Resistance through Rebellion: Exploring Uprising of the Enslaved on Guyana Independence DayMay 25, 2021 03:00PM ● By Oga Africa
(A Guyanese woman. Image by Simon Abrams, https://www.flickr.com/photos/flysi/1321017986 )
In honor of Guyana Independence Day, we are celebrating this Caribbean country’s independence from the British by commemorating the African populations’ resistance to chattel slavery on the island. Guyana achieved independence from the British on May 26th, 2021.
From 1620-1834, chattel slavery developed Guyana’s economy. During this slave era, harsh treatment of enslaved Africans, including starvation, rape, and forced labor caused many to lead rebellions against the French, Dutch, and British, who ruled the country at different times. The Akan tribes of Ghana were at the forefront of many uprisings.
In 1762, a Bambara (or higher-up slave) named Adam led a rebellion with a group of enslaved people, which included a woman named Antoinette and a man named Coffi. Although the rebellion was unsuccessful, it was followed by a string of uprisings that would leave an unforgettable imprint on not only Guyana but all of the Caribbean. This event was followed by the Berbice uprising of 1763, led by another man named Coffi, who was taken from Ghana to Guyana as a slave. This rebellion, known as the Berbice Uprising, lasted for over a year.
(A slave rebellion monument in Georgetown, Guyana. Image by David Stanley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/13950680555 )
The Demerara rebellion of 1823 was a two-day event in Guyana that involved over ten thousand enslaved people. This uprising was led by Quamina, a Senior Missionary Deacon, and his son, Jack Gladstone. As Quamina is a Fante name of Ghana, it can be inferred that Quamina was a descendant of Ghana. The revolt was initially predominately nonviolent and intended to successfully campaign for better treatment of the enslaved. However, in the aftermath, White colonialists killed hundreds of enslaved, deported some, and beheaded others to warn against a further uprising. Quamina was killed, and his son, Jack Gladstone, was deported to Saint Lucia.
(A Guyanese man cuts a coconut. Image by Isographia, https://www.flickr.com/photos/isografia/16179532650 )
In 2012, the Black population in Guyana was estimated to be 29.3% of the country, with 19.9% mixed race. African resistance and the survival of their descendants indicate a sacred strength that this Caribbean community embodies. By commemorating slave rebellions, it is evident that enslaved African populations resisted the terrors of slavery, and fought valiantly in unbelievable and harrowing circumstances.