Speech

So many milestones and episodes make up the Jamaican story. However, we can agree that the proclamation of Emancipation in 1834, after over 300 years of both Spanish and British enslavement, is pivotal to understanding our current situation and future trajectory.

We commemorate Emancipation Day not only as the culmination of the struggles of over 10 generations of our ancestors to gain freedom, but we also recount it as the starting point of a free people now taking up a new struggle to forge themselves into a sovereign nation.

After full freedom in 1838, our former enslaved family members had certain rights granted to them by the colonial government. We did not have a government of our own making, reflection, or choosing. We were subjects of the colonial power but still treated as lesser people in many respects.

For 128 years between Emancipation in 1834 and Independence in 1962, though we lived as free people, it was a monumental struggle to use our freedom to create a better way of life, to forge a new society and eventually a nation.

Changing from a slave society and economy to a free society and market economy came under provisions that considered the interest of the proprietors ahead of the welfare of freed people. While planters got compensated for losing their free labour, the former enslaved received no compensation for centuries of forced labour. While there were attempts at providing education, the planter class kept wages low, taxes high, and made land access challenging to support work on the plantations. The post-emancipation struggles of our people led to another pivotal event in our history, the Morant Bay Rebellion which occurred in 1865, 31 years after Emancipation.

 

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