THE ST.KITTS SLAVE RIOTS OF 1834

Bequia History New York St. Vincent
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BY: Natasha Gregg

THE ST.KITTS SLAVE RIOTS OF 1834

– After the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies in 1833, colonial powers needed a way to maintain slaves, yet “follow the law”, thus, the apprenticeship system in 1834. This system in itself was a form of modified slavery in which further compensation would be provided to the planters by requiring slaves to buy their freedom, by working 45 hours a week for anywhere between 4 to 6 years with no wages. The laws of St. Kitts made it clear that apprenticeship was slavery under another name, by stating that a planter’s interest in an apprentice was chattel interest. The slaves wanted nothing but total freedom and refused to fall prey under the apprenticeship system. On the day the slaves were to be emancipated, they abandoned the plantations throughout St. Kitts and unrest and riots ensued. To crush the riots, martial law was declared and forces had to be brought in from nearby Antigua. Many of the slaves involved were punished before they went back to work as apprentices.

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