The history of Barbados people & the Black Experience is an essential section of the upcoming book Rogues in Paradise: A study in understanding the African Slave Experience in Barbados And the Americas.
This blog is part of the notes on my publishing journey. Here I share fascinating stories of the resilience and determination of the Africans who were forced into slavery and became the dominant people of the Caribbean and growing profound influence in the world. Their real story is still unfolding, as the Black Cultural Center of Nova Scotia explains:
“In the face of ancient and deeply held prejudices, the people of Africa in Nova Scotia have demonstrated heroic perseverance and great agency. Our ancestors crossed many rivers into a hard-won better world. We are not done yet, of course, yet slowly but surely we’re making ourselves full and equal partners in this society.”
The Black Cultural Centers of Nova Scotia.
Barbados Historic Nova Scotia Connections
On my trip to Nova Scotia, Canada, I was pleased to learn that the Black Cultural Center (BCCNS) and other Black associations have archives of the people of Barbados who emigrated to Nova Scotia and Canada. Many landed in Halifax as they emigrated to the land of jobs and opportunities. The first Barbados migration was after emancipation when the now free men and women were looking for work. In Barbados, work was scarce as sugar was no longer king. But elsewhere, industry was thriving in what was the industrial age.
Among the many gems, I discovered this map at BCCNS. It shows a direct shipping route from Barbados to Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. My research had unearthed ships sailing to Halifax, the main all-season port for trade and emigration. Halifax is also home to Canada’s immigration Museum. It has records of all ships and passengers, memorabilia, and a film of immigrants from all over the world.
Promoting My Book in Nova Scotia
I visited the bookstore in Canada’s Immigration Museum and left a draft of “Rogues in Paradise”. Like nearly all the Nova Scotia bookstores I visited, they were looking for local stories and Canadian Content. I had to change my introduction and boost the Barbados-Canada and Nova Scotia Connections.
“Did you,” know I said, “That Bajans are amazing people with considerable ties to Canada. The Prime minister is one of the world’s most influential people, according to a recent study by Time Magazine. “Did you know that the first Black person appointed to the senate was a Barbadian? And that the Artistic Director of the Toronto Film Festival is a Bajan”
The first Black person elected to the senate, Anne Cool, was a Bajan!
Cameron Bailey, the artistic director of the Toronto Film Festival.
Andre De Grasse, Canada’s Olympic Champian, has Barbadian roots.
So does jazz pianist Oliver Jones.
….. And lots more!”
Barbados Canada Connections
It startled many who did not know the impact of Barbadians in Canada. Many had no idea that these famous Canadian personalities, and hundreds more, were Barbadian. Several knew little about Barbados, and they were impressed. More impressive are the Canada-Barbados books about the history of the Bajan influence in Canada:
(i) “Beyond Rum and Saltfish” – Dr. Grant Morris, and Dr. Barbara Trieloff-Deane. https://errolbarroweducationfund.com/beyond-rum-saltfish-book/
(ii) “Some Barbadian Canadians” – The High Commission For Barbados to Canada.
52 Nova Scotia Historic Black Communities
Nova Scotia is the birthplace of Black culture and heritage in Canada. It has 52 historic Black communities that date from the founding years of the province of Nova Scotia. They include Shelburne, Africville, East Preston, Annapolis Royal, Cherry Brook, Halifax, Sydney, Springhill, North Preston, Beechville, Birchtown, and many others.
Nova Scotia held the expectation of a better life for people of African descent in the days following emancipation and before. It was home to the Maroons, Royalists, Refugees, Runaways, Slaves traveling with their masters, and Free men and women.
Black people settled in Nova Scotia as early as 1700. As slavery was not abolished until 1834, these people were likely slaves of English, French, Dutch and American settlers. Some may have been freemen and women granted freedom by their masters. Of the 3500 settlers in 1750, about 400 were enslaved, and 17 were free black people.
In 1796, 600 exiled Jamaican Maroons settled in Preston and helped build Government House and the fortifications at the Halifax Citadel. In the early 1900s the last historic group of black settlers arrived in Nova Scotia as hundreds of Barbadian and Caribbean immigrants, known as the “later arrivals,” came to Cape Breton to work in the steel mills and coal mines.
Black Loyalist Heritage Centre & Museum
The Canadian Black Loyalist Heritage Centre has its home in Birchtown. It is a fitting monument to the slaves who won their freedom by fighting for the British in the American war of independence. Many moved to Nova Scotia, which became the world’s largest free African population outside of Africa, in the late 18th century. They settled in Birchtown starting in 1783. I visited the center on a holiday weekend, and even though it was closed, its history vibrated in the land, sea, and air. It is a beautiful spot and I wondered how the loyalist felt setting up their homes and building a community. Walking on the land where the Black loyalist settled, I felt a deep sense of respect and awe.
