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Afro-Bahamian The Bahamas
Total population
Regions with significant populations

 Bahamas circa 344,844 (2017)

 United States of America circa 55,000 (2015)
Bahamian dialect, English
Christianity, Islam, Rastafarism

Afro-Bahamians are an ethnicity originating in The Bahamas of predominantly African descent. The first Africans to arrive to The Bahamas came from Bermuda with the Eleutheran Adventurers.

According to the 2010 Census, 92.7% of The Bahamas' population is African or African mixed with European.[1]


Most of the enslaved Africans brought to The Bahamas were West African. Slaves came from West Central Africa (3,967 Africans), the Bight of Biafra (1,751 Africans), Sierra Leone (1,187 Africans), the Bight of Benin (1,044 Africans), the Windward Coast (1,030 Africans), Senegambia (806 Africans) and from the Gold Coast (484 Africans).[2]

Afro Bahamians originally came by way of Bermuda with the Eleutheran Adventurers in the 17th century, many also came directly from Africa, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the loyalist immigrated to the Bahamas bringing thousands of Blacks with them from Georgia and South Carolina, since the 19th century many Afro-Haitians were settling in the southern Bahamas.


The earliest Black inhabitants of the Bahamas came during the 1640s from Bermuda and England with the Eleutheran Adventurers, many were also brought from other parts of the West Indies.

In the 1780s after the American Revolutionary war, many British loyalist resettled in the Bahamas. This migration brought some 7000 people, the vast majority being Black slaves from the Gullah people in Georgia and the Carolinas. Some blacks earned their freedoms and immigrated to the Bahamas by fighting for the British during the American Revolutionary War as members of the Ethiopian Regiment. This migration made the Bahamian population majority black for the first time, with a proportion of 2 to 1 over the white inhabitants.[3]

In 1807, the British abolished the slave trade. Throughout the 19th century, close to 7000 Africans were resettled in the Bahamas after being freed 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 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.[4][5] Some of their descendants continue Seminole traditions in basket making and grave marking.[6]

In 1818,[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] The most notable case was that of the Creole in 1841, the Creole case was 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".[11]

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.[12] The practice of Obeah is, however, illegal in The Bahamas and punishable by law.[13] 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.

Notable Bahamians[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "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. ^
  4. ^ "Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park", Network to Freedom, National Park Service, 2010, accessed 10 April 2013
  5. ^ Charles Blacker Vignoles, Observations on the Floridas, New York: E. Bliss & E. White, 1823, pp. 135–136
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ 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."
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, p. 137
  10. ^ Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, pp. 107–108
  11. ^ Williams, Michael Paul (11 February 2002). "Brig Creole slaves". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond, VA. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  12. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2005 - Bahamas". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  13. ^ [1] Archived June 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.