas has such a demographic history. Barbados is unique in this regard. And so, the women have spoken and acted, and the final column of colonialism has fallen. 

The writing was on the wall the day that Mia had said Lord Horatio Nelson shall fall. One man, nonetheless, chose to walk from the House rather than stand his legislative ground. He will forever be remembered as the single soul who threw the mud that spoilt the Speaker’s score. Oscar Wilde, a century ago, had reminded us that he who throws mud loses ground. But today we stand secure on Mia’s land as all bar one hail the Republic!


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  1. Yvette Saul says

    Thank you for the article. I left Barbados when I was 14 almost 40 years ago, but it’s still home. I would love to read more about our specific history, especially as it pertains to the slave trade. I can recite chapter and verse on European and American history but just realized that my knowledge of Barbados and Caribbean regional history is lacking.

  2. Ricky Hope-Crichlow says

    Thank you Sir Hillary.

  3. Candia Alleyne says

    This moment in history brings tears to my eyes. I am an only girl child of my mother, born in Dominica, but with links to Barbados through my father’s family. I had 5 brothers. I too was taught British history about Henry 7th and 8th! I am so proud of this development in Barbados! You are the trail blazers for the rest of us in the region, continuing after a long break following Dame Eugenia Charles in Dominica. Recognizing the difference though, that you are taking us on a more comprehensive path, off the road of our colonial past. Thank you!

  4. Sir Hilary, another great speech outlining the specific passage of history as it pertain to slavery and the life of our forefathers hundreds of years ago here in Barbados and the West Indies.
    You have identified the very essence and the full reason for Barbados and the other Caribbean island to become Republic nations. Please you have to continue to provide us with short pieces like this every couple of weeks. This was so enlightening and thought provoking. Really, Barbadians and Caribbean people around the world need to hear the details and specifics about our history.
    No one better than you Sir Hilary to enlighten us in this way.

  5. Very enlightening. Advocated by a masterful historian.
    Thanks Sir Hilary, would be great if you put out short pieces like this every month focusing on specific details of Barbados and Caribbean history from that period.
    Barbadians and Caribbean people around the world need to know their history detailed in this manner.

  6. Jennifer Dale Reece says

    Africans everywhere within our diaspora must embrace Pan-Africanism creating the ‘force-field’ necessary to ensure that the atrocities; the genocide called slavery be atoned for, recompensed via Reparations, be perpetually remembered as a scourge never to befall other human beings. Britain,Spain, Portugal, France, America, Europe must pay.The racism still continues. The impoverishment from enslavement exists and grows just as the compounded blood-soaked wealth bludgeoned therefrom bolsters so-called ‘first world nations’. They Must Repatriate!!! This Will Help To Heal Our World!!!

  7. Thanks Sir Hillary ,very interesting .

  8. To say Barbados is a republic is not good enough for me I care more about the unemployment rate education standard and GDP of the island over the next 5 years.

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