"Quamina, do you hear this?" Revisiting the Demerara Slave Rebellion, 1823
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In this thesis I re-examine primary documentation relating to the Demerara Rebellion of 1823. I engage in this exploration to ascertain whether previous narratives of the rebellion were correct in that all of the slaves on the East Coast of Demerara, numbering more than 9,000 in total, took part in an armed uprising against planters and British officials in an attempt to gain their freedom. I also consider, based on slaves’ demands for two or three days a week off for working on their own homes and provision grounds, the validity of some historians’ arguments that the Rebellion resembled a labour-related protest for better daily working conditions. According to my interpretation of the primary sources, I have concluded that both reasons for rebelling were present, and hinged upon individual slaves’ evaluation of a desirable or attainable outcome. I have also determined that there is no documented evidence to support a claim that all of the slaves rebelled, nor is the number of over 9,000 reasonable. It was, nevertheless, a large-scale uprising. Previous narratives, based primarily upon white fears, have underestimated the nuanced and sophisticated ways in which slaves considered the options available to them to better their lives.