By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 09, 2021


“Pas de six ans, Point de six ans!” (“No to Six Years. No more six years!”)

—The chant of the ex-slaves on Emancipation Day

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeMore apprentices came to Government House on Saturday, August 2, to assert their freedom. There was “a visible increase of insolence in the behaviour of the Negroes. The muster around Government House continued, and His Excellency again attempted to persuade them to return to their work, but his efforts were fruitless. They first laughed at, and then hooted [we would say heckled] him” (PoS Gazette, August 5, 1834).

The ex-slaves followed the governor around town as he visited various Picket Guards, causing the “respectable” members of the society to disdain the behaviour of “the mob”. Soon, they began to arrest the leaders of the newly freed people and brought them to quick trials.

The results were predictable: “Seventeen of the most prominent ringleaders were tried, and condemned to stripes and hard labour, according to their various deserts.” (PoS Gazette.)

This summary punishment was designed to scare the apprentices into submission, thereby forcing them to leave Port of Spain and return to their estates in a humiliated manner. But their acts of resistance created a new consciousness in them.

They became emboldened once they saw their leaders being taken to jail. “Part of the mob followed the escort to the Gaol, encouraging the prisoners not to mind their punishment, avowing their own determination to submit not only to punishment, but to death itself, rather than return to work.”

Through their actions, they had annealed into one social body, joining in that free consciousness of their peers the world over.

Such defiance was unacceptable. From the platform of Government House, Captain Hay, one of the white leaders, read “the clause in the Royal Order in Council, declaring the assemblage of three or more people to be a riot if continued for ten minutes after notice to disperse, and the display of the flag”.

The apprentices ignored his order. After 20 minutes, the militia charged the crowd. Most of the participants fled. Yet the women stood their ground, determined not to submit. The crowd dispersed merely to reassemble itself again.

More apprentices kept coming into Port of Spain. Yet, not one cutlass; not one beau-stick, was to be seen amongst them. Each person was sober and not one act of personal violence or robbery took place. The PoS Gazette alleged that the apprentices “had been instructed and well-trained in the most effective mode of embarrassing a government, especially one so weak and resolute as the Government of this colony has shewn itself. Like the Unionists [in Ireland] they had been taught the power of passive resistance”.

How did they learn this? They had not heard of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King (they were not around), yet only one day out of slavery they enacted a great display of “passive resistance” in spite of the government’s intimidating actions.

On Sunday, the apprentices changed their tactics. Not one country apprentice was on the streets. The government remained afraid and indecisive. Two meetings of the Council were held that day to determine the propriety of declaring Martial Law. The apprentices were ready to defy any such measure, but the council voted against it. The government kept on arresting the apprentices as the night wore on.

On Monday morning, the apprentices returned to Port of Spain as the special magistrates continued their summary punishment of the apprentices. About 60 apprentices were convicted, of which 33 “were condemned to be publicly flogged and to terms of imprisonment and hard labour”.

The next day the prisoners received their punishment, but few of them expressed contrition or even asked to be pardoned. Still, the apprentices continued to surround Government House. During the course of the week, tranquillity was restored to the island. In Naparima and other outlying towns, the apprentices bided their time.

On August 9, William Hardin Burnley, Trinidad’s leading planter, wrote to Nassau Senior, professor of political economy at Oxford University: “The Negroes will not comprehend the system of apprenticeship, which when fairly explained presently generally gives no great advantage to them… They do not hesitate to abuse the king for making any laws at present on the subject. [They say]: ‘If no free for six years, better let we ’tand as before till that time come.”

Burnley tried to convey to Nassau the apprentices’ determination to stand their ground when the governor told them their freedom would be delayed by six years even as he urged them to return to their “avocations”. In unison they chanted their objections: “Pas de six ans, Point de six ans.” They intimated they were free in mind and spirit, if not in body.

Between August 1 and December 31, 560 apprentices were subjected to capital punishment, each receiving six to 39 stripes. The most severe punishments were inflicted during the month of August, in which 301 apprentices were beaten.

On September 3, Governor Hill reported to Thomas Spring Rice, secretary of state, that the apprentices had returned to work “with contentment… My expectation is that in a short time all the labour will be performed by task [work] and the apprentices will have many extra hours to dispose for good wages”.

The apprentices had to wait until 1838 to gain their freedom.

