Emancipation Day

Public Holiday in Barbados

Barbados Emancipation Day

When is Emancipation Day in Barbados?

The holiday is always celebrated on 1 August unless the first Monday in August falls on 1 August, in which case Emancipation Day is moved to 2 August to accommodate Kadooment Day. This holiday marks the end of slavery in Barbados.

History of Emancipation Day in Barbados

As Europe expanded into the new world, Barbados became an English colony in the mid seventeenth century. It became an important producer of sugar cane and the need for labour meant that many slaves were brought from Africa to work on the sugar plantations.

In 1807, trading in slaves was abolished in the British Empire but not slavery itself.

Whilst there had been some minor slave revolts in Barbados, the largest rebellion in the island's history took place in 1816. The rebellion involved twenty thousand slaves from over seventy plantations. The revolt failed and 120 slaves were killed in the fighting and 144 were executed following trials. The revolt was led by the Bussa, the head driver on Bayley’s Plantation in St. Philip. Bussa died in the fighting and became one of Barbados' national heroes. His statue now stands at Emancipation Roundabout on the island.

Slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which came into effect on 1 August 1834.

Despite slavery having been abolished, until 1838, there was a four year apprenticeship period during which the newly free men continued to work without pay in exchange for living in huts provided by the plantation owners.

How is Emancipation Day in Barbados celebrated?

A ceremony celebrating the emancipation of the slaves is held at Bussa's statue. There are parades, speeches, and demonstrations by school children. Other celebrations include the Emancipation Day Walk, Beach Fest, and Village Fest.

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