Barbados Revolt

Topics: Slavery, British Empire, Rebellion Pages: 6 (1848 words) Published: October 1, 2012
In many instances, the condition of the slaves grew worse. The 1800’s, therefore, witnessed an increase in slave rebellions for several reasons including the following:-

1) The treatment of slaves continued to be severe, for example, slaves were overworked as it became more difficult to acquire new slaves to increase the labour force. 2) Many privileged slaves were no longer able to enjoy some of the privileges that they enjoyed previously 3) Planters often punished slaves more severely to discourage acts of insubordination, and to intimidate those who might have been inspired by the actions of the rebel slaves in Haiti 4) News of the abolition movement in Britain contributed to slave uprisings in some territories, for example, in Barbados in 1816. Slaves misunderstood what was happening; they believed that their freedom had been granted by the British parliament but was being withheld by the planters, and so they revolted to force the planters to give them their freedom. 5) The work of missionaries among the slaves, for example the Baptists, provided opportunities for a few slaves to become literate and to assume leadership roles in their church. These privileges helped to contribute to some revolts. Samuel Sharpe was able to use his position of class leader to help to plan the 1831 Christmas Rebellion in Jamaica. He also had access to newspapers from which he learnt about the efforts of the abolitionists in Britain. This knowledge motivated him to take action to hasten emancipation. 6) Non-conformist missionaries, especially the Wesleyan Methodists, the Baptists, and the London missionary society, preached the ideas of freedom, equality, and brotherhood, as they worked among the slaves in islands like Barbados. They had, however, always urged the slaves to refrain from violence and to wait for freedom to come from England. These ideas, it was felt, influenced some slaves, like those who were involved in the 1816 Barbados rebellion. 7) Planters’ failure to adopt all the Amelioration measures that were sent to the british colonies in 1823, facilitated the continuation of the poor treatment of some slaves, and convinced them that they needed to take action to free themselves.


The abolition of the slave trade did little to improve the lot of the slaves; however, it undoubtedly raised expectations that full freedom was imminent (about to happen). On Easter Sunday, 1816, a slave uprising began in Barbados. This was to cost hundreds of lives and a quarter of that year’s crop.

Reasons /Causes for the revolt

The reasons for the revolt included the following-:
1) In 1815, William Wilberforce, the British abolitionist, introduced a bill in parliament requiring the names and descriptions of all slaves in the West Indies to be entered in official registers to prevent the smuggling of slaves, which was being carried on extensively, as well as to keep a check on mortality among slaves. His proposal was widely misunderstood in Barbados where free Negroes told the slaves that they were to be emancipated on January 1, 1816. When they realized they were to be disappointed, they revolted.

2) The planters were fiercely opposed to the bill, and they openly discussed it. This led to the belief that freedom had been granted but planters were withholding it.

3) Slaves wanted their freedom

4) Some of the leaders of the rebellion had their own peculiar personal grievances against the whites, for example, Washington Franklin; a free coloured man whom it was said had read newspaper reports of the anti-slavery debates to the slaves and discussed emancipation with them.

5) Some slaves who were literate, for example, Nanny Grigg, had access to English and local newspapers from which they learnt about what was happening in England, Haiti, and elsewhere. The Haitian revolution inspired them.

6) The slaves in Barbados enjoyed some measure of freedom of movement, for example,...
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