All the materials for this project were available due to the overwhelming
support and cooperation of many persons. The researcher considers
herself very fortunate.
The researcher extends gratitude to both her nuclear and extended family.
They have been the main source of encouragement and support, morally
and financially. To her parents and siblings she extends a special thank
you for relieving her from household duties and for being very helpful in
reviewing her work and ensuring that all necessary modifications were
To the Staff at the Cheddi Jagan Researcher Centre, the National Library
and the Walter Rodney Archive she is very grateful for the substantial
support and valuable time spent in retrieving history books, newspaper and
research paper. This was an extremely tiring job but they did it without
Lastly, a special thank you is extended to the History teacher, Ms.
Goodman, who guided the researcher every step of the way throughout this
exercise by giving clear guidelines and explanation.
The work done by salves and indentured servants proved almost invaluable in the
development of the country and creating a better economic climate. However, the
struggles and oppression endured by these two peoples would be the focus of this
project. This School Based Assessment is based on local History before 1985.
African slaves endured cruelty second to none. Almost all the slaves were treated in a
bad way, from the time they were captured up until their “contract” ended. As a result,
for the most part they were very subservient.
No one knows the exact date when slaves were brought to British Guiana but many
textbooks contemplate that slaves were brought to these shores by the Dutch settlers
who came from Tobago and settled in Essequibo, Dutch planters from Brazil who
settled in the Pomeroon and Dutch Slave Traders, during the mid seventeenth century1
On the abolition of slavery in 1833, plantation owners imported labour. East Indian
immigrant replaced the slaves. Unlike the slaves, arguably, the treatment of the Indian
Immigrants was far better than that meted out to the Slaves. History advises that the
Indian immigrant arrived here on May 5, 1838.
Daly, Vere T. A Short History of the Guyanese People, Macmillan Education Limited, London. p,. 53.
AREA OF RESEARCH
Local History before 1985
To highlight the struggles and oppression of the African slaves and East
Indian Immigrants and do a comparative analysis thereof
During the four (4) years of secondary school the researcher was
captivated by Caribbean History, more so, the contrast of Slavery and
Indentureship. The researcher hails from a village purchased by slave.
When given her School based Assessment, she already knew the topic she
would focus on. It was another way of refreshing her knowledge and
become even more enlighten about the area of research. Information about
this topic is easily accessible. Her parent‟s home has many textbooks
relating to the Cheddi Jagan Researcher Centre.
Additionally, the researcher was confident that she will obtain assistance
from her colleagues, subject teacher and family.
COLLECTION OF DATA
Data for this SBA was accumulated from a number of books. These books
were made available by the National Library, the Archive and the textbooks
used to study history at school.
On the 23 September, 2011, the candidate visited the National Library
where the kind librarians provided her with a number of books. She was
able to obtained valuable information. The following Friday, she visited the
Walter Rodney Archive and also received ample information. The
candidate perused her History text and gathered information there from.
The researcher analyzed all the information in her possession and
completed her SBA successfully.
ANALYSIS OF DATA
THE STRUGGLE OF THE AFRICA SLAVES vs. THE STRUGGLE OF EAST INDIAN
IMMIGRANTS IN BRITISH GUIANA
Many large plantations were established by the Dutch who settled in Guiana in the
seventeenth century. The plantations need labourers. Plantation owners imported
slaves to work on the plantations. The slave trade was booming. People from Africa
were captured and sold into slavery.
Slavery in Guiana was a cruel institution. The slave endured insanitary conditions and
inhumane treatment. From the time they were captured and all during the journey to
where they were headed the slaves suffered unspeakable cruelty. Many died during the
journey and were tossed in to the sea. Upon arrival in the Caribbean Slaves were
auctioned off to Plantation owners. There was separation of families. Many of those
captured never saw their families again.
Slaves were brought to Guiana by the Dutch Traders and Settlers. On the plantation,
slaves occupied a small area where their houses were clustered. This area was called
. Their dwellings were built of very flimsy materials and were poorly
ventilated. Everything was done and kept within these dwellings, including poultry.3
Arokium, Alvilda. New Horizon in Social Studies Bk 2, Ministry of Education, Guyana, 1999, p., 45.
