The Caribbean historian Edward R. Brathwaite defined his phrase ‘Humanitarian Revolution’ as “those movements of and for slave emancipation which had their first significant effects on the Caribbean with the response to the French Revolution in St. Domingue and among the elements of the slave populations of these islands generally, along with abolitionist and missionary activity in the area.” He offered two distinct parts. The first was the movement for the abolition of slavery: the Great Cause of early nineteenth-century activism in the Americas and Europe. The second was the project of religious education for the enslaved. Yet, deeply connected with ‘the French Revolution in Saint-Domingue,’ was a third element: not only the push for abolition but also the push for the removal of race-based civil and political disabilities. The first and third elements form this discussion of political activism in Bermuda during the early nineteenth century.
It will begin with the historical context: legislative-political and social-demographic situation of the last 70 years of slavery in Bermuda. It will shift to the effect the ‘French Revolution in Saint-Domingue’ had on Bermudian elite opinion. It will conclude with the voices of Bermudian humanitarianism: St. George Tucker, Mary Prince and a petition submitted to the Bermuda House of Assembly by free black activists. Each of these three voices of the ‘Humanitarian Revolution’ found the expression of their demands in Bermuda’s two Abolition Acts signed into law in 1834.
The History Workshop serves as a regular part of the History Department life for over 40 years. Bring a lunch. All are welcome! For further information, please call (302) 831-2371.