EMANCIPATION, the abolition of chattel slavery and the declaration of the liberties of manumitted Africans and their descendants must be explored from then, to give clarity today. We cannot indulge in the research of our history (with reference to Afro-and other Guyanese) without examining the parallel events that occurred in Europe around the same time, and the customs of colonisation that occurred with savage intensity in Europe before the age of Columbus; unless we do this, we will be narrowed to the amusement and manipulations of the very nations that we seek reparations from. What was the thinking then, of Britain towards the cause of the abolitionists and the decision to abolish slavery, that was a continuation of abolishing the ‘Slave Trade’ in 1808, but not then the same for slaves within the Creole Culture? Was it singularly a moral issue of troubled emotions or a definite, more far-reaching, self-serving strategy? Naturally, it will be a combination of all considerations, but one proposition will triumph from a stronger and deeper look. Within 40 years after the subvention of labour to the plantocracy ( apprenticeship) 1838, in 1878 the Berlin Conference manifested and the nations of Europe plotted and contrived the slicing up and colonising of Africa, the pivotal reason was that Africa had developed systems of ‘Feeding , Housing, clothing and sustaining their health needs. However, their interest and development in methods of mass killing was not a priority, unlike the tribes of Europe; it was not lack of courage, tact or resilience that made Africa succumb, but the absence of the cannon, the new Gatling machine gun and self-reloading rifles, and an innate nurturing of history and philosophy of carnage and plunder, and the reality of an industrialised Europe. It was captured well in the deliberations of Sir Henry Morton Stanley in his disguised colonising policy slogan of” Christianity, Civilisation and Commerce” he estimated to his peers – “If every negro in the Congo bought one Sunday dress and four everyday dresses, it would require 3,840 million yards of Manchester cotton, worth 16 million ?- and this did not include the cloth for winding sheets. A press campaign was orchestrated by Mackinnon and the public was bombarded with optimistic articles on the Congo”-see “ The Scramble For Africa” by Thomas Pakenham; what must be recognised with colonisation is that it cancelled local manufacturing and enforced dependency for supply on the imposed mother country. Thus, the industrial revolution could not succeed with slavery, it needed an independent earning population of subjects, capable of purchasing, for commerce to prosper, and the methods exalted by Sir Morton Stanley had worked well with their own peasants and urban poor across Europe, including the usage of Christianity, with an adopted Euro-Christ, that none dare question, also the Europeans were convinced that a new approach was needed after the terrible failures in the iconic 10-year revolution for ‘Haiti.’
But Emancipation in the English Caribbean ushered in a new age of conflict. The British are by leaps and bounds the most experienced colonisers, and doors were open for the creation of the ‘Colonial’ this was a cultural and educated, but not enlightened creature. But not exclusive to the post-emancipation era, it is a human phenomenon, but nature in her totality counters every deficiency in the evolution, whether physically or intellectually of any group within a specie. My friend and colleague Kimani Nehusi in 1990 in the History Gazette identified the failures of the then Middle class to think holistically and presents to us a recent treasured publication, “A PEOPLE’S POLITICAL HISTORY OF GUYANA 1838 1964” which would contribute to understanding the within challenges of Emancipation as a holistic liberation process, and much better the self-defeating caricature of the “COLONIAL” though he does not use this term. There must still be an exclusive narrative on Emancipation and the challenges of counter seeds planted to disrupt this process, as another colleague (Raul Lucas )inserted at a recent interview we were on, that “Emancipation did not include democracy” we were still British subjects. The following extract is significant on the scene of our Americas and telling of the mechanisms used to subvert Emancipation… “ Garvey who in the first quarter of this century sparked a mass movement based in America but international in scope and potential, was cast into federal prison then exiled to England; W.E.B. DuBois, one of the intellectual giants of the modern world, was silenced and isolated in America as viciously and effectively as the racist regime in South Africa had silenced and isolated such leaders of the Black masses as Chief Albert Luthuli, or as the British in Kenya once silenced and isolated Jomo Kenyatta. After attempts to cast him into prison on trumped-up charges had failed, DuBois went into exile in Ghana and later renounced the bitter citizenship of the land of his birth. Paul Robeson was at the apex of an illustrious career. His crime was to speak out on behalf of the suffering masses he had ascended from. Through a coordinated and sustained effort, Robeson became the object of (media) character assassinations and economic boycotts; broken financially and heartbroken to see Black Uncle Toms-(colonials) working assiduously to destroy him and keep their own people down. Robeson’s spirit was crushed, his health subverted, and his career destroyed”; see-Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver.
The contributions towards global Emancipation for Africans and African descendants over the past century and a half must not be isolated from the greater understanding of the anatomy of Emancipation, take time to read and explore, as COVID-19 restricts us, that this is not just a holiday, it is the GENESIS OF MODERN GUYANA, and a field of conflict wherever the desire for our self-determination leads.