Afro-Bahamian

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Afro-Bahamian The Bahamas
Total population
Approx. 340,000
Regions with significant populations

 Bahamas (Approx. 262,000)[1]

Florida, London, Georgia, Alabama, New York City
Languages
Bahamian Dialect, Bahamian Creole, English
Religion
Christianity, Rastafari movement, Obeah

Afro-Bahamians are Bahamians of entirely or predominantly African descent. The first Africans to arrive to The Bahamas came from Bermuda with the Eleutheran Adventurers as freed slaves.

According to the 2010 Census, 85% of The Bahamas' population is Black.[1]

Origins[edit]

Most of the enslaved Africans brought to The Bahamas disembarked from Central Africa (37,000 Africans). Other African slaves were from the Bight of Biafra (21,000 Africans), Senegambia (800 Africans), Sierra Leone (1,180 Africans), the Windward Coast (1,030 Africans), from the Gold Coast (480 Africans), and the Bight of Benin (1,040 Africans).[2]

Many Bahamians are also descendants of Gullah imported to The Bahamas during the American Revolution.

History[edit]

In 1807, the British abolished the slave trade. During the following decades, they resettled thousands of Africans liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy, which intercepted the trade, in the Bahamian islands. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire on 1 August 1834.

In the 1820s, hundreds of African American slaves and Black Seminoles escaped from Cape Florida to the Bahamas, settling mostly on northwest Andros Island, where they developed the village of Red Bays. In 1823, 300 slaves escaped in a mass flight aided by Bahamians in 27 sloops, with others using canoes for the journey. This was commemorated in 2004 by a large sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.[3][4] Some of their descendants continue Black Seminole traditions in basket making and grave marking.[5]

In 1818,[6] the Home Office in London had ruled that "any slave brought to The Bahamas from outside the British West Indies would be manumitted." This led to a total of nearly 300 slaves owned by U.S. nationals being freed from 1830 to 1835.[7] The American slave ships Comet and Encomium, used in its domestic coastwise slave trade, had wrecked off Abaco Island in December 1830 and February 1834, respectively. When wreckers took the masters, passengers, and slaves into Nassau, customs officers seized the slaves and British colonial officials freed them, over the protests of the Americans. There were 165 slaves on the Comet and 48 on the Encomium. Britain paid an indemnity to the US in those two cases.[8]

British colonial officials also freed 78 American slaves from the Enterprise, which went into Bermuda in 1835; and 38 from the Hermosa, which wrecked off Abaco island in 1840, after abolition was effective in August 1834.[9] The most notable case was that of the Creole in 1841, the result of a slave revolt whose leaders ordered the American brig to Nassau. It was carrying 135 slaves from Virginia destined for sale in New Orleans. The Bahamian officials freed the 128 slaves who chose to stay in the islands. The Creole case has been described as the "most successful slave revolt in US history".[10]

These incidents, in which a total of 447 slaves belonging to American nationals were freed by 1842, increased tension between the United States and Great Britain, although they had been cooperating in patrols to suppress the international slave trade. Worried about the stability of its domestic slave trade and its value, the US argued that Britain should not treat its domestic ships that came to its colonial ports under duress, as part of the international trade. The US worried that the success of the Creole's slaves in gaining freedom would encourage more slave revolts on merchant ships.

Afro-Bahamian culture[edit]

Obeah is practiced by some Bahamians mainly in the Family Islands of The Bahamas.[11] The practice of Obeah is, however, illegal in The Bahamas and punishable by law.[12] Junkanoo is a traditional Bahamian street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau every Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Junkanoo is also used to celebrate Emancipation Day.

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "CIA - The World Factbook -- Bahamas, The". CIA. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-02. 
  2. ^ African origins of the slaves from British and former British Antilles
  3. ^ "Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park", Network to Freedom, National Park Service, 2010, accessed 10 April 2013
  4. ^ Charles Blacker Vignoles, Observations on the Floridas, New York: E. Bliss & E. White, 1823, pp. 135–136
  5. ^ Howard, Rosalyn. (2006) "The 'Wild Indians' of Andros Island: Black Seminole Legacy in the Bahamas," Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 275–298. Abstract on-line at http://jbs.sagepub.com/content/37/2/275.abstract.
  6. ^ Appendix: "Brigs Encomium and Enterprise", Register of Debates in Congress, Gales & Seaton, 1837, p. 251-253. Note: In trying to retrieve American slaves off the Encomium from colonial officials (who freed them), the US consul in February 1834 was told by the Lieutenant Governor that "he was acting in regard to the slaves under an opinion of 1818 by Sir Christopher Robinson and Lord Gifford to the British Secretary of State."
  7. ^ Gerald Horne, Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation, New York University (NYU) Press, 2012, p. 103
  8. ^ Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, p. 137
  9. ^ Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, pp. 107–108
  10. ^ Williams, Michael Paul (11 February 2002). "Brig Creole slaves". Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA). Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  11. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2005 - Bahamas". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  12. ^ [1][dead link]