Birchtown Museum and The Black Loyalist Center are close to Shelbourn and Liverpool, stunning seaside fishing villages with wooden houses like Barbados’ iconic chattel houses and seaside cottages.
Bajans Emigrate to Canada – Later Arrivals
The Barbados government was the first in the Caribbean to sponsor emigration to Canada for its population. It was a formative initiative giving work to many unemployed Bajans who were literate, and skilled. There were far-reaching benefits; Bajans overseas sent funds home when they could and gained a more worldly outlook that filtered through society at home and abroad. It was the beginning of the Bajan diaspora that made its mark in the world. A key element of the Bajan character is their exceptional literacy and well-rounded education, which ranks as one of the best in the world.
Barbados’ Slavery & the Black Experience*
The Afro-Bajan People of Barbados are the descendants of African slaves. They were captives of war, prisoners, or tribal people kidnapped by powerful African chieftains. Purchased by British ship captains for a few pounds per person (i), they were chained together at the ankle, and padlocked into the bowels of a cramped vessel with little room to move. Arriving in Barbados, they were sold in the Bridgetown market or shipped to the Americas. Barbados was the central point of the middle passage. It was the first island the ships passed en route to the Caribbean and the Americas.
The average price of a slave in the Caribbean was about twenty pounds (ii). Owned for life as chattel property, slaves worked as house servants, field workers, or in the engine rooms of sugar and rum. In time, they would help build the homes and business of the planters, fix steamers, stoke boilers, plant and harvest crops and do all manner of work to feed the furnace of an empire. They were the marginalized people, not even considered human, but now a significant part of the real story of Barbados.,
What amazes me about the African-Bajan people is their quiet, unassuming sense of self and pride in who they are. They are comfortable in their skin; most see themselves as Bajans first. For many generations, Barbados was the only home they knew.
Typically the Afro-Bajans featured in this book do not dwell on the troubled past. As Reggae says (Chapter Thirty-eight), talking about our slavery hits you like a slap. Today Bajans are world leaders in numerous fields and have high standards of morality, fair play, and professionalism. See more of the Barbados experience Click Here>>
* Barbados’ Slavery & the Black Experience is an excerpt from the introduction of Rogues in Paradise. This will be replaced with a link to the book when it is published. (c) Ian R. Clayton. – There is an entire section in the book about the Barbados Black experience.
(i) People o Barbados – https://roguesinparadise.com/the-people-of-barbados/
(iii) Barbados Black Experience https://roguesinparadise.com/barbados-history-the-black-experience/
(iv) Slavery existed in Africa before the European trade in slaves. African slaves were prisoners and captives of war. They were traded in exchange for goods such as alcohol, beads, and cloth—https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/history-transatlantic-slave-trade
(v) The majority of slaves exporter were c captives of war – E. Phillip LeVeen, African Studies Review Vol. 18, No. 1 (Apr., 1975), pp. 9-28 (20 pages) Published by: Cambridge University Press https://www.jstor.org/stable/523706
Also, see Olaudah Equiano’s story of being kidnapped as a slave in Africa. https://roguesinparadise.com/barbados-history-the-black-experience/#memoirs
(vi) Eltis, David, et al. “Slave Prices, the African Slave Trade, and Productivity in the Caribbean, 1674-1807.” The Economic History Review, vol. 58, no. 4, 2005, pp. 673–700. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3698795
Nova Scotia Africville
Africville Story by Joe Sealy – a Bajan name, but I have not discovered the connection. His father lived in Afric vill and may have been a descendant of one of the Later Arrivals.
Inhuman Auctions in Barbados and Canada
The British North America Act in 1867 established the “Dominion of Canada”. The date was July 1, 1867. July 1st was celebrated as “Dominion Day” until Until 1982, after which it was called Canada Day. Canada officially had no slave trade after it was called Canada. However, British North America certainly did, as noted in this poster below. Canada can’t divorce itself from its history, and sadly Canadians must admit to having and trading slaves in its early pioneer day as a British colony. Still, even as British North America, it was not a slave economy like Barbados and America.
Slaves were being auctioned just 10 years before emancipation. This image from BCCNS
This article is linked on Researchgate, an authoritative site for scholars and researchers. I am honored!
Also see more about the People of Barbados