President Granger reminds that freedom came at a high price

...at commemoration of the 1823 Demerara Revolt

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President David Granger Monday night urged Guyanese not to let future generations forget about the 1823 Demerara Revolt where thousands of slaves on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) rebelled for their freedom.

The Revolt, involving more than 11,000 slaves across more than 55 plantations, was the largest of enslaved Africans in Guyana and was one of the most significant events in Caribbean history.

Speaking at the commemoration ceremony of the 1823 Demerara Revolt for which August 20th has been named ‘Demerara Martyrs’ Day’, which was held at the Monument on Atlantic Avenue, the President said that August is a month of solemn remembrance and commemoration.

“August reminds us that the freedom from enslavement which we gained 180 years ago was paid for by the martyrdom of our ancestors. We commemorated, on August 1, 2018, the 180th anniversary of the Emancipation from enslavement when over 85,000 Africans were finally freed from that cruel and inhumane system.

“We commemorated, on August 3, the Essequibo Revolt of 1834 when Africans, mistakenly believing they had been emancipated, assembled in the churchyard at La Belle Alliance and resisted being forced to work for four more years as a period of apprenticeship.  We commemorated, in August also, the ‘maroon’ rebellion of 1795 on West Demerara.  We assemble here today to remember the martyrdom of more than 200 Africans during the Demerara Revolt of 1823,” he said.

Speaking at the commemoration ceremony of the 1823 Demerara Revolt for which August 20th has been named ‘Demerara Martyrs’ Day’, which was held at the Monument on Atlantic Avenue, the President said that August is a month of solemn remembrance and commemoration. [Ministry of the Presidency photos]

Describing the events of that day, President Granger spoke passionately about the horror of the brutal killings.

“The Demerara Revolt turned into a massacre when the British West India Regiment and other forces deployed to quell the revolt, opened fire upon on a group of 2,000 Africans at Bachelor’s Adventure, slaughtering more than 200 there.

“The rebels were pursued along the East Coast Demerara, brought to hasty drumhead trials, most lasting a few minutes, found guilty on the basis of flimsy evidence and sentenced to executions and floggings.  Those sentenced to death were tied to trees and shot immediately.  Their corpses were laid side by side on the ground, decapitated and their heads placed on poles on the public roads in front of the plantations of the East Coast,” President Granger said.

He noted that other public executions followed the formal court-martial in Georgetown on August 25, 1823, which took place on the Militia Parade Ground, now called Independence Park, in Cummingsburg or ‘Parade Ground.’

“The Demerara Revolt was suppressed but it ignited the flame of freedom.  News of the bloody suppression of the Revolt triggered outrage in Britain.  The Revolt’s role in the passage of the Emancipation Act ten years later in 1833 is undisputed.  The Cooperative Republic of Guyana has designated 20th August as ‘Demerara Martyrs’ Day’ in homage to the victims of the Demerara Revolt.

A section of the gathering

“This day and this ceremony remind us that freedom was not an Imperial gift but was won through the sacrifices and martyrdom of our ancestors.  I urge Guyanese to continue to commemorate this event.  I urge future generations to remember that freedom was bought at the high price of the martyrdom of hundreds of Africans on August 20, 1823,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Aaron Blackman, a Cultural Activist, who delivered remarks, said that the freedom Guyanese, particularly Afro-Guyanese enjoy is due to the struggles and sacrifices of their ancestors, who paid the ultimate price. The younger generation, therefore, he said should not take their sacrifices lightly or for granted but use it as a motivation to move the country forward.

The event was also attended by Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, other Ministers of the Government, members of the diplomatic corps and stakeholders of the African community. [Extracted and modified from Ministry of the Presidency]

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