This is our emancipation narrative. It should be repeated whenever we celebrate our ancestors’ achievements so that we never forget who we are or where we came from. We can neither aspire nor achieve if we do not know what our ancestors fought for and how they laid the foundation for our freedom.


  1. In life the longer you live you realize, nothing last forever and life is a stage we are the actors. Slavery extracted the humanity from the African and turned him into property to be used and exploited. The treatment of the Carib and Arawaks was no different, if not worst. They were subjected to the worst form of brutality. Placed in stocks and subjected to the evils of the depraved colonialist.

    The lessons we learn is found in the holy scriptures. “Love your neighbour as yourself”. You are the standard of love. But often times we tend to forget that the same humanity exist in all of us. We are after all citizens from the same tree. Why are we so? A husband and wife lives in the same house but don’t talk to each other. Brothers and sisters estranged by the psychosis of familial history. They are forever at war in a perpetual rush for vanity.

    “Between August 1 and December 31, 560 apprentices were subjected to capital punishment, each receiving six to 39 stripes. The most severe punishments were inflicted during the month of August, in which 301 apprentices were beaten”…..
    Thankfully we live in an Enlighten era. I was subject to capital punishment and I hated school. It may seem a long time ago but less than 50 years ago the whip was used to brutalize the generations of children, all in the name of discipline. …

  2. ” We can neither aspire nor achieve if we do not know what our ancestors fought for and how they laid the foundation for our freedom………………………….” Professor Selwyn Cudjoe
    “Thankfully we live in an Enlighten era. ……..” Mamoo.
    The two most important issues that face the world community and us right here in Trinidad and Tobago are 1. Climate change and 2. Racism. There are actually physical changes taking place in the atmosphere today that require us to change our habits and yet we are not taking them seriously. The evidence of the climate in turmoil is the vast fires as being experienced in north west of the United States, flooding that effectuate land movements and massive water damages as occurring in Europe, the increased occurrences of hurricanes, cyclones, tornados in Asia and over heating of planet earth. These are disastrous phenomenons that threaten our existence and our survival depends on how nations react to the United Nations report currently being distributed addressing these issues. This brings me to Mamoo’s statement that we live in an enlightened era. We cannot envisage a brighter future if we fail to recognise those politicians who control our lives and the decisions they make that might either endanger peaceful existence or hamper the advances of science to correct our wrongs. Looking at the leaders who command such authorities around the world does not give us much reasons for hope that our future is brighter than it was one hundred years ago. Just imagine our future lies in the heads of world leaders like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson, Xi Ping, Jair Bolsonaro and Narendra Modi, does not give us much confidence that we shall continue to enjoy peace and happiness. It is true that leaders such as Angela Merkel, Macron and Joe Biden might give rise to hope but ALL must be in concert in order to establish good scientific solutions to save our planet. There is a movement, especially among conservatives in the United States to discourage something called critical race theory. What this means, is that conservative white political idealogy is pushing the idea that teaching history of slavery is bad for black people and will adversely affect the conscience of white children. We are supposed to learn from history. History is supposed to be a guide to our advancement towards a better standard of living. It is true that the history of slavery represents probably the worst instincts of evil of man’s inhumanity towards other men. Using racial inferiority and superiority as the standard of how men should co-exist, will always be fraught with devastating effects on the quality of life.
    Hiding the cruelty of white men towards black people CANNOT improving better feeling and understanding among white and black people. It is a foolish concept and it goes to show that the thinking of William Burnley is still alive and well with those who preserve the privileges he fought for. The culture that we preserve here in Trinidad is still very much that which Burnley and others engineered. Here we are still judged by the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the economic class that we belong to and the privileges afforded us because of our political or social associations. In effect, we have not really advanced much from enslavement to freedom.

    1. Ray & Gibbons ( July 2021 ) states that Critical race Theory (CRT) does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race. Sociologists and other scholars have long noted that racism can exist without racists. However, many Americans are not able to separate their individual identity as an American from the social institutions that govern us—these people perceive themselves as the system. Consequently, they interpret calling social institutions racist as calling them racist personally. It speaks to how normative racial ideology is to American identity that some people just cannot separate the two. There are also people who may recognize America’s racist past but have bought into the false narrative that the U.S. is now an equitable democracy. They are simply unwilling to remove the blind spot obscuring the fact that America is still not great for everyone.

