Emancipation Statue – Bussa Roundabout
Barbados – A Peaceful Island
Despite slavery, Barbados has always been a relatively peaceful country.
It is the only island in the Caribbean that another Empire never took over; 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 enslaved people rose in rebellion under the leadership of a man named ‘Bussa.’
Did you know? Very little biographical information is available about Bussa; his birth name remains unknown, as do the details of most of his life. However, existing records show that there was an enslaved person named ‘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 an even more massive revolution in 1831 – 1832 in Jamaica.
On 14 April 1816, Bussa led his large-scale revolt against the Barbadian elitist plantocracy.
This resulted in a battle between the enslaved people, the planters, and the West India Regiment and significantly impacted the historical development of Barbados.
Carefully executed by approximately four hundred enslaved people (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 and 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, south of the island.
The statue is the work of one of Barbados’ best-known sculptors, Karl Broodhagen, and portrays an enslaved person rising and breaking free from chains.
It symbolizes 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 enslaved people 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 1 August in recognition of the abolishment of slavery on the island and the emancipation of all those enslaved people 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 breaking the shackles of slavery and in recognition of Bussa’s contribution to the emancipation of the island’s slaves.
It’s worth noting that in 1998, by an act of Parliament, Bussa was again publicly honored by being named one of the ten official National Heroes of Barbados for his significant contribution to the island’s history and development.