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This Month In History: Bussa’s Rebellion


Barbados, a country in the Caribbean, saw the biggest slave revolt in History. Led by African born Slave, Bussa, it was the first of three large scale slave revolts in the British West Indies that caused people to doubt the effectiveness of slavery. This revolt is famously known as “Bussa’s Rebellion”. *I dislike the use of the word rebellion, because is implies that they were rebelling against something good. When I think of rebel, I think of a child who doesn’t listen, not slaves that want to be free, but that’s just me.*

Bussa is believed to be from Nigeria and of Igbo descent. He was captured and transported to Barbados in the late eighteenth century. Bussa began planning the revolt after realizing that the British parliament had no intention of freeing the slaves after slavery had already been abolished. After much planning and coordination for about a year, Bussa, along with a few other slaves that were tired of mistreatment, led the slaves into battle at Baileys Plantation on April 14, 1816. He commanded about 400 freedom fighters, both men and women whom were born in the islands. By his side were a few people worthy of being mentioned Washington Franklin, John and Nanny Grigg, a senior domestic slave, and Jackey. Nanny Griggs was a domestic or “house slave” who could read and told her followers that “the only way to obtain freedom was to fight for it.” By April 15, martial law had been declared on the entire island and was not lifted for three months. Martial law is an extreme and rare measure used to control society during war or periods of civil unrest or chaos (

Bussa’s rebellion did not succeed in freeing the Afro-Bajans, but, as mentioned before, it was the first of three slave revolts named the “Late Slave Rebellions”. The second revolt took place in Demerara (now Guyana) in 1823, and lastly, in Jamaica in 1831-32. The British government finally abolished slaveholding in 1834.

We can learn a lot from Bussa, his success did not happen overnight. He planned for one year along with like-minded people to carry out a task that would set the foundation for Carribbean slaves in the future who would use the same model. His legacy still lives on because of his tenacity to see his people be free and hold the British Parliament accountable.

According to Wikipedia:

• Bussa remains a popular figure in Barbados.
• In 1985, 169 years after his rebellion, the Emancipation Statue, created by Karl Broodhagen, was unveiled in Haggatt Hall, in the parish of St Michael.
• 1998, the Parliament named Bussa as one of the ten National Heroes of Barbados.

We should take a few notes from him and plan accordingly in all that we do! We never know who we’re laying the foundation for, victory shall be seen in this generation!

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