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The Barbados revolt

(April 14-17 1816)

A short introduction
It had become the norm for enslaved African to resist slavery the moment that they
were captured and took. Forms of resistance include:

speaking their native language in private

performing African rituals like drumming
appearing to accept Christianity, but secretly practice their religion
running away
poisoning their masters
pretending to be sick in order not to work
damaging tools or machinery

Many Africans also showed their resistance through rebellion. The most successful
rebellion took place in Haiti in 1791. Here the enslaved population drove out the
and British and set up the first black republic. This rebellion became an inspiration
to blacks living in other West Indian plantations fight for their freedom.

In the small island of Barbados, ruled by British powers, the year 1816 saw the
outbreak of a slave revolt. Reasons or causes for this revolt include:
slaves wanted their freedom and were determined to achieve so
the parliament bill in 1815, introduced by William Wilberforce, required the
names and description of all salves residing on West Indian plantation,
including Barbados, in order to prevent smuggling of slaves following the
abolishment of the slave trade. This bill was wildly misunderstood because
the slaves thought that they were to be granted their freedom. When
freedom was not granted, slaves revolted.
There were a few slaves who were able to read newsletters and newspapers,
from which they learnt what was happening in England, Haiti and elsewhere.
They were inspired by the positive outcome of the Haitian revolution to fight
for their rights
The harsh and inhumane treatment of slaves by whites was also a
contributing factor to the slave uprising.

During the Easter vacation when the governor was off the island and planters
were away from plantation, the slaves planned the rebellion and decided that
they would take over the island

They planned to disrupt crop time by burning cane fields, turning the mills
into the wind and leaving them to fly unattended
Plans were also made to have guerilla groups meet and harass the militia that
they expected to come after them. It was expected that the planters would
suffer great financial losses
Bells were rung to announce that slaves on successful plantations had joined
the revolt
The revolt started on April 14, 1816 in the parish of St. Philip on Bayleys plantation.

The revolt was short-lived. As soon as news of the revolt reached Bridgetown on the
morning of Easter Monday, the following measures were taken by the militia:
Troops were mobilized and they marched to the parishes and began to round
up the rebels
Slaves caught off their estates were murdered on the spot. One hundred and
seventy six slaves were killed by the troops that were sent against them.
Many other slaves were sentenced to death and returned to their owners
plantation where the execution was carried out
Two hundred and fourteen slaves were hanged and their heads were placed
on poles and left at the spot of execution to serve as a warning to other
Several slaves were deported to British Honduras and later sent to Sierra
Leaders of the revolt were executed

There were many consequences of the 1816 Barbados revolt both for slaves
and plantation owners. Some of which are listed below:
The whites turned against the missionaries in the island, chapels were
damaged and missionaries were threatened. This was because whites
thought that the missionaries helped the slaves plan and carry out the
The slaves were defeated and many of them lost their lives
There was a reduction in the size of the labour force
There was widespread destruction of property including one fifth of the
sugar crop
Humanitarians were encouraged to increase their activity to bring
down the slavery in response to the planters harsh treatment towards
the missionaries

Role of Gender

As with many revolts, males dominated. A male slave named Bussa was the leader
of the Barbados revolt. He held a high position on his masters plantation as a head
ranger and he held the respect of other slave rebels and was therefore eligible to
lead the revolt. Although the revolt was not a success Bussa was a very prominent
leader among the slaves.