Emancipation Festival, Barbados, 19th cent.

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This record was last updated on 21 Feb 2017

Image Reference

Cassell's History of England, miscellaneous editions (see Comments).

Slaves in Barbados and throughout the British Empire were emancipated in 1834-38. This illustration is sometimes reproduced in modern secondary sources treating slavery in the British Empire to suggest an eyewitness depiction of an event that actually occurred on the island. However, it is a late 19th century unidentified artist's (the initials HMP are in the lower left hand corner) fanciful depiction. Reproductions of this image in secondary sources never give the original source, but the historian John Gilmore's meticulous research identified the illustration's first publication as the Jubilee edition of Cassell's History of England (1886-95, vol. 5, p. 369). Gilmore's critical discussion of the illustration stresses that it "does [not] seem to be of any real value as historical evidence about popular festivals in Barbados," and is based solely on the artist's own imagination, rather than any direct observations or hearsay evidence (see "That Emancipation Picture," Banja: a magazine of Barbados life and culture [The Barbados National Cultural Foundation, 1990], issue no. 5, pp. 10-12). The same illustration was reprinted in subsequent editions of Cassell's History, e.g., the Century edition, (1903, vol. 5), the King's edition (London, 1909), the Special edition (London, n.d.).