Each family was given one iron pot and each occupant one blanket to sleep on at
night. They received no wages. The slaves‟ diet consisted mainly of vegetables or
plantain when grown and salt fish all year round. On plantations where plantain did not
strive other ground provisions were used. During Christian festivals, an additional
allowance of about a pound beef or pork and a little sugar was given to each occupant4
Slaves usually received an allowance of clothing once every twelve or eighteen months.
The women received the same kind and quantity as men. Children under nine years
were left naked. Mothers would receive a “babba”, a piece of cloth to wrap their young
children on to them5
Work on the plantations was rigid. At the stroke of six o‟clock the slaves were
summoned to work by the sound of a horn and were marched to the fields by a slave
driver. The slave driver was himself a slave who achieved slave driver status. He was
equipped with a whip and a horse. Those who displayed reluctance and tardiness were
administered lashes by the slave driver as he rode alongside them. The slaves endured
Daly, Vere T. A Short History of the Guyanese People, Macmillan Education Limited, London, 1975.
Housing of slaves on the plantation
hard labour, suffering the heat of the broiling sun, under the watchful eyes of the slave
driver who was accompanied by a white overseer. They would work non-stop until
midday, when they would take a break for their first meal of the day6
. After about an
hour they would continue working until sunset. On completion of a day‟s job, it was
mandatory for each slave to cut or pick a bundle of grass for the master‟s horse.7
were allowed to go to their huts only if there was no other work to be done.
During the six months of sugar production slave had to work until midnight. The
hardship endured by punishment and the burdensome and tireless work caused the
slaves to age prematurely8
. By the age of fifty they were seldom capable of carrying out
any field work.
The Africans never accepted the institution of slavery and was opposed to the
bondage of enslavement. Slaves were not allowed to congregate, practise their culture
Slaves on the sugar cane field
or carry weapons, and bear evidence against a White person. Anyone who showed
opposition was punished legally, punitively and psychologically9
. Slaves endured severe
punishment for which there was no justice. Whipping was the most common form of
punishment and when it was administered it was done with cruelty.
Enslaved Africans were punished for the slightest offence and many times for nothing
at all. The penalties varied. For striking a white man a hand could be cut off. For
absconding for the first time a slave would be branded on one shoulder and have his
ears cut off, a second time the other shoulder would be branded and a third offence was
punishable by death. Africans found guilty of rebellion were executed. Dr. George
Pinckard, in the “Amsterdam Story” described a form of sentence as “sentenced to be
burnt alive, first having his flesh torn from his limbs with red hot pincers...”10
horses owned by Plantation Owners were treated better than the slaves.
Dr Taylor-Kanarick, Yvette. Caribbean History Core course for CSec, Caribbean Educational Publishers.
Daly, Vere T. A Short History of the Guyanese People, Macmillan Education Limited,
Whipping of a baby for the wrong done by the parent Woman tied to a tree to be made a mockery
When ill there were sent to the hospital, a place more suited to be called a „charnel-
house‟ (where human skeletal remains are stored). It was dirty and poorly ventilated.
Everyone was given medicine but there was a limited amount of food for the sick
labourers. Only the critically ill ones were given sugar, barley, fowl soup and perhaps a
The Europeans maintained slavery by a system of “divide and rule”. They separated
enslaved Africans of the same tribe and dialect. Slaves could not leave the plantation
without being in company of a White person12
After the abolition of slavery in 1834 Slaves were compelled to continue working on
the plantations. The “freed” slaves continued to work under the system of
apprenticeship. The emancipation Act of 1833 compelled the freed slaves to work with
the plantation owners for a specific period13
. They were not paid and there were strict
laws governing the movements of slaves. As the period of apprenticeship was coming
to an end, the Plantation owners began to foresee acute labour shortage. It was the
idea of John Gladstone, a sugar plantation owner in West Demerara who applied to
recruit Indians to work in Guiana for a five-year period of indenture.
Arokium, Alvilda. New Horizon in Social Studies Bk 2, Ministry of Education, Guyana, 1999, p.,47.
Dr Taylor-Kanarick, Yvette. Caribbean History Core course for CSec, Caribbean Educational
Publishers. p., 141.
Carter, E.H. History of the west Indian Peoples 3- From Earliest Times to the 17
Nelson Ltd, Great Britain, 1972, pp. 69-68.
