TIMELINE: CARIBBEAN NATIONS’ FORMATION
TIMELINE OF THE CARIBBEAN NATIONS AND THEIR INTERACTION WITH EUROPEANS
Ignoring the Kalinago name of “Waitukubuli,” Columbus renamed the island Dominica as he first made landfall on a Sunday.
Approximately 2,000 Kalinago remain on the island, most living in the Kalinago Territory in northeast Dominica. You may note that many village names in and around Dominica are a mix of Kalinago, French, and English—reflecting the power struggles of the last 500 years.
The Kalinago are the Caribbean’s only remaining population of pre-Columbian Carib Indians. Dominica’s indigenous people inhabit a 3,700-acre territory or reserve on the eastern coast of the island. Migrating in waves from South America from as early as the 3,000 B.C., various tribes made Dominica their home and by 1,000 A.D. were well-settled, calling the island “Waitukubuli,” meaning ‘tall is her body’ in the Kalinago language.
First enslaved and captured Africans arrive in the land then known as Hispaniola,
brought there by the Spanish, from Spain.
First enslaved and captured Africans arrive in the land now known as Jamaica,
brought there by the Spanish.
Freed by the Spanish when the English invade, they become the first of the Maroons, living in the inland mountains and fighting for their continued freedom.
Jamaica is currently a Commonwealth Realm and retains Charles III as its monarch.
First enslaved and captured Africans arrive in the land now known as Cuba,
brought there by the Spanish.
First recorded Uprising by the enslaved Africans in Cuba is unsuccessful. The heads of the participants are removed and placed on spikes.
Circa 1600: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
First enslaved and captured Africans arrive in the islands now known as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), brought there by the English.
BVI is a British Overseas Territory (colony).
Circa 1605: THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
First enslaved and captured Africans arrive in the islands now known as the Cayman Islands, brought there by the English.
Consists of Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, Little Cayman Brac, Owen Island and Grand Cayman.
The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory (colony).
The first record of captured and enslaved Africans arriving on the island now known as Trinidad
First English settlers arrive on the island now known as Carriacou.
1625: SAINT KITTS, NEVIS AND BARBUDA
The islands now known as Saint Kitts, Nevis and Barbuda were officially colonised by the English. There was a European presence on the island prior to this and this led to the Carib population, the original inhabitants, being wiped out through enslavement, disease and murder.
May 14: The English invade the land now known as Barbados.
February 27: First 10 captured and enslaved Africans arrive in Barbados, brought there involuntarily by the English.
The island now known as Antigua was colonised by the English. Barbuda had been colonised in 1628 and was annexed to Antigua. Antigua was the harbour used by the Royal Navy for the British West Indies.
The island now known as Montserrat was colonised by the English and the Irish.
Montserrat remains a British Overseas Territory at the time of writing.
Circa 1634: BONAIRE
The first captured and enslaved Africans are brought to the island now called Bonaire, by Dutch invaders.
Bonaire remains part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
1635: SAINT VINCENT
The island now known as Saint Vincent was originally named Hairoun, meaning Land of the Blessed, by the Caribs who lived there, the first African presence was recorded when captured and enslaved Africans survived a shipwreck in which the Dutch enslavers drowned.
The Africans intermingled with the Caribs and were referred to as Black Caribs, distinguishing them from the original inhabitants, who were referred to as Yellow Caribs. Their descendants would become the Garifuna (Cassava eating people) who live in the Central American countries now known as Belize and Honduras.
After internecine disagreements between the Black and Yellow Caribs, they divided the island between themselves with the Yellow Caribs on the Leeward side of the island while the Black Caribs on the Windward.
Christopher Columbus and his army invaded the island in 1493. It was passed from native Arawaks to Carib Indians to the Spanish until the French expelled them and slaughtered the local population, officially claiming Guadeloupe as a colony in 1635.
Presumably around that time, captured and enslaved Africans were brought involuntarily to the islands.
The Africans were captured and taken from Yoruba (southwestern Nigeria, Togo, Benin), Congolese (from the former kingdom at the mouth of the Congo River), Ibo (modern-day south-eastern Nigeria), Wolof (modern-day Nigeria, Senegal, and Congo), Fula (west Africa), and Bamileke (modern-day western Cameroon).
Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, the two main islands, shape the “actual” Guadeloupe. Separated by a narrow strip of water called the Salt River, they are connected by the Gabarre and Alliance bridges.
