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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Dear Editor,

One of the prevailing opinions on slavery in Belize has been that slaves and masters labored and fought shoulder to shoulder. As Emory King said: “Slavery in Belize, A Family Affair”! This was put together so wonderfully that we can hardly stop singing, “It was the Tenth Day of September� Hip. Hip.”.

We are encouraged, ehem required, to celebrate the Battle of St. George’s Caye. It has been interpreted as a historic moment where the strong bond of slaves and whites, and everyone in between, supposedly came together to give to birth to the nation.

However, throughout the period of enslavement, the settlers, and the ruling elite (which later included Free Coloreds as slave owners) knew they could never say how loyal our African ancestors were to them.

Africans REVOLT in Belize

As early as 1745, when the Spaniards attacked New River, they burnt houses and took slaves with them. Pleading for help from Jamaica, the settlers were afraid that their slaves were not loyal. A settler wrote: “We the Inhabitants of this Place shou’d be Assisted, and being now driven to the Highest distress that can be and reduced to a small quantity of People, not exceeding above Fifty white Men and about a hundred and twenty Negroes, which Number of the latter we cannot tell how many may prove true in the time of Engagement” (Burdon, 1931, p. 72).

Africans revolted against slavery in Belize in 1765, 1768, 1773 and 1821. A settler in 1765 reported “The Negroes belonging to one Mr. Thomas Cooke of Jamaica, rebelled, killed their Master and a Carpenter, robbed the house of every thing that was valuable and fled to the woods� we do not know when it will end” (Shoman, 2000, p. 51).

Three years after, they were faced with similar circumstances, a letter of 1768 reads: “Matters are come to this miserable pass, that Twenty three British Negroes, Armed, had gone off from the New River to the Spaniards, and many more were expected to follow them; so that the Business of every kind was at a Stand” (Shoman, 2000, p. 51).

In May 1773, a captain recorded, “The Negroes before our People came up with them had taken five settlements and murthered six White Men and were join’d by several others the whole about fifty with sixteen Musquets Cutlasses, etc� ” (Shoman, 2000, p. 52).

Closer to the impeding Spanish invasion of 1798, the governor of Jamaica suggested that the settlers should identify 171 slaves who can be paid to help defend the settlement and if that they are unable then they should then pay Free Coloreds or Free Negroes. If none of this is possible, then they were instructed to sell their slaves to the Government to defend the settlement.

At a subsequent meeting, the settlers indicated that it was impossible to provide the 171 slaves. The ongoing talks of payment and potential freedom or indeed the existential threat encouraged free coloureds and blacks to join in the defense, among other factors. The settlers were ordered to oversee their slaves in the defense.

However, the Battle of St. George’s Caye did not change the conditions of enslavement. Slaves would continue to resist. Will and Sharper led a considerable number of slaves to revolt in 1820. A state of emergency was declared in the settlement.

The settlers kept lobbying heavily for additional enforcement from Jamaica to reclaim slaves who had run away and gained freedom in Mexico and Guatemala. They were always fearful that slaves could escape or revolt. This was happening across the Caribbean, turning the hands on the clock for legal emancipation on August 1, 1834 and 1838.

Rolando Cocom

Burdon, John Alder. (1931). Archives of British Honduras, Vol. 1. London: Siifton Praed.

Burdon, John Alder. (1934). Archives of British Honduras, Vol. 2. London: Siifton Praed.

Shoman, Assad. (1994, Revised 2000). Thirteen chapters of a history of Belize. Belize: Angelus Press.

Snippets to include:

Source: Burdon, 1931, Vol. 1

Source: Burdon, 1931, Vol. 1

Source: Burdon, 1934, Vol. 2

Letter to Amandala

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Slave Trade

Emancipation Day is celebrated in many former British colonies in the Caribbean and areas of the United States on various dates in observance of the emancipation of slaves of African origin. It is also observed in other areas in regard to the abolition of serfdom or other forms of servitude.

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. Emancipation Day is widely observed in the British West Indies during the first week of August. In many Caribbean countries the Emancipation Day celebration is a part of Carnival, as the Caribbean Carnival takes place at this time (although Carnaval in Trinidad and Tobago takes place in February or March according to Ash Wednesday. In Belize it is not observed. The anthem and flag of Belize prefers to remember "Our father's the Baymen valiant and proud". In truth, the British were regarded as the most cruel slave masters. The clip I prepared for a Caribbean History class on the slave trade.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline

William Wilberforce & the End of the African Slave Trade

Text by Albert Avila


I have always wondered what was the significance of the third name of 'Wilberforce' in Philip Goldson's name. Where did it come from? What was the significance of the name? It is a very unusual name and not a common name you hear around these parts. Actually, I don't know any other 'Wiberforces' in Belize, do you?

I don't know the family's significance for the name or why he was given that name. I can only speculate. My delve into the history of our nation has brought lots of little bits and pieces of our history to light. Many of which have been shared in this group. Our history is like a puzzle, we are going to have to put it together one piece at a time. However, It is my theory that Mr. Goldson's third name may have been inspired by a gentleman whose name was William Wilberforce. Here is what the internet says about William. In 1789, Wilberforce gave a three hour speech against slavery in Parliament. In 1791, Wilberforce presented to the House of Commons another Bill to abolish the slave trade. ... This stopped two-thirds of the slave trade and made it unprofitable. In 1807, after a huge campaign, Parliament abolished the slave trade. Please see attached short video link below.

Additionally, it seems our Superintendent, Colonel George Arthur (1814 to 1824), the person who built our Government House, played significant role in the Emancipation of Slavery in the British Common Wealth as well, which came a few years later in 1834. It seems he was forwarding to Wilberforce information and documentation based on slavery that was happening in British Honduras and it was the fuel that eventually sped up the emancipation of Enslaved Africans.

I am trying to understand what was the reason behind Colonel Arthur's motivation to try to stop slavery though. After all, he was a white man and had the same beliefs and prejudices as the magistrates in British Honduras. I believe what transpired was that when he first arrived in BH, history tells us, he was very well liked by the inhabitants including the magistrates. However, Arthur had a trait that would send him down a road that would cause his demise with the magistrates. You see, like many of the superintendents and governors, he was a dictator, and that personality soon bobbled to the surface. When he fell out of grace with the magistrates, as many of the superintendents did eventually, he realized that there was no need to try to please the magistrates any further and incidents such as Dr. Bowen / Peggy didn't helped the magistrates' case either. So, I am in the belief that the only legacy Arthur could have left behind was to extinguish the very aspect that gave the magistrates the power they had and that was to take away their slaves from them. This is only my conclusion based on historical information I have come across over the last few years. It is okay to debunk my theory.

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