Berbice slave uprising

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The Berbice slave uprising was a slave revolt in Guyana[1] that began on 23 February 1763[2] and lasted to December. It is seen as a major event in Guyana's anti-colonial struggles, and when Guyana became a republic in 1970 the state declared 23 February as a day to commemorate the start of the Berbice slave revolt.[2]


In 1762, the population of the Dutch colony of Berbice included 3,833 enslaved Blacks, 244 enslaved Amerindians or indigenous people, and 346 whites.[2] On 23 February 1763, slaves on Plantation Magdalenenberg on the Canje River in Berbice[3] rebelled, protesting harsh and inhumane treatment. They torched the plantation house, then went to other plantations to mobilize other enslaved Africans to join the rebellion. Cuffy, an enslaved man at Lilienburg, a plantation on the Canje River, is said to have organized them into a military unit.[2] As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the Dutch settlers fled northward and the rebels began to take over control of the region. For almost a year, the rebels held on to southern Berbice, while the whites were able to hold on to the north. Eventually only about half of the white population that had lived in the colony remained.[2]

The rebels came to number about 3,000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. Other key figures among the rebels include Atta, Accara, and Accabre.[2]

The insurgents were eventually defeated in the spring of 1764 with the assistance of troops from neighbouring French and British colonies and from Europe. The Dutch executed 125 men and 3 women for participating in the rebellion.[4]


1763 Monument on Square of the Revolution in Georgetown, Guyana, designed by Guyanese artist Philip Moore

Cuffy is commemorated on 23 February as the national hero of Guyana. In 1976, a bronze monument was erected in the Square of the Revolutions, in the capital Georgetown.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Simon David (2006). Slavery, Family, and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648-1834. Cambridge University Press. p. 116. ISBN 0-521-86338-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cleve McD. Scott, "Berbice Slave Revolt (1763)", in Junius P. Rodriguez, Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion, Vol. 1, Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press, 2007, pp. 55-56.
  3. ^ Thompson, Alvin O., "The Berbice Revolt 1763-64", in Winston F. McGowan, James G. Rose and David A. Granger (eds), Themes in African-Guyanese History, London: Hansib, 2009. p. 80.
  4. ^ Kars, Marjoleine (2016). "Dodging Rebellion: Politics and Gender in the Berbice Slave Uprising of 1763". The American Historical Review. 121 (1): 39–69. doi:10.1093/ahr/121.1.39. ISSN 0002-8762.

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