The Road To Independence
After the first English settlement in Holetown (known as ‘Jamestown’) in 1627, Barbados remained a British colony for over 300 years before historically claiming its Independence from Great Britain in 1966.
The movement towards Independence first began in the 1930s, when there was a documented struggle by the descendants of liberated slaves to overcome high income restrictions on voting. This time of civil unrest saw the emergence of the Barbados Progressive League in 1938, later known as the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), formed and led by Sir Grantley Herbert Adams.
By 1942, the controversial income qualification for voting had been lowered, resulting in Adams being elected as the first Premier of Barbados and securing his legacy of dethroning the Barbadian plantocracy. In fact, it is also said that Adams set Barbados on the path to Independence by leading the country into the West Indian Federation from 1958 until its termination in 1962, whereby Barbados returned to its former status of ‘self-government’.
In 1961, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow was voted in as the Premier replacement for Adams when his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) came into power.
Fondly remembered as the ‘Father of Independence and social transformation’, it was Barrow who then proudly led Barbados to full Independence from Great Britain on 30th November 1966, thus becoming the first Prime Minister of Barbados.
Independence Is Achieved!
The Barbados Independence Act 1966 was the official Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that granted Independence to Barbados on 30th November 1966. Barbados had become the fourth English-speaking country in the West Indies to achieve full Independence from Great Britain.
The historic first Independence ceremony for Barbados included an elaborate parade, as well as the adoption and first playing of the National Anthem and first raising of the National Flag.
Although Barbados is now considered an Independent state within the Commonwealth Nations, the island maintains ties to the British monarch, represented by the Governor General. Barbados also continues to be shaped by its British heritage in that the Government, schools and religion are all based on the British system.
Come And Celebrate Independence Day With Us!
‘Independence Day’ is celebrated in Barbados every year on the historic day of 30th November and is a national holiday.
Independence Day is officially celebrated with a ceremony and parade at the Garrison Savannah which attracts both locals and tourists alike to see hundreds of members of service groups like the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and the Royal Barbados Police Force, as well as military units march in various formations, salute the nation and commemorate this important day in the island’s history.
Formalities aside, Bajans often celebrate Independence with a family picnic on the bank holiday.
A Month Of Independence Celebrations
The 1990s saw a break with tradition when it was agreed that the entire month of November would be designated to celebrating the ‘Spirit of Independence’ through various cultural events and community activities organised by the Community Independence Celebrations Secretariat (CICS), Parish Ambassadors, and Parish Independence Committees (PICs).
You will notice the national flag more prominently displayed during November, and may even see some locals proudly displaying their ‘Bajan pride’ by wearing Independence colours and flying the Bajan flag from out of their car windows.
The celebrations all kick off at the start of November with the Independence Lighting Ceremony of the Parliament Buildings, Independence Square, the Independence Arch, as well as of businesses throughout the nation’s capital of Bridgetown, decorated with bulbs in the national colours. Highway roundabouts are also decorated, as well as a designated monument in each of the island’s parishes. Other Independence events include the Parish Talent Zonal Shows, the Spirit of the Nation Show, a Spirit of Independence Tour, and sports competitions like the Independence pro-surfing Championships, just to name a few.
The annual National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) also runs for the entire month of November, and encourages Barbadians of all ages to showcase their artistic talents in a variety of genres like music, dance, drama, fine art, photography, arts and crafts, and theatre, culminating in a gala presentation to the nation’s finalists.
Honouring Our Independence History
Barbados honours its Independence history to the upmost, and there so many examples of this all over the island that we can only mention a few here.
The Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Barbados, Cave Hill campus, promotes the making, studying, and appreciation of the arts, and is an honour bestowed upon the late great Errol Barrow, first Prime Minister of an Independent Barbados.
An Errol Barrow statue also stands in Independence Square in the heart of Bridgetown, which fittingly faces north to give you a view of the Parliament Buildings and National Heroes Square, a fine nod to this local legend and Father of Barbadian Independence.
Whatever the time of year, the national flag is always proudly waved in Barbados, featuring Neptune’s broken Trident. When the island was a British colony, the Trident had appeared for almost 300 years intact in the Seal but it now proudly stands broken to represent the split with colonial ties. And, you can be sure that Bajans fly their flags high during the spirited month of Independence in Barbados, as well as all throughout the year, showing their deep national pride.
Did You Know?
Errol Barrow’s portrait can also be found on the $50 Barbadian bill, yet another honour given to this accomplished Bajan.
Author: Brett Callaghan