The Berbice Slave Rebellion

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The 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion and The Rise of Cuffy

The Berbice Slave Uprising is the most famous slave revolt in Guyana.

Causes:

1. Slaves’ resentment of the ill-treatment received by estate managers and overseers

2. Lack of food provisions for slaves (resulting in them being underfed.)

3. The desire of some to officially partition Berbice with the Dutch, just like Djuku tribe of Surinam had done in 1761.

Course:

The rebellion began on February, 23rd, 1763 on Plantation Magdalenenberg on the Canje River. The slaves rebelled, protesting harsh and inhumane treatment, and took control of the region. By March, the revolt spread to the Berbice River. As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the European population fled. Eventually only half of the whites who had lived in the colony remained.

Led by Cuffy (also Coffy or Kofi) a domestic or house slave from Plantation Lilienburg (now the national hero of Guyana), the rebels came to number about 3,000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. Cuffy set up his headquarters at Plantation Hollandia and Zeelandia in March 1763. The whites in the colony of Berbice, who were under the governorship of Van Hoogenheim, retreated to Fort Nassau and Peerboom for refuge.

On March 3rd, 1763, six hundred blacks under Casala attacked Plantation Peerboom. Moreover, on March 8th, 1763, Governor Van Hoogenheim abandoned Fort Nassau. During this time Governor Van Hoogenheim received soldiers from Surinam and journeyed up the Berbice River to Dageraad. Dageraad was unsuccessfully attacked by Akara (a general in Cuffy’s slave rebel army).

In April, 1963, Cuffy sent a letter to Governor Van Hoogenheim concerning the division of Berbice. Van Hoogenheimn obtained reinforcements from Gravesande, Governor of Essequibo, a neighbouring Dutch colony.

On May 13th, 1763, Cuffy attacked Dageraad unsuccessfully. Eight whites and fighty-eight blacks were killed.

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