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TCI: 185 Years since Emancipation Act 1834

#Providenciales, August 1, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – About 800,000 African slaves across the Caribbean, South Africa and Canada were made free as a result of the United Kingdom’s Abolition of Slavery Act 1834; the Act was passed in the UK in 1833 and took effect on this day August 1 in 1834.

It was legislated in the Act by the United Kingdom that a payout of £20,000,000 would go to slave owners to compensate them for their loss in property. 

The property to which the Act was referring, were the African slaves who were either now immediately free or forced to undergo a new system called ‘apprenticeship’. Apprenticeship involved slaves continuing to work for four or six years with time-off and wages; it was meant to be a transition to full freedom. 

Some had penned that it was far from liberating and only perpetuated the degrading treatment which gave the now freed people little choice for work and little money upon which to live.

Before, housing and food had been provided by slave masters.  Now, the freed men and women and their children had to start from scratch with no financial support.

The Apprenticeship system was vehemently opposed across the region.

The Turks and Caicos National Museum, on its website reminds that the Abolitionist movement was not without Turks and Caicos mention thanks to the celebrated, Mary Prince. 

Prince was a slave woman in the Turks and Caicos Islands, who managed to recant her experiences which were captured in print.  The stories of Mary Prince, hundreds of years later, continue to give harrowing insight into the life of a female slave.

Mary Prince did not live to see the Emancipation Act of August 1, 1834 enacted.  It is recorded that she died sometime in 1833.

According to published information on DiscoveringBristol.org, a website created following an exhibition about the role of Bristol (UK) in the transatlantic slave trade, there were ten “strict provisions” of the Emancipation Act or Abolition of Slavery Act 1834. 

The provisions were:

·       On Aug. 1, 1834, all slaves 6 years old and younger were to be freed, as would be any new children born in British territories.

·       On Aug. 1, 1834, all older slaves would begin a period of apprenticeship that would last for four or six years.

·       Predials,” field-laborers, would remain apprenticed until Aug. 1, 1840.

·       Non-predials would remain apprenticed until Aug. 1, 1838.

·       After these dates, the slaves would be completely free.

·       During the period of apprenticeship, the slaves would work for their masters for three-fourths of each week, which amounted to 40.5 hours of work.

·       During the remaining 13.5 hours of the week, they were free to work for wages or work on the provision grounds.

·       With wages earned, a slave could buy his or her own freedom, with or without his master’s consent.

·       Special Magistrates, later called Stipendiary Magistrates, would be appointed to oversee this apprenticeship process.

·       And that Parliament would divide out a sum of £20,000,000 among the slave owners as compensation for the loss of their property.

This year 2019, marks 185 years since the Emancipation Act of August 1, 1834 was adopted by the United Kingdom and its ‘colonies’.

Photo Credit: Vanessa Pateman

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