      Although we still live within the colonial structures and institutions established by the colonists, we only have ourselves to blame for continuing and perpetuating this outdated framework. The CRT narrative is not fully relevant in T&T where locals have been in control for decades. We continue to perpetuate colorism and to value colonial customs and institutions.

  3. People take pride in their heritage. Such pride may be showcased by language, dress, religion, association, culture and memorials, that distinguishes one group from another. In Trinidad and Tobago, race was always delineated by these norms and not necessarily exacted by physical appearance. In our history, at one point in time, it was always easy to know where you belong by the association to which you identify with. Prominent in the media of our past, was where our politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, sports heroes, wealthy individuals and senior civil servants attended social events.
    The social venues for the whites or Europeans was always at Queens Park Country Club, the Chinese at the Chinese Association, the Portuguese at the Portuguese Association, the Indians at the Himalayas Club. These were the venues where most ideas, start ups, deals, business ventures, positions and actions were concocted that would eventually form how our politics are conducted and the directions our economy heads.
    In other words, these are the people who have the MOST say on how how our country is being run. Noticeably absent is the Afro Trinidadian representation in these associations. While some of them make it to these events, they are usually there as guests or
    brokers to facilitate whatever business is being discussed. NEVER the aspirant to these outcomes, Africans were always left out, because the capital they bring to these developments
    were mostly minimal. The resultant effect for the average African was always small to nil. Whenever Africans form associations, they were always looked upon with suspect. or contempt especially where the intent is for monetary gains.
    BY the same token, when public institutions were initiated and headed by Africans, great successes were always to the greater good of ALL citizens. Identifiable such public institutions are
    UTC, FCB and Eastern Credit Union. These are now pliable institutions where every member of the public can invest in or take advantage of without regard to heritage or ethnicity. Having said all that, the African is yet to show social identity with pride and ancestral identification.

  4. Following is an excerpt from comments published in the Guardian newspapers on Friday 13, August 2021. The comments were responses to the caption regarding Dr. Rowley’s achievement of receiving 5.5 million dozes of vaccines as Chairman of Caricom.:
    “Peter Bailey
    29.7K Points
    1 day ago

    “”This black nasty stinking corrupted racist big lip Tobagonian ah jumbie in his own right ah misconception of God.! Evil, wicked, mean and nasty, ah Demi God pro Satan, Lamb of Lucifer, angel ah SATAN, ah Death Wish.???? Ah despot from the bowels of Adam.! The King Liar from Tobago !!”

    “Johnatan Jardin
    9.1K Points
    1 day ago

    Some people exposed to too much Sunlight and puncheon rum eh Peter Bailey (Edited) …………………………………..” “.
    It is comments like this that is so indicative of the level of racial animosity and hatred that passes for political dialogue. When the media flippantly allows or encourages that type of dictum, it becomes systematic in our discourse and at some point intolerance becomes part of our behaviour. The language used by “Peter Bailey” is of definitely toxic of one’s racial degradation of our Prime Minister because he is not of the favored racial group of “Peter Bailey”. Guardian, as the responsible publisher, becomes party to the expressed hatred directed at the Prime Minister. It is interesting that when “Jonathan Jardin” was repulsed by “Peter Bailey’s” hate and tried to address it, the Guardian stepped in and edited his comments. Whatever was “Jardin’s” reply could not have been worse or much worse than that of “Peter Bailey’s”, yet “Peter Bailey’s” disgusting rhetoric was allowed to stay for public consumption. What does this tell us about the Guardian? Does it mean that the Guardian allows vile comments when it is written by one racial group over another? Does it mean that the Guardian is so callous in its reporting that it does not care if people like me reads it? Or does it mean that it is the standard by which the Guardian operates?
    I am just an observer, not a catalyst and while I have little regard for what passes as journalism in our country, I am equally disturbed that management of our media is so loose with its contents.

  5. I completely agree with Kian here. The local newspapers have choices to stem this tide. Discontinue the online comments sections related to the articles or censor all comments for hate speech. Freedom of speech is very different from freedom of hate speech. Even on this site certain bloggers are only preoccupied with continuously posting questionable, unverified, unreliable and invalid links to peddle the same propaganda endlessly. If news publications are not equipped to use staff and technology to censor hate speech and inappropriate comments, they should discontinue this comment option. Validity of links should be checked before posting.

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