The 1816 Insurrection
There had been no slave revolt since 1702 but the time had come when the slaves would take no more. They were heartened by the movements in England and disheartened by their owners. Their unfulfilled expectations left them stirred and it is out of this a revolt was planned. The mastermind behind the uprising was Franklin Washington a free mulatto who was slated to be the head of the government if they succeeded. The leaders met and talked on numerous occasions especially at weekend dances. All slaves were to be in support of the effort and any found to be against would have their home destroyed by fire.
At around 8pm on the 14th of April 1816, Easter Sunday two cane field were set fire as a signal that the revolt had begun. The fires spread though: St Philip, Christ Church, St John and St George. On the morning of Easter Monday at 1:30am Martial law was declare in Bridgetown. The Militia and Armed forces came together and set out to the areas of disturbance. The slaves never had a chance. Before the insurrection was done a great deal of damage was done. One fifth of the Islands sugar crop was destroyed and loss of property was estimated at £179,000. 176 Slaves were killed in fighting and 214 were later executed after trial. Francklyn was hung like a common criminal.
One of the leaders that many Barbadians remember today is Bussa who was an African slave. he died in the field of battle. He was born a free man in Africa, but was captured by African slave merchants and sold to the English men and brought to Barbados in the late 18th century as a slave. Not much is known about him and there are no records of him prior to this date. Records show a slave named "Bussa" worked as a ranger on Bayley's Plantation in the parish of St. Philip around the time of the rebellion. This privileged position would have given Bussa much more freedom of movement than the average slave and would have made it easier for him to plan and coordinate the rebellion. The rebellion he helped to lead is often referred to as the "Bussa Rebellion" He commanded some 400 freedom fighters and was killed in battle. His troops continued the fight until they were defeated by superior firepower. The rebellion failed but its impact was significant to the future of Barbados. In 1985, 169 years after that rebellion, the Bussa Emancipation Statue was unveiled in Haggett Hill, in the parish of St. Michael. In 1999, Bussa was named as the first national hero of Barbados and in Barbados there is a monument and roundabout in his honour. There is also a national holiday to celebrate emancipation day.
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