Marie-Galante, Les Saintes (Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas) along with la Désirade, are referred to as “Southern islands”.
Guadeloupe does not have independence and is officially described as a “Department of France”.
The island now called Martinique was colonised by France on September 1.
By the end of 17th Century, all the Carib Indians on the island had been “permanently removed or expelled”.
In 1673 the Compagnie du Senegal was created with the objective of deporting black slaves to the islands of the Caribbean and the countries of America. The slave trade became a real market and a constant exchange against Africa and the Caribbean.
Between 1635 and 1789, around 700,000 captured Africans were forcibly removed to Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue, the three French colonies in the Caribbean.
The English colonisers establish a House of Assembly in Bridgetown.
The building is still standing today.
1648: SINT MAARTEN/SAINT MARTIN
Like modern day Dominican Republic and Haiti (formerly Hispaniola), Sint Maarten (Netherlands) and Saint Marten share land on the island, separated by a border.
The first captured and enslaved Africans arrived on the island involuntarily in this year.
The island originally named Maliouhana by the Caribs was first invaded by the English in 1650. The time when captured and enslaved African people first arrived is not known but records from 1683 show that there were at least 100 there at that time.
Anguilla is currently a British Overseas Territory (colony).
Anguilla remains a British Overseas Territory.
The first slave ship, the “Bontekoe,” arrives at the island now known as Curacao, in St. Annabaai, with 191 Africans on board. In the mid-sixties of the 17th century, a steady stream of slave ships arrived and Willemstad developed into a transit port.
Curacao remains part of The Kingdom of the Netherlands as at today’s date.
By the 1660s, 2500 enslaved Africans had been brought to the Dutch territory to work on plantations. (Guyana A Country Study)
The first captured and enslaved Africans arrive on the island.
The first captured and enslaved Africans arrive on the island now known as Grenada, brought there by the English.
A slave revolt began on two plantations on the Canje River. Half of the white population eventually fled.
1670: THE TREATY OF MADRID
Under the Treaty, the English take formal control of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
1670: THE BAHAMAS
The first captured and enslaved Africans arrive.
1673: THE US VIRGIN ISLANDS
The first ship carrying captured and enslaved Africans arrives on the island now known as St. Thomas. They were kidnapped by the Danish and involuntarily brought to the island.
1706: UNION WITH SCOTLAND ACT
Joins Scotland with England to form Great Britain. Passed by English Parliament.
1707: UNION WITH ENGLAND ACT
Joins England with Scotland to form Great Britain. Passed by Scottish Parliament.
The Spanish crown issues a decree allowing slaves to purchase their freedom. Those who do so are known as cortados.
The first census taken on the island records the presence of 92 individuals of African descent and 15 individuals of mixed African and European descent. There are also 92 Europeans. The 92 of African ancestry are enslaved persons.
The British seize Havana during the Seven Year War. Over the 10-month period of British occupation from 1762-63, there is a surge of slave trafficking, and 10,000 slaves are carried into Havana.
1763: YORUBA TERRITORIES/LAND (ON THE CONTINENT NOW KNOWN AS AFRICA)
Widespread raiding of the Yoruba territories for Africans to capture, enslave and force into involuntary labour began in this year. The capital is Oyó.
The first revolt by enslaved people of African descent occurs.
Further revolts would follow in 1771, 1773, 1774 and 1801.
This counters the narrative of silence regarding their plight – it is not often reported that there were rebellions by enslaved Africans descendants held and worked involuntarily on the plantations throughout the Caribbean.
According to the census carried out in this year, Cuba has a total population of 172,620 inhabitants: 96,440 whites, 31,847 free Africans/descendants, and 44,333 enslaved Africans/descendants.
1781 – 1831 GUYANA
Control over the territory passed back and forth from the Dutch to the British. In 1831, the British established permanent control over Guyana which it would hold until 1966.
“The Yoruba were among the largest slave population in Cuba by this year.
King Charles III issues a new codex for slavery — “The Royal Document on the Trades and Occupations of Slaves.” From the age of 17 through the age of 60, enslaved Africans are to toil in Cuban fields. It allows only 270 workdays per year. Masters are required to feed and clothe African enslaved according to accepted standards. They are forced to instruct them in Catholicism and convince them to take Mass regularly. However, slave-master regulations are generally not enforced on a consistent basis.
