|Regions with significant populations|
|Florida, London, Georgia, Alabama, New York City|
|Bahamian Dialect, Bahamian Creole, Haitian Creole, American English|
|Christianity, the Rastafari movement, Obeah|
|Related ethnic groups|
|African people • Afro-Caribbean • Afro-American • English people|
Afro-Bahamians or Bahamians of African descent are Bahamians whose ancestry lies within the continent of Africa, most notably Central Africa. The first Africans to arrive to The Bahamas came from Bermuda with the Eleutheran Adventurers as freed slaves looking for a new life.
Most of slaves hailed from Central Africa, more than 37,000 were exported to The Bahamas. The rest of the slaves were from Senegambia (although alone were exported to The Bahamas, about 806 slaves from that area), Sierra Leone (only 1,187 slaves in that region), Windward Coast (1,030 slaves were imported from this area), from Ghana (only 484 slaves in that region), the Bight of Benin (1,044 slaves arrived to The Bahamas from there), from Nigeria (specifically Igbo. Slaves from Bight of Biafra and Equatoguinean adjacent islands were over 21,000)  and ethnicity such as Akan origin (Fante - Ashanti), Yoruba, Fulani and Kongos to country during the colonial period, which influenced on the current Bahamian Dialect.
The first Africans to arrive to The Bahamas came from Bermuda with the Eleutheran Adventurers as freed slaves looking for a new life. After American independence, the British resettled some 7,300 Loyalists and their slaves in the Bahamas from New York, Florida, and The Carolinas, to help compensate them for losses. These Loyalists established plantations on several islands and became a political force in the capital. European Americans were outnumbered by the African-American slaves they brought with them, and ethnic Europeans remained a minority in the territory.
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 finally abolished in the British Empire on 1 August 1834.
In the 1820s, hundreds of 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. From eyewitness accounts, 300 escaped in a mass flight in 1823, 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. Some of their descendants continue Black Seminole traditions in basketmaking and grave marking.
The United States' National Park Service, which administers the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, is working with the African Bahamanian Museum and Research Center (ABAC) In Nassau on development to identify Red Bays as a site related to American slaves' search for freedom. The museum has researched and documented the Black Seminoles' escape from southern Florida. It plans to develop interpretive programs at historical sites in Red Bay associated with the period of their settlement in the Bahamas.
In 1818, 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. 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, but only after lengthy delay.
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. 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".
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.
Currently, Afro-Bahamians are the most prevalent ethnic group in the Bahamas, as they account for 85% of the country's population. They have now been able to achieve a much higher standard of living than previous generations.
Culture of African origin
A form of folk magic (obeah) is practiced by some Bahamians but, mostly the Haitian-Bahamian community, mainly in the Family Islands (out-islands) of The Bahamas. The practice of obeah is, however, illegal in the Bahamas and punishable by law. Junkanoo is a traditional Bahamian street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau (and a few other settlements) every Boxing Day, New Year's Day. Junkanoo is also used to celebrate other holidays and events such as Emancipation Day.
Bahamas culture is rich with beliefs, traditions, folklore and legend. The most well-known folklore and legends in Bahamas includes Lusca in Andros Bahamas, Pretty Molly on Exuma Bahamas, The Chickcharnies of Andro Bahamas, and the Lost City of Atlantis on Bimini Bahamas.
While English is the official language of The Bahamas, a vast majority of the population speaks Bahamian Dialect, which is a dialect of English intermediate between Standard English and Bahamian Dialect. There are some minor regional differences from island to island in terms of pronunciation, but generally all are the same. The Yoruba, Fulani and (probably) Kongos to country during the colonial period, which influenced on the Bahamian Creole. The second most spoken language is Haitian Creole, by the 30,000 to 60,000 Haitian migrants in The Bahamas, who also include a vast number of illegal Haitian Immigrants (as of 2005).
In Bahamian dialect, some African words and expressions have been retained, such as:
- yinna - you (plural) (Yoruba)
- jook (v.) - to stab or poke (Fulani).
- nanny -(v.n.)- feces or the act of defecation (probably of Kongo origin, from the word nene, of similar meaning)
- cut eye - an expression found in many Caribbean and Atlantic creoles, meaning to glare, literally squint or 'cut' your eyes /roll your eye
- Jumbay - ghost, related to the Kongo word nzumbi of similar meaning
- Yam - to eat, still in use in some southern and eastern islands, related to the African word nyam.
References and footnotes
- "CIA - The World Factbook -- Bahamas, The". CIA. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- African origins of the slaves from British and former British Antilles
- Bahamas outlook clouds for Haitians by Nick Davis, BBC News, 20 September 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
- "Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park", Network to Freedom, National Park Service, 2010, accessed 10 April 2013
- Charles Blacker Vignoles, Observations on the Floridas, New York: E. Bliss & E. White, 1823, pp. 135–136
- 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.
- Partners: "African Bahamanian Museum and Research Center (ABAC)", Network to Freedom, National Park Service, accessed 10 April 2013
- 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."
- 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
- Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, p. 137
- Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, pp. 107–108
- Williams, Michael Paul (11 February 2002). "Brig Creole slaves". Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA). Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "International Religious Freedom Report 2005 - Bahamas". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
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