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'Know what you're celebrating!' - chides Donald E. De Castro

-wants people to make the clear distinction between abolition & emancipation
Commentator Donald E. De Castro wants people of the Virgin Islands to make the clear distinction between emancipation and abolition and to aid in this he has penned an article which he hopes will clear up the misconceptions between the two terms and help people to understand their history and celebrate it more appropriately. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Commentator Donald E. De Castro wants people of the Virgin Islands to make the clear distinction between emancipation and abolition and to aid in this he has penned an article which he hopes will clear up the misconceptions between the two terms and help people to understand their history and celebrate it more appropriately.

“People say we are celebrating emancipation but slaves here were never emancipated,” said De Castro in comment to this news site recently.

He said that he wants people to understand that while slavery was abolished in 1834, slaves had to remain with their slave owners for another four years working for pittance.

In addition to informing the readers about what it is they are celebrating, De Castro also made several suggestions that seek to make the Festival celebrations more meaningful and representative of the historical past of slavery, its abolition and the people’s emancipation.

Below is the full text of De Castro’s article:

On June 14, in my article, ‘How did we get here?’ I wrote the following as my opening paragraph and now I think it is fitting to write it again.

“History is always an important aspect in life, whether it is a village, town, city, country or the world; therefore it is important that history is always properly recorded. In this respect it is always necessary and important that everyone tries to keep track of what is happening around us as there is that possibility some information recorded may not always be accurate and by paying attention such errors may be corrected before it is too late.”

We have been celebrating what is referred to as Emancipation Celebration and it is time that I share with you information that should not only interest you but should also open your mind and cause you to start asking questions.

In 1833 in the British Parliament passed a Law abolishing slavery in The Virgin Islands, among other British countries. This Act was to take effect on August 1st 1834. This same Law established an Apprenticeship Scheme. While the Law abolished slavery, which meant slaves could no longer be owned, the Scheme made it mandatory that the former slaves continue to work for their original owners but must now be paid.

There were two ways in which the slave could earn his freedom either by working for a number of years or paying their now bosses for their freedom. It was not until 1838 when the business people were unable to make money because they no longer had free labour and this caused the Apprenticeship Scheme to become bankrupt that is when the people became free.

So, therefore, in reality, the slaves were not emancipated absolutely on August 1st 1834; because by law they and their descendants and future descendants either had to work for their former slave master for a number of years as set by law or they had to buy their freedom from their former slave master.

On the other hand, the Danish West Indies (1666-1917), now, the U. S Virgin Islands, except from 1801-1802 and again 1807-1815 when Great Britain occupied them, the slaves there were emancipated. In 1792 the King of Denmark resolved that the Danish slave trade be abolished in 1803 but it continued after 1803.

On July 3rd, 1848 after unrest broke out in the town of Frederiksted, on the Island of St. Croix, the Governor General, Peter von Scholten declared that slavery be abolished immediately in the Danish West Indies. And that was their emancipation. So while July 4 is Independence Day in the United States, July 3 is Emancipation Day in USVI.

So we here in The Virgin Islands have to take another look at what history says and that our Festival should be a History and Cultural celebration. We should remember that on was August 1st, 1834 only slavery was abolished; by law the former slave was still at the control of the slave master because of the Apprenticeship Scheme. Absolute Freedom was not given on August 1st, 1834. Freedom for all came in 1838 because of the financial failure of the Apprenticeship Scheme that year.

In conclusion I want to suggest that we have a Cultural & Historical Festival every weekend starting in June that should include the villages on Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke with the climax on the First Monday of August or the First of August remembering the Abolishing of (physical) Slavery. Unfortunately there are too many people suffering from mental slavery.

8 Responses to “'Know what you're celebrating!' - chides Donald E. De Castro”

  • History Lover (02/09/2014, 08:38) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thank you for this Mr Decastro, I read and you have indeed revived the knowledge I garnered from my History classes at the BVI High School back in the eighties. We need to be accurately informed of our history and the only way how is to go search for it, read it and understand it. I agree that Festival celebrations have gone off target, but I am not too sure how we can get to celebrating our culture properly. I'm definitely for showcasing it.
  • correct. (02/09/2014, 08:52) Like (9) Dislike (2) Reply
    You are right Sir, there are far to many people suffering from mental slavery and you are one of them.
  • bay yute (02/09/2014, 11:04) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    Me ain't care what a man say Donald speaking good
  • Yes I (02/09/2014, 15:05) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The truth in today's world is what sets us free.
  • asura (02/09/2014, 18:26) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Love him or hate him the man speaking good
  • wize up (03/09/2014, 05:43) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    only now decastro knowing this; what took you so long donald!!!!!(did you google)
  • akoko the cock (03/09/2014, 10:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The abolition of slavery led to emancipation of the slaves. It is true that full legal freedom came in 1838, but what happened in 1834 was that the as of August 1 the individuals ceased to be slaves, that is, PROPERTY of the former owners. They were still legally compelled to work for a determined pay as so-called apprentices until 1838. So it is correct to celebrate emancipation, still. There was no declaration of emancipation in the British system, though, as there was in the USA.
  • LCS (03/09/2014, 16:12) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    According to this, then we are all SLAVES, because we have to work. Some for a good salary, others for not so good salaries. The ones who are truly FREE are the ones who don't have to work. There should not be a celebration then.
    The sad thing is that the mind and the spirit are what should make us free. But our minds full of prejudice and our mean spirits (criticizing w/o looking for solutions) keeps us in SLAVERY MODE.

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