Greetings Jamaica! This is our “emancipendence” week, when we celebrate two significant milestones in our nation’s history – Emancipation Day on August 1st and Independence Day on August 6th.
For a short period after our Independence, we stopped celebrating Emancipation Day as a separate holiday. Thankfully, in 1997 Prime Minister PJ Patterson fittingly re-established Emancipation Day as an official national holiday.
Emancipation Day marks the date when the Bill for Abolition of Slavery came into law and slavery was abolished in Jamaica and the rest of the British empire.
On that day, 311,000 Jamaicans celebrated freedom from the shackles of slavery. However, full freedom did not come until 1838, as in the intervening period our people were indentured in so-called apprenticeship.
Emancipation Day not only marks the occasion of the end of slavery in our country. It also celebrates the heroic resilience of our fore-parents, who retained their dignity and never lost their determination to be free, and their courage in the unceasing struggle to win their full and unconditional human rights as full citizens of this country.
The fact is that no form of compensation was paid to those who were enslaved, for the unpaid extraction of their labour and the life in bondage that they endured. The profound negative effects of that period of our history continue to be endured to this day, and the growing call for reparations remains unyielding but has not yet been answered.
To Jamaicans everywhere, Happy Emancipation Day!
Celebrate safely as we honour the heroic struggles and achievements of our fore-parents!