Emancipation Day, August 1

EVERYBODY’S “Caribbean” Magazine – NY:  Tomorrow is August 1 but August 1 is not an ordinary day for Jamaicans, Barbadians, Grenadians and other people, especially of African heritage, living in the Anglophone Caribbean. It was on August 1, 1833, after fierce debate, in the British Parliament the Emancipation Act was passed declaring that all slaves in the British West Indies will gain their freedom on August 1, 1834.
Slavery was indeed abolished on August 1, 1834. To mark the event many slaves spent that night praying and solemnly reflecting. However, complete freedom was not granted. The former slaves were to continue working for their former masters under an apprentice system lasting four to six years. The length of time depended on sex and type of work the males did as slaves.
The apprenticeship period ended prematurely on August 1, 1838.
August 1, 1833, August 1, 1834 and August 1, 1838 are milestones – one can say August 1 is freedom day in the English speaking Caribbean. Traditionally, August 1, is a massive holiday weekend – fetes and beach parties. It is carnival in Antigua/Barbuda, Crop Over or Barbados Carnival, carnival in the British Virgin Islands and in the Caribbean Diaspora, it is Caribana or carnival in Toronto.
Only a few civic organizations in a few islands, such as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, remind nationals of the significance of August 1 and the reason for the long August 1 joyous-holiday weekend.