Afro-Guyanese people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Afro-Guyanese)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Afro-Guyanese people
Total population
29.3% of Guyana's population (2012)
Regions with significant populations
Guyana (Georgetown, Essequibo Coast)
United Kingdom, Canada, United States
English, Guyanese Creole
Christianity, Islam, the Rastafari movement, Obeah

Afro-Guyanese people are generally descended from slaves brought to Guyana from the coast of West Africa to work on sugar plantations.

After the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, Afro-Guyanese people came together to develop small villages. They were not given land to compensate for their labor, unlike future immigrant groups. When planters made land or passage home available to East Indians as part of the terms of indentured labour in the late 19th century, given that they had denied land to the Africans as emancipated slaves several decades earlier, it created tension among the ethnic groups.

By the early twentieth century, the majority of the urban population of the country was Afro-Guyanese. Many Afro-Guyanese people living in villages had migrated to the towns in search of work. Until the 1930s, Afro-Guyanese people, especially those of mixed descent, comprised the bulk of the non-white professional class. During the 1930s, as Indo-Guyanese began to enter the middle class in large numbers, they began to compete with Afro-Guyanese for professional positions.


The Dutch West India Company turned to the importation of African slaves, who rapidly became a key element in the colonial economy. By the 1660s, the slave population numbered about 2,500; the number of indigenous people was estimated at 50,000, most of whom had retreated into the vast hinterland. Although African slaves were considered an essential element of the colonial economy, their working conditions were brutal. The mortality rate was high, and the dismal conditions led to more than half a dozen slave rebellions.

The most famous slave uprising, the Berbice Slave Uprising, began in February 1763. On two plantations on the Canje River in Berbice, slaves rebelled, taking control of the region. As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the European population fled; eventually only half of the whites who had lived in the colony remained. Led by Cuffy (now the national hero of Guyana), the African freedom fighters came to number about 3,000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. The freedom fighters were defeated with the assistance of troops from neighboring French and British colonies and from Europe.

Colonial life was changed radically by the demise of slavery. Although the international slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807, slavery itself continued. In what is known as the Demerara rebellion of 1823 10–13,000 slaves in Demerara-Essequibo rose up against their masters.[1] Although the rebellion was easily crushed,[1] the momentum for abolition remained, and by 1838 total emancipation had been effected. The end of slavery had several ramifications. Most significantly, many former slaves rapidly departed the plantations. Some ex-slaves moved to towns and villages, feeling that field labor was degrading and inconsistent with freedom, but others pooled their resources to purchase the abandoned estates of their former masters and created village communities. Establishing small settlements provided the new Afro-Guyanese communities an opportunity to grow and sell food, an extension of a practice under which slaves had been allowed to keep the money that came from the sale of any surplus produce. The emergence of an independent-minded Afro-Guyanese peasant class, however, threatened the planters' political power, inasmuch as the planters no longer held a near-monopoly on the colony's economic activity.

Emancipation also resulted in the introduction of new ethnic and cultural groups into British Guiana. The departure of the Afro-Guyanese from the sugar plantations soon led to labor shortages. After unsuccessful attempts throughout the 19th century to attract Portuguese workers from Madeira, the estate owners were again left with an inadequate supply of labor. The Portuguese had not taken to plantation work and soon moved into other parts of the economy, especially retail business, where they became competitors with the new Afro-Guyanese middle class. Later many East Indian immigrants arrived as indentured, and would later grow into a thriving and competitive class.

Notable Afro-Guyanese people[edit]

Notable people of Afro-Guyanese descent[edit]


  1. ^ a b Révauger 2008, pp. 105–106.