Boukman sacrifices a pig in a Dahomey ritual and launches an uprising. The uprising erupts near Le Cap in St. Domingue (Santo Domingo, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and spreads like wildfire — the beginning of the end of slavery in the French colony. The subsequent decade sees a big wave immigration of French planters taking refuge in Oriente with their Haitian-African enslaved. The Haitians maintain their identity and their creole language to this day.
Nicolás Morales, a free Black, leads an uprising, beginning in Bayamo and spreading throughout the eastern part of Cuba. It is quickly suppressed by the Spanish army. In A History of Cuba and its Relations with the United States, Volume I, 1492-1845: “. . . what especially disturbed the slave-owners about this uprising was that whites and negroes joined together in the revolt and demanded, as in the Haitian revolution, equality between black and white.”
Cuba now produces 14,000 tons of sugar a year due to increased slave labour. Just 10 years later, this would increase to 34,000 tonnes, all from the enforced labour of African peoples.
Tula was an enslaved African and leader of a revolt that lasted for over a month in 1795. He is revered on Curaçao today as a fighter for human rights and independence.
The Tula Monument can be found on the south coast of the island near the former Holiday Beach Hotel.
After the revolt was quelled Tula was sentenced to death.
The execution took place on 3 October 1795 at “Rif” (the Reef) on the south coast of the island in Otrabanda. The monument that gives him honour as a warrior for freedom can be found here.
1799: TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
A census taken in 1799 showed that there were 500 captured and enslaved Africans on the 42 islands that make up the islands now known as Turks and Caicos.
1800: ACTS OF UNION
Joins Great Britain with Ireland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Passed by Great Britain Parliament and Irish Parliament.
When Napoleon tried to extend his empire in the Caribbean region, the governor of Curaçao asked the English for protection. As a result, the island was administered by the British from 1800 to 1803. After a second period of British rule, from 1807 to 1815, the Dutch regained the island with the peace treaty of Paris, in March 1815.
Haiti gained independence from France on 1 January.
The Anglo-European-Americans did not choose to recognise this independence until 1825.
1807: US AND BRITAIN MAKE TRADING IN ENSLAVED AFRICANS AND THEIR DESCENDENTS ILLEGAL
A census taken in Trinidad shows the origins of the captured and enslaved Africans as including:
Senegambia – Malinke, Woloff, Bambara
Upper Guinea – Fulbe, Susu, Temne, Kissi, Windward Coast – Kwaka, Akwa
Gold Coast – Kormantyn, Fanti, Akan
Bight of Benin – Hausa, Allada, Yoruba, Whydah
Bight of Biafra – Igbo
West Central Africa – BaKongo
1814: ST LUCIA
The British bring the first captured and enslaved Africans to work the land on the island that is now known as St. Lucia. The island was originally named Hewanorra, which is reflected in the name of the Island’s main airport today, the Hewanorra International Airport.
St Lucia is currently a Commonwealth Realm and retains Charles III as its monarch.
The first recorded slave registration shows that there are 15,457 enslaved people of African descent on the island now known as Tobago
A census of Cuba reveals a population of 287,000 enslaved Africans/descendants, most of them working on some 1,000 ingenios (sugar plantation-mill complexes).
A slave revolt breaks out and is brutally repressed by colonial authorities.
1836: FALL OF THE YORUBA EMPIRE, OYO
|The Yorubas’ Oyo Empire falls, destroyed by the Fulani Jihad, the predecessors to the present northern Muslims in Nigeria. As a result, many Yorubas were sold into slavery by their conquerors and went mainly to Cuba and Brazil. The fall is precipitated by the actions of the Alafin of Oyo, as recounted by Wande Abimbola in his book, Ifá will Mend our Broken World.|
On May 22, slavery was abolished.
Contrary to what one might think, the end of slavery in 1848, does not rhyme with the end of importation of enslaved people in Martinique. Indeed, between 1853 and 1885, more than 29,000 blacks brought from Africa with contract and guarantee free return. They came from Central Africa (the actual two Congos and Gabon). Blacks are still in a precarious situation.
On 1 July 1863, King Willem III abolished enslavement in the Netherlands Antilles. 11,634
enslaved Africans/descendants were freed.
October 10. Carlos Manuel de Céspesdes frees his enslave people, issuing the famous Cry of Yara (Grito de Yara) and thereby begins a wave of slave liberations.
The colonial government proclaims the “Free Market Law” which frees enslaved persons over 60, those born after September 17, 1868, and all those who fight on the side of the Spanish King.
