Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Today in T&T: Emancipation Day

On August 1, 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery.

All former slave societies are still struggling to counter the grim legacies of slavery: the racism, economic inequalities, and psychological damage. In Trinidad, however, the historical experience of slavery does not conform completely to the wider experience.

The British annexation of Trinidad came at a time when English opposition to slavery was winning popular approval. Trinidad, as a result, was administered as a Model Colony, in respect of laws governing the treatment of slaves.
What this meant was that slavery in Trinidad was somewhat more 'benevolent' than elsewhere, if such a word may be used in this context. The system was heinous and there were cruelties everywhere; the difference here was that of degree.

After Emancipation, Trinidad experienced massive immigration of former slaves from other Caribbean islands, the importation of almost 150,000 indentured Indian labourers, as well as the influx of free blacks from the US and liberated Africans from Sierra Leone. Indentured Chinese labourers arrived, along with Madeirans (Portuguese) and Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. Together with Trinidad's milder experience of slavery, immigration has helped to shape this society into a unique historical and cultural entity, one that enjoys the richness of diversity in every sphere of life on the islands, from the music to the cuisine, the language to the art.

Establishing a post-colonial society such as ours is problematic and involves struggle, trial and error, success and defeat. In spite of this, every Trinidadian is aware that this is a special place, a unique place, and as such is worth all the struggle.

Ref: Trinidad & Tobago News Bulletin Board


Kaz Augustin said...

Happy belated Emancipation Day! I'm a child of a former British colony and, while we did not go through the same kind of sad terror that slavery nations did, I still have fellow feeling for other such nations.
People keep telling ex-colonies and ex-slavery nations to just "get over it" as whatever happened, happened a long time ago but I don't think they realise history's long reach and how much time, and hard work, must go towards building up a nation's self-respect again. I think a holiday like this one is a step in the right direction.

wordtryst said...

Thank you, kaz. You're absolutely right. Telling people to just 'get over' anything is laughable. Like you said, it takes time and hard work to heal wounds so deep they inform the psyche, national and individual.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

beautiful post wordtryst.

wordtryst said...

Thank you, nyc/caribbean. I enjoyed writing it.

CherylStJ said...

Great information, and I love the picture. Happy Emancipation Day!

wordtryst said...

Thank you, Cheryl. Welcome to my blog!