The first East Indians immigrants arrived in Guiana aboard the Whitby and Hesperus on
May 5 of 1938 and were distributed to several sugar plantations.
They inherited the critical conditions under which the slaves lived. However, unlike the
Africans, the immigrants were paid for their labour and given daily or weekly allowance
of ration. They were also given clothing and household utensils. The East Indian critics
labelled the indenture system as the “Cooley Slave Trade”.
The European planters had no experience with free or semi-free labourer so the
immigrants were viewed as the new slaves. The labourers were subjected to curfews
and harsh labour laws were introduced by the planters14
. They endured harsh treatment
and punishment. The immigrants were flogged, not as terrible as the Africans but bad
enough to warrant the accusation of cruelty. After flogging salt pickle was rubbed into
the wounds. Laws were implemented to stop the maltreatment. However, harsh labour
laws were introduced by the planters and the laws took full control over the work and
social life of the labourers.
From the youngest to the eldest had to work under the hardship of labour, only the very
young below the age of five stayed at home. They were expected to be at work except if
they were hospitalized or jailed. Their wages were often reduced by the planter for
failing to carry out their duties, breaking the labour laws and many other offences. They
had to work from sunrise to sunset and some for eight hours, this varied depending on
Arokium, Alvilda. New Horizon in Social Studies Bk 2, Ministry of Education, Guyana, 1999, p., 54.
the plantation. They were housed in thatched houses built on the ground called „logies‟
on a small part of the plantation, called bound yard. The planters tried closely to control
the lives of the labourers.
The East Indian like the Africans ran away and rioted because of the harsh conditions
and punishment. When the labourers were captured they were beaten and imprisoned.
Those who could not handle the harsh realities of plantation life resorted to alcohol
while others who lost the urge to go on committed suicide. The cruel treatment,
malnutrition and illness resulted in the loss of life. The planters saw it in their interest to
isolate the immigrants so as to increase the chances of reindenturing by encouraging
the religious beliefs of the Indians and helping them to build mosques and temples.
They were totally enclosed from the outside world so as to get all the work out of them
and not influence by outsiders15
Daly, Vere T. A Short History of the Guyanese People, Macmillan Education Limited, London, 1975.
East Indians at workEast Indian women in the field
While both the African Slaves and the Indian immigrants suffered untold
cruelty and undue hardship, there were marked differences in the treatment
of these two peoples.
Africans were captured and forced into slavery. They endured
unspeakable cruelty from plantation owners. This cruelty was second to
none. They were deprived of their family and could not engage in the
culture to which they were accustomed. Even after emancipation they were
still not free because laws were introduced to keep them in subjection, at
least for five years. They were unable to earn wages during apprenticeship.
The money they earned after apprenticeship was pooled to purchase
plantations on which they built their homes and farmed.
The Indian immigrants on the other hand came on their own free will, but
history says they were deceived into coming. They, nevertheless, came
and were treated better than the slaves were after emancipation. They
were allowed to practice their religion, were even assisted by the “deceitful
plantation” owners to build their places of worship. They were paid wages
for their labour and unlike the slaves who received only measly allowances
of ration, clothing and were given insanitary and poorly ventilated dwellings,
the Indians were issued daily or weekly rations in addition to their wages.
They were given better clothing and living accommodations. Some of these
are still evident in some communities. They had a choice to repatriate and
many did. Nowhere in history there is evidence of Slaves repatriation.
The conclusion arrived at is that this nation is stronger because of the
struggles of the two peoples.
1. Arokium, Alvilda. New Horizon in Social Studies Bk 2, Ministry of
Education, Guyana, 1999, pp. 43-47,53-55.
2. Carter, E.H. History of the west Indian Peoples 2- The Story Of Our
Islands, Thomas Nelson Ltd, Great Britain, 1967, pp. 88-90.
3. Carter, E.H. History of the west Indian Peoples 3- From Earliest Times
to the 17th
Century, Thomas Nelson Ltd, Great Britain, 1972, pp. 69-74.
4. Daly, Vere T. A Short History of the Guyanese People, Macmillan
Education Limited, London, 1975. pp, 128-137, 176.
5. Dr Taylor-Kanarick, Yvette. Caribbean History Core course for CSec,
Caribbean Educational Publishers. pp, 141-146.