Statement from the Vice-Chancellor | “Liberation Day”


The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI.


In 1636 the English Governor of Barbados, Henry Hawley, under pressure from slave investors, and with the full support of King Charles I, declared that all black people brought to the island shall be deemed under law non-human, chattel, and property in perpetuity.

The western commercial markets and their political sovereigns embraced and elevated the island as it became a unique and very special place.

From there on, the monarchy of Britain, as patron of the slave merchants and planters, wallowed in the slave-produced wealth and deemed Barbados “the richest spotte of land in the worlde”.

Queen Elizabeth I had laid the policy foundation for the crime; King James I and King Charles I built the political and constitutional slavery infrastructure. Through the decades down to Elizabeth II, the Royal family that had created and owned the “Royal African Slave Trading Company” ruled the island.

But Barbados did not just become the first black majority Caribbean island, it was host to the first Black Holocaust. It was Britain’s genocide island.

The British imported 600,000 enslaved Africans into the colony between 1627 and 1833. When the Act to end chattel slavery came into full effect in 1838, there were a mere 83,000 remaining on the island. Today, there are less than 300,000, half the number imported.

What has happened to these Africans? Genocide. Slavery and genocide constituted the cause and effect of the business model.

Now black people are free from the monarchy and its parliament that had deemed their ancestors’ property forever. Independence in 1966 gave them the tools to complete their liberation. His Right Excellent Errol Barrow cracked the mould; The Honourable Mia Mottley shattered the remaining scaffold and dismantled its indignity. She proclaimed the end of the Empire and declared the country free at last.

It took the power and passion of two magnificent women to bring an end to the historic sin. Two women of consciousness, commitment and courage carried us over the line to liberty.

Her Excellency Dame Sandra and Honourable Prime Minister Mottley are now the symbols of the new sovereignty. And this is as it should be.

Since the 1730s women have outnumbered men on the island. Women have been the majority for some 250 years.

The island has been a woman’s place for more than 70% of its modern history. No other colony or country in the Americas has such a demographic history. Barbados is unique in this regard. And so, the women have spoken and acted, and the final column of colonialism has fallen.

The writing was on the wall the day that Mia had said Lord Horatio Nelson shall fall. One man, nonetheless, chose to walk from the House rather than stand his legislative ground. He will forever be remembered as the single soul who threw the mud that spoilt the Speaker’s score.

Oscar Wilde, a century ago, had reminded us that he who throws mud loses ground. But today we stand secure on Mia’s land as all bar one hail the Republic!

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