“Where are you from? We have been here for 200 years. Our blood, our sweat is in this land, and we will not allow you to take it from us…Who sent you here? The white man. You came here to destroy us…We will defend [this land] with our very lives” (Guiana 1838). This powerful quote from the film Guiana 1838, The Arrival encompasses the enragement felt by the emancipated Africans at the arrival of the Indian indentured laborers. This enragement was towards the white man, and the Indians, and stems from the fears and doubts that were felt after emancipation. From the second that the African slaves found out that they were “free,” there were uncertainties.
Many believed that this was too good to be true; after centuries of abusing slaves, why then would Britain turn against slavery? One possible reason was the arising sense of social humanitarianism due to religious beliefs. A growing middle class that felt it had an obligation to right past wrongs, and there was also a sense by the English population that plantation owners were flaunting their wealth, which was brought to them by the forced labor and torture of humans.
Of course, the actual enactment of abolition of slavery was not as righteous as it should have been. Under the terms of abolition, the British government paid the British slave owners 20 million pounds as compensation for putting an end to slavery. The slaves received no compensation, but instead were forced back into the fields with the new title “apprentices,” and faced the same treatments, but this time around, with low wages.
Jagessar, Rohit. Guiana 1838, The Arrival . RBC Radio, 2004.