Abolition Day is observed each year in Guyana on June 10. This day commemorates the abolition of slavery in the country. However, the observation is not only limited to Guyana but other nations in the Caribbean that were once colonized by the Europeans. The Europeans were notorious for enslaving the natives and subjecting them to unspeakable horrors. On Abolition Day, citizens also try to confront their past. The day may also be celebrated by those who were subjected to serfdom or other forms of involuntary servitude. Abolition Day is a reminder of humanity’s cruel history that continues to date.
History of Abolition Day
Guyana shares Abolition Day with other Caribbean nations that were formerly European colonies. Once slavery was abolished within the British empire, the colonies soon followed suit. Originally, the name of Abolition Day was Freedom Day, and today, it is also known as Emancipation Day.
Guyana is located on the northern coast of South America. It was originally the home of various Indian tribes until the Dutch started a colony there in the 1500s. The colony passed hands among the Dutch, British, and French before it was finally captured by the British in 1814. It did not become an independent nation until 1966. Much of Guyana’s colonial population was made up of African slaves brought over to work coastal plantations for some 250 years. The slaves tried to free themselves through a series of revolts, but unfortunately, none of them were successful.
Slavery in Guyana was abolished in 1834. Following this, Guyana’s economy and social structure underwent a complete makeover. Many former slaves left the plantations and inhabited villages outside of Georgetown and other cities. Indentured workers were brought in from India, China, and Portugal to fulfill the labor shortage on the plantations. The economy diversified to include gold mining, logging, and a more diverse agricultural sector. Trade with other countries also gained momentum. Thus, while those of African descent were immediately and most directly impacted by the abolition of slavery, in reality, it changed everyone’s lives for the better. This led Guyana to adopt its national motto: “One People, One Nation, and One Destiny.”
Abolition Day timeline
After Guyana is discovered, it is eventually colonized by the Spanish, French, Dutch, and British.
This is the first major slave revolt in the whole of South America and is one of the country’s most important steps toward independence.
Guyana becomes a British colony.
Guyana is granted home rule but the British Crown continues to be the head of state.
Abolition Day FAQs
What are the three types of slavery?
The three types of slavery are chattel slavery, bonded labor, and forced labor.
Is there still slavery today?
There are an estimated 21 million to 45 million people trapped in some form of slavery today.
Is slavery legal anywhere?
In 94 countries, you cannot be prosecuted and punished in a criminal court for enslaving another human being.
How to Observe Abolition Day
Days such as Abolition Day demand that we revisit history. They are great opportunities to examine the conditions under which such evil practices thrived and how we can ensure that history is not repeated.
Take up a cause
While slavery might no longer be a reality of our times, it is not to say that the world is without its fair share of cruelty and violence. Observe Abolition Day by taking up a humanitarian cause that you are passionate about and advocating for it.
Spread the word
You can also get others involved in humanitarian causes by spreading the word about Abolition Day. Post about the day on your social media accounts so that more people can also learn about the history of slavery in their countries.
5 Important Facts About Slavery
Slavery is a centuries-old practice
The first instances of slavery were recorded in Sumer in Mesopotamia.
Not every region had equal numbers
Over 90% of enslaved Africans were imported into the Caribbean and South America.
Not every slave survived the journey
12% of those who were taken on slave ships across the Atlantic did not survive the voyage.
The U.S. outlawed slavery in 1808
However, it remained in practice for the next 50 years.
It was a wide-scale practice
Between 1526 to 1867, some 12.5 million slaves were shipped from Africa to the Americas.
Why Abolition Day is Important
It makes us contemplate the past
Observations such as Abolition Day help us reflect on the past. This is the day to take stock of our actions and pledge to be better. Revisiting history is important as we battle present-day evils.
It honors human dignity
Along with physical brutality, slavery also left lasting emotional and mental damage on slaves and their progeny. Therefore, Abolition Day is also a reminder of the long fights for human dignity.
It makes us look to a better future
We observe Abolition Day in the hopes that history never repeats itself. It is a lesson for us to learn — to let everyone live with dignity, cherish their identity, and not treat those who are different from us with condescension and violence.
Abolition Day dates