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The Berbice Slave Rebellion Essay

The rebellion began on February, 23rd, 1763 on Plantation Magdalenenberg on the Canje River. The slaves rebelled, protesting harsh and inhumane treatment, and took control of the region. By March, the revolt spread to the Berbice River. As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the European population fled. Eventually only half of the whites who had lived in the colony remained.

Led by Cuffy (also Coffy or Kofi) a domestic or house slave from Plantation Lilienburg (now the national hero of Guyana), the rebels came to number about 3,000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. Cuffy set up his headquarters at Plantation Hollandia and Zeelandia in March 1763. The whites in the colony of Berbice, who were under the governorship of Van Hoogenheim, retreated to Fort Nassau and Peerboom for refuge.

On March 3rd, 1763, six hundred blacks under Casala attacked Plantation Peerboom. Moreover, on March 8th, 1763, Governor Van Hoogenheim abandoned Fort Nassau. During this time Governor Van Hoogenheim received soldiers from Surinam and journeyed up the Berbice River to Dageraad. Dageraad was unsuccessfully attacked by Akara (a general in Cuffy’s slave rebel army).

In April, 1963, Cuffy sent a letter to Governor Van Hoogenheim concerning the division of Berbice. Van Hoogenheimn obtained reinforcements from Gravesande, Governor of Essequibo, a neighbouring Dutch colony.

On May 13th, 1763, Cuffy attacked Dageraad unsuccessfully. Eight whites and fighty-eight blacks were killed.

Cuffy, was an African-born slave from the Akan tribe and lived in the former Dutch colony of Berbice in present-day Guyana. In 1763 led a revolt of more than 2,500 slaves. They held most of Berbice for ten months, but tribal, status and leadership divisions among the black rebels (particularly seen when Akara deserted Cuffy for the extremist leadership of Atta) and attacks by Dutch forces, led to the collapse of the rebellion. Therefore, feeling hopeless and defeated, Cuffy killed his close followers and committed suicide soon after.

In December, 1763, black rebels were attacked by white forces along the Berbice River and from Upper Demerara. Most of the slaves ran away into the forests and the remainder were hunted down and killed.

Towards the end of the Berbice Slave Uprising Cuffy disagreed violently with Akara, one of the leaders of the rebellion. Akara was demoted and made to work in the gang. Akara later joined Atta against Cuffy. Later still, he cooperated with the Dutch, taking part in the successful assault on Accabre which ended the rebellion.

The anniversary of the Cuffy slave rebellion, February 23, has been Republic Day in Guyana since 1970.

Outcomes

During the months of March and April 1764, punishments were meted out to the black rebels: (i) forty (40) were hanged; (ii) twenty-four (24) were broken and twenty-four (24) were burned.


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