The last ship carrying captured and enslaved Africans as cargo and property arrives in Cuba.
October 7. Slavery is abolished in Cuba. Economic conditions make it more profitable to free enslaved Africans/descendants and hire them for work by day, avoiding the expense of year-round support.
The island becomes a “ward” of the island of Trinidad
Gained independence from the USA.
On March 19, 1946, Martinique became a French department in its own right. If the change of status of Martinique helped to develop economically and to receive aid from the European Union, there remains the economic face of Martinique has not changed . The Békés still hold the majority of economic power of the island, 52% of the land and continue to dominate. They have large Groups (supercentre stores, plantations/banana exports, purchase and rental cars, etc …).
In addition, tensions are still palpable among a Black population often confined to secondary positions whose situation is more modest than those of the heirs of the former colonists.
1953 – 1959: CUBA
Military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista deposed by Fidel Castro.
1958: WEST INDIES FEDERATION CREATED
On 1 August, Jamaica gained independence. As at the time of writing, Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth Realms and retains Charles III as Head of State/monarch.
1962: TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Full independence on 31 August. Republic.
On May 26, Guyana becomes independent from the British Empire.
On 30 November, Barbados becomes independent from the British Empire. It remains part of the Commonwealth but became a republic on 30 November 2021.
Barbados Independence Act: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1966/37/pdfs/ukpga_19660037_en.pdf
1967: ST KITTS-NEVIS-ANGUILLA UNION FORMED BY THE UK
“In 1967 St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla together became an associated state of the UK; they enjoyed internal independence, but responsibility for external affairs and defence remained with the UK.”
1967: ST LUCIA
The national flag of Saint Lucia was adopted on March 1, 1967, when the nation achieved self-government. The flag of the new nation was designed by Dunstan St. Omer.
“The blue colour represent fidelity. It reflects the tropical sky and also the emerald surrounding waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The gold represents the prevailing sunshine in the Caribbean and prosperity. The triangles represent the mountains in St. Lucia. The Triangle, the shape of which is the partition isosceles triangle, is reminiscent of the island’s famous twin Pitons at Soufriere, rising sheer out of the sea, towards the sky -themselves, a symbol of the hope and aspirations of the people.”
Motto: “The land, the people, the light”
“The Anguillans made a “unilateral declaration of independence” under the “rebel” British flag.
Economic concerns were at the root of the 1969 secession. Anguillans claimed their island was the poor cousin of the union and received little from St. Kitts and Nevis. The Anguillans believed that colonial status meant a legal obligation on Britain’s part to help with development aid.
After attempts to repair the breach between St. Kitts and Anguilla failed, St. Kitts requested that Britain land troops on Anguilla. The British did so in March 1969 and installed a British commissioner. Britain reluctantly accepted Anguilla’s request for a return to colonial status.”
1973: THE BAHAMAS
Full independence gained on 10 July. The Bahamas is currently a Commonwealth Realm and retains Charles III as its monarch/Head of State.
Full independence gained 7 February.
Grenada is currently a Commonwealth Realm and retains Charles III as its monarch/Head of State.
On 18 November, American cult leader Jim Jones forces/induces his followers to drink Kool-Aid laced with Cyanide in Jonestown, Guyana. In what becomes known as The Jonestown Massacre, almost 1000 members of Jones’ cult, the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ,
die. It is believed that all were U.S. citizens.
Full independence gained on 3 November 1978. Member of the Commonwealth/Republic.
1979: ST LUCIA GAINS FULL INDEPENDENCE
Independence gained on 22 February. Currently a Commonwealth Realm with Charles III as Head of State.
1979: ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Independence gained on 27 October.
Saint Vincent and The Grenadines (SVG) is currently a Commonwealth Realm and retains Charles III as its monarch.
1981: ANTIGUA & BARBUDA
On 1 November, Antigua and Barbuda gained independence from the UK. It retained Charles II as monarch as it is one of the Commonwealth Realms.
1983: SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS
Gained independence 19 September. One of the Commonwealth Realms, it retains Charles III as monarch.
“In the late 1980s, it was still a separate dependency, an associated state administered under the terms of the British government’s Anguilla Constitution Order of 1982. In accordance with this legislation, a new Constitution took effect in Anguilla on 1 April 1982. Britain also contributed considerable financial aid.”
Barbados removed Elizabeth II as monarch/Head of State and became a republic. It remains a member of the Commonwealth.