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Finding African Ancestors in the Caribbean

11 Feb


Windrush Foundation presents its first community event for 2013 on Saturday 16 February.  It will bring together people who are interested in finding relatives who lived between 1800 and 1900 in the Caribbean. This will be presented by leading African Caribbean genealogist Sharon Tomlin.

The presentation is a major part of EMANCIPATION 1838 which marks, this year, the 175th anniversary of the liberation of nearly a million Africans in the Caribbean. The project focuses on the socio-political, economic and legislative changes that preceded (and resulted in) the 1st August 1838 emancipation (including major ‘slave revolts’ and acts of resistance in Caribbean islands/nations such as Barbados [1816], Guyana (‘Demerara Rebellion’ [1823]) and Jamaica (Christmas Rebellion [1831-32], etc). It explores the transitional systems of apprenticeship and indentureship that saw the arrival of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese and West African indentured labourers to replace the formerly enslaved islanders as a workforce in the aftermath of 1838, as well as the decades of political struggle and resistance against imperial rule that eventually led to decolonisation and to the process of independence.

The EMANCIPATION 1838 exhibition which opens on 1 August 2013 will be structured into a series of sub-themes, and will feature archival sources, maps, artefacts, news cuttings, documentary photographs, audio recordings of oral reminiscence sessions, film, and literature/poetics about (as well as from) this period of Caribbean history, from the early-19th century to the present day.

During 2013 there will be a series of community events, workshops, etc, include information of key 1820s abolitionists in the Caribbean and Britain, the British Parliamentary Debates of the 1830s, the social, economic and cultural situation in the Caribbean on and soon after Emancipation Day, the situation up to and after 1865 (including Paul Bogle’s leadership, the Morant Bay massacre and the debates about conditions in Jamaica, and the Caribbean as a whole.  At the time, contributors to the debates included John Bright,Charles DarwinJohn Stuart MillThomas HuxleyThomas Hughes and Herbert Spencer (in support of the Caribbean Africans) and opposing them were individuals like Thomas Carlyle, Rev. Charles Kingsley,Charles Dickens, and John Ruskin.

The aims of EMANCIPATION 1838 are to
(a) develop and sustain interest in the diverse post-enslavement histories and lived experiences of African Caribbean people including a focus on their legacies for descendant communities in Britain;
(b) initiate an information dissemination programme and advocacy campaign to have the events of 1st August 1838 commemorated annually as a historically significant date in the UK’s national heritage calendar;
(c) elevate and promote the lived experiences of African Caribbean women during the 19th and 20th centuries to re-balance gendered and Eurocentric historical narratives.

The learning outcomes of EMANCIPATION 1838 include: Increasing our understanding of the roots of the African Caribbean family.  Developing a better appreciation of African spirituality, music, dance, poetry, story-telling/literature, carnival, mas(querade), food/cuisine, etc. Gaining a new understanding of the shared history and interdependencies of Britain and the Caribbean. Increasing our understanding of the role the islands and nations of the Caribbean region, and their diverse, diasporic communities, have played in the making of modern Britain.

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