ERC recognises significant contribution of African Guyanese to progress, national harmony

The Ethnic Relations Commission, (ERC), joins with all Guyanese in commemorating the 185th Emancipation Anniversary and in particular, to acknowledge the struggles and victory of African Guyanese against the institution of slavery. According to the Venn Commission of the late 1940s, slavery in British Guiana resulted in close to half a million deaths of enslaved Africans in the work to make Guyana’s coastland habitable.

The free labour of the enslaved Africans, “drove back the sea and cleared, drained and reclaimed 15,000 square miles of forest and swamps. This is equivalent to 18% of Guyana’s 83,000 square miles. In the process, they installed 2.58 million miles of drainage canals, trenches and inter-bed drains; 3,500 miles of dams, roads and footpaths; and 2,176 miles of sea and river defence” (Venn Commission).

Further, enslaved Africans, “to build the coastal plantation alone, had to move 100 million tons of earth” without machinery (Venn Commission).       

The ERC is resolute that despite the brutal historical circumstances, the African Guyanese community continues to contribute significantly to the progress of the multi-ethnic society and national harmony. Their contributions are evident in the critical sectors of education, health, national security and sport, among others. 

The arrival from Africa of chained human cargo in the early years serves as poignant reminders of the first pillars that supported the formation of the multi-ethnic Guyanese society. Looking back, we can all learn from their experiences while faced with the changing dynamics of this century.

Happy Emancipation Anniversary to all from the Chairman, Commissioners and staff of the Ethnic Relations Commission!