Tag Archives: Indentureship

Emancipation – commentary



On August 1, 2013, it will be 179 years since slavery was abolished in this country – and in the rest of the British Empire, for that matter. As a national Public Holiday, we should be reminded that it is a day that should be commemorated by all Guyanese. Not only because we are citizens of this country but because we are the inheritors of the legacy of those who fought and died fighting that epitome of man’s inhumanity to man.

It was an institution of which the world had never seen before – and hopefully will never see again. There are those that like to mention that there was slavery before our “New World” slavery that dragged millions of Africans across the Atlantic and plunged them into a world in which even their humanity was denied.    Continue reading

History: The 1913 Rose Hall Uprising at Rose Hall

Fatally Policed Protest: The 1913 Rose Hall Uprising

In the Diaspora – March 11, 2013 · By Gaiutra Bahadur

In the DiasporaGaiutra Bahadur is a Guyanese-American journalist who has devoted much of her career to telling the stories of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The story reconstructed here, from archives in London, features in her book Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, to be published this autumn by The University of Chicago Press.

Wednesday marks a grim centenary in Guyanese history: a date that should have lived infamously, but has been forgotten, lost when the keepers of its memory were themselves lost to us. One hundred years ago, on 13 March 1913, resistance by Indian workers on Rose Hall Plantation ended in carnage, as British colonial police killed fifteen, including a woman they shot in the stomach, and injured another thirty-nine, seriously enough to warrant amputations. It was perhaps the deadliest indenture-era suppression of unrest in the Caribbean.    Continue reading

Chinese: How a disastrous fire in 1913 aided integration

Chinese: 160th anniversary of the first immigrants to British Guiana.

Note: Integration started early. ” These first immigrants were exclusively male; women were not brought in until 1860, when the Whirlwind and Dora arrived from Hong Kong carrying 61 and 138 female passengers respectively. According to Cecil Clementi, who wrote a history of the Chinese in Guyana in the early 20th century, the percentage of women in the total Chinese immigration was only 14.2 per cent. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the vast majority of Chinese men had to seek partners outside their own ethnic grouping”. [from blog entry: “The Chinese in Guyana”]

How a disastrous fire in 1913 aided integration

Stabroek  News – February 5, 2013 –    By Margery Kirkpatrick

This is an edited version of a column which was first published by Stabroek News on July 7, 1991 under the caption ‘The Charlestown fire and its effect on the Chinese community.’

After the Chinese had completed their terms of indentureship on the sugar estates, they left the estates. Those who had been landowners back in China opted to make their homes in the Chinese agricultural settlement at Hopetown, in the hope that one day they would be granted title to the land. The others had banded together in an area from Leopold Street to Harel street, bordered by High and Cornhill Streets, where they formed their own “country within a country,” in a closely knit community much like those that have been established all over the world.   Continue reading

Chinese: Indentureship: “The Chinese in Guyana” – 2 articles

Chinese: 160th anniversary of the first immigrants to British Guiana.

British Guiana’s immigration: The Chinese experiment

Stabroek News:  Cecilia McAlmont – February 5, 2013  

This edited article was first published by Stabroek News in the History this week series (No 2003/5) on January 30, 2003. It formed Part I of a two-part feature.

By the time the ship Glentanner, on January 12, 1853 disembarked the 262 Chinese labourers, the first of the 13,533 who were eventually to arrive in British Guiana, the local plantocracy had all but won the battle to persuade the colonial authorities that not only the survival of the sugar economy but the survival of civilization in the colony of British Guiana was dependent on their being allowed to import large numbers of immigrants restrained by long indentures. Immigrants from China were to be an integral part of this survival process. Not only were they regarded as equal to the Blacks and superior to the Indian immigrants in their capacity to support the labour of sugar cultivation, but also as part of the entire process which could be used to discipline and control the newly freed Blacks to suit the requirements of the plantation system.    [more]

The Chinese in Guyana         <click for second article Continue reading

Indentureship poems – By and for Leonard Dabydeen

May is East Indian Indentureship month:

Indentured Man

by Leonard Dabydeen

call me
a coolie
plantation bound
indentureship is my common slave dance.     Continue reading

The East Indian Presence in Trinidad and Tobago 1845-1917 – six videos

Coolies- How Britain Re-invented Slavery

On September 2, 2010 the Guyanese Online Blog featured four videos on the Guyanese East Indian experience as Indentured labourers in British Guiana.  The tales in those four videos are similar to those featured here regarding East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago.

