Emancipation Statue – Bussa Roundabout
Barbados – A Peaceful Island
Despite slavery, Barbados has always been a rather peaceful country.
It is the only island in the Caribbean never to be taken over by another Empire; it remained British until its Independence in 1966.
There has never been any civil war in Barbados, and the island has never been involved in any foreign wars.
Nevertheless, there was one slave revolt recorded in Barbados, although many of the details surrounding it remain a mystery.
What is known is that it is considered the most massive slave revolt in Barbadian history, lasting two days, whereby hundreds of slaves rose in rebellion under the leadership of a man named ‘Bussa.’
Did you know? Very little biographical information is available about Bussa; his actual birth name remains unknown, as do the details of the majority of his life. However, what existing records do show is that there was a slave by the name of ‘Bussa’ who worked on a plantation in St. Philip around the same time as the rebellion.
‘Bussa’s Rebellion‘ was the first of three large-scale slave rebellions in the British West Indies in the years leading up to emancipation.
Note: It was followed by the large-scale rebellion in 1823 in Demerara (now part of Guyana), and by an even more massive revolution in 1831 – 1832 in Jamaica.
On 14 April 1816, Bussa lead his large-scale revolt against the Barbadian elitist plantocracy.
This resulted in a battle between the slaves, the planters, and the West India Regiment, and had a significant impact on the historical development of Barbados.
Carefully executed by approximately four hundred slaves (400), the Bussa Rebellion was geared towards overthrowing the white planter class and is documented as the most significant revolt in the history of Barbados.
Bussa was killed in the revolt battle, forced into submission by the Regiment.
However, this influential and historic Barbadian figure continues to represent emancipation and freedom to many Bajans, and his lasting legacy continues.
The ‘Bussa’ Emancipation Statue
In 1985 (169 years after the revolt) a giant bronze statue, the ‘Emancipation Statue,’ was erected on a local roundabout in Barbados to honor the infamous man fondly remembered as ‘Bussa.’
Also called the ‘Emancipation Roundabout,’ or the ‘Bussa Roundabout,’ the mighty statue and public sculpture are located on the ABC Highway in Haggatt Hall, St. Michael, down in the south of the island.
The statue is the work of one of Barbados’ best-known sculptors, Karl Broodhagen, and portrays a slave rising and breaking free from chains.
It is said to symbolize the strength of emancipation and is a clear nod to the courageous freedom fighter Bussa, who is now a Barbadian household name.
The statue is inscribed on both sides. One side reads:
Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin [Queen Victoria].
De Queen come from England to set we free
Now Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin
This is particularly significant because this was the chant that thousands of Barbadians hailed when slavery was officially abolished on the island.
The other side of the statue is inscribed with text from the Abolition Act of 1833.
Did you know? 1 August 1834 is when all slaves across the British Empire finally received emancipation, and slavery was officially abolished. However, there was a four-year apprenticeship period whereby ‘free men’ continued to work without pay in exchange for small housing, which occurred up until 1838.
Every year in Barbados, ‘Emancipation Day‘ is celebrated on the first of August in recognition of the abolishment of slavery on the island and the emancipation of all those slaves who were still in captivity on the sugar plantations at the time.
On Emancipation Day, crowds of Barbadians march towards the Bussa Roundabout and Emancipation Statue to celebrate the breaking of the shackles of slavery and in recognition of Bussa’s contribution to the emancipation of the island’s slaves.
It’s worth also noting that in 1998, by an act of Parliament, Bussa was again publicly honored by being named as one of the ten official National Heroes of Barbados for his significant contribution to the island’s history and development.
Author: Brett Callaghan