The four videos on Guyanese Online titled  Coolies- How Britain Re-invented Slavery are at:


The East Indian Presence in Trinidad and Tobago 1845-1917

The Indian Presence in Trinidad and Tobago 1845 – 1917 – done by Premiere Video Productions.
If you’re interested in purchasing the full DVD please contact: qualitycreationsinfo@gmail.com or ktelevision@gmail.com

Legacy of our Ancestors Part 1 of 6 – videos

The other five videos follow this first video – click MORE to continue

Continue reading

Tim Wise on the Creation of Whiteness – video

Tim Wise on the Creation of Whiteness

This is a clip from The Pathology of Privilege: Racism, White Denial & the Costs of Inequality, the newly released video from the Media Education Foundation. The video is of a speech given by Tim Wise at Mt. Holyoke College, October 1, 2007.

Also look at the other Tim Wise videos that follow this one.

  Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., and has been called, “One of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation,” by best-selling author and professor Michael Eric Dyson, of Georgetown University. Wise has spoken in 48 states, and on over 600 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale and Columbia, and has spoken to community groups around the nation.

Corentyne centenarian reaches an amazing 110 years

Corentyne centenarian reaches an amazing 110 years
— 110- year- old Ismay Spooner, the oldest person living in Guyana

By Leon Suseran

It is said that the best things are hidden far away, and perhaps that is true, since Guyana’s oldest citizen is quietly living out her God-given blessings in a village called Little Africa, in Corriverton, Corentyne.
She is 110-year-old Ismay Spooner nee Hinckson, a woman full of stories and visions.
Mrs Spooner was born in Barbados on December 27, 1900 to Bajan parents. Her father, Livingston, died before she was born, and her mother was Louise, who also lived to a ripe old age, 102- years.
Her two brothers and two sisters are all deceased, leaving her to be the only surviving member of her family.
She married Harold Spooner, a cane- harvester in British Guiana. He is now deceased.
Sitting on her bed, a very alert and talkative Mrs Spooner said that she left Barbados at age 10, with her mother and uncles, for British Guiana “during the indentureship period”. “They were carrying people all about to [build] Panama [Canal]; to different places”, she said.
“Cutting cane was a hard work, a very hard work. Rain a fall and beat you till you…Oh Lord have mercy…when a rain fall, you shiver like a leaf on a tree. Sometimes the rain wet you good on the backdam”, she reminisced.
“Plenty people come with me and they go away back to Barbados.” Continue reading

Early East Indians of the Caribbean

Early East Indians of the Caribbean

Glimpse of Early East Indians in Guyana,Trinidad, Suriname and Jamaica.

The Arrival of the Chinese in British Guiana

The Arrival of the Chinese in British Guiana

This article was published in the May 2010 edition of the Guyanese Online Newsletter.

Even though the planters in Guyana had expressed interest in introducing Chinese labourers since Emancipation, it was not until 1851 that such recruitment first began.

Because of the long travel distance from China, at first Chinese were not recruited since it was cheaper to transport Indians. While it cost a planter 13 British pounds to transport an Indian labourer from Calcutta or Ma-dras, the cost was 15 pounds to transport a Chinese immigrant from any of the Chinese ports. But because of the growing need for labourers for the sugar estates, some planters decided to recruit Chinese especially during the period between 1848 and 1851 when Indian immigration was suspended.   Continue reading