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Slavery on St Helena

St Helena: built on the labour of the enslaved

If there is such a phenomenon as absolute evil it consists in treating another human being as a thing.{a}

For around 180 years St Helena held and exploited enslaved people

SEE ALSO: Our other enslavement-related pages: The effects of slavery on St Helena today are described on our page Slavery and the enslaved. St Helena’s role in ending the Transatlantic Slave Trade is described on our page Attacking the Slave Trade. The enslaved burials uncovered in 2006/8 are discussed on our page The Slave Graves. The terrible treatment of the enslaved resulted in many ghost stories about them and their mistreatment also features on our page Titbits from the records.

Slavery Images

Painting showing one of the enslaved (foreground), 1815
Painting showing one of the enslaved (foreground), 1815
Unidentified St Helena enslaved woman
Unidentified St Helena enslaved woman
Slave ‘Medal’, awarded for ‘good conduct’
Slave ‘Medal’, awarded for ‘good conduct’
People for sale…
People for sale…
People for sale…
The enslaved were sold under ‘The Trees’
The enslaved were sold under ‘The Trees’


Origins of the enslaved
Origins of the enslaved{2}{b}

St Helena was colonised by the English in 1659, and at that time the use of the enslaved was commonplace. One of the original Settler ships from England, the London, had orders to call at St Iago and there procure five or six blacks or Negroes, able men and women for St Helena. Also in 1659 the captain of the Truro was instructed to call at the Guinea Coast and there purchase ten lusty blacks, men and women, for St Helena. Originally people were brought mostly from East Africa or Madagascar to be enslaved. By 1679 there were some eighty enslaved people on the island. In the later 17th Century it was made a requirement for all ships trading with Madagascar to deliver one slave to St Helena, and during the 18th century The East India Company expanded around the Indian Ocean and enslaved people began to be brought from Malaysia and India.

The enslaved were used for unskilled manual labour. In 1708 New Ground was designated as a site for a plantation to be worked by the enslaved (when Donkeys were first brought to St Helena in 1709 by Governor John Roberts they were referred to as ‘ass negroes’). In addition to road building, plantation work and domestic service, one of the more obscure jobs given to the enslaved was carrying ladies and visitors up the original zig-zag path to Ladder Hill (the charge of 1/6d(£0.075) per trip went, of course, to their owners, not to the enslaved themselves).

Punishments for the enslaved who did not work or otherwise misbehaved were extreme. Whipping was common for even minor offences; execution for more significant ones (from theft to mutiny). enslaved men that had sex with Planter women were usually either executed or castrated (but, of course, Planters and Soldiers who had sex with enslaved women were subjected to much lighter punishments, if at all). After a failed rebellion Jack, one of the enslaved, was hung alive in chains at the top of Ladder Hill and left to die of starvation{3}.

The enslaved did not get days off, but by convention those that converted to Christianity were allowed to attend one church service per week (though they might not be allowed to sit on pews).

Interestingly, on St Helena it was possible for some of the enslaved to obtain a rudimentary education, though only if their master would allow them the time off. More on our page Education.

Might it be St Helena to which this poem refers?…

[᠁]Alas! it was an evil day, when such a thing could be; when strangers, pale and terrible, came o’er the distant sea.[᠁]They bound him in a narrow hold, with others of his kind; for weeks did that accursed ship sail on before the wind.[᠁]At length a lovely island rose from out the ocean wave; they took him to the market-place, and sold him for a slave.[᠁]

The ‘Slave Laws’

The powerful have always legalised their subjugation of the less powerful.{d}

It is sometimes claimed that slavery in British territories was not as harsh as that experienced by the enslaved in America, it being described as more akin to serfdom. Despite this claim, the enslaved on St Helena and throughout the British Empire were still treated as sub-human; as property to be bought and sold. To give an idea of their treatment, here are the Laws and Orders, constituted for the Negro Slaves, by the inhabitants of the island, with the approbation of the Governor and Council from c.1670:

That no Black or Blacks, upon any pretence whatsoever, shall wander from his master’s plantation upon Sundays, without a lawful occasion granted by their said masters or mistresses, either by writing, or some other token that shall be known by the neighbourhood, upon the penalty of ten lashes on his naked body for the first offence, fifteen for the second, twenty for the third, and so for every offence thereafter committed : but if the master of the said slave or slaves should refuse to comply with this said order, and the person who shall have taken the said slave or slaves acting contrary to this said order, shall be obliged to complain to the Governor and Council, whom we desire to fine him or them that shall so offend at discretion.

That Negro, or Negroes, that shall be known to steal the value of eighteen pence shall have twenty lashes on their naked body, inflicted by the master or masters of such slave or slaves, in the presence of the person so offended ; but if the theft should amount to three shillings, the lashes aforesaid are to be increased to thirty ; and if six shillings, to sixty; the party so prejudiced shall receive the value of the thing so stolen in specie, or in money, from the owner of the said slave or slaves ; and if the theft amounts to above six shillings, and under thirty shillings, the offender shall be seized, and brought to the fort, where he shall immediately receive fifty lashes on his naked body, and secured ; two days after, he shall receive thirty lashes, and two days after that, twenty more; and the master of the Black shall pay the value stolen, as before.

Those that shall absent their masters’ service three days, and three nights, shall be punished according to the last foregoing article, and the master make satisfaction for what they have stolen as aforesaid. For the first offence of this kind, the master or masters shall make satisfaction for what is stolen, and repair all damages done by the slave or slaves ; so soon as taken, shall be brought to the fort, and immediately receive, on his naked body, one hundred lashes, then secured ; four days after that, thirty; six days after that, twenty more, and branded in the forehead with the letter R : for the second offence in this kind, he shall be punished as above said, and wear, for one year, a chain and clogs of thirty pounds weight ; and for the third offence, satisfaction shall be made as above said to the loser or losers, and the slave or slaves shall suffer death, at the discretion of the Governor and Council.

In case any, slave, from the age of sixteen years and upwards, shall presume and attempt to strike or assault any white person whatsoever, correcting him or otherwise, for any cause whatsoever, shall, for the said offence or offences (though without weapon or dangerous instrument) undergo and suffer the punishment of castration, that is to say, shall have his, testicles cut out ; and in case any such slave or slaves shall chance to die under the punishment aforesaid, or before he be well, then the country and public shall bear the loss, and make good the value of the said Black, with the charge of castration to the master or owner of the said slave or slaves, according to an appraisement made by the Governor and Council for the time being : further, but in case the said slave or slaves should die through neglect of the master or owner, then, upon proof thereof, the said master or owner to bear their own loss of the said slave or slaves, and the whole charge of everything relating thereto ; and if the said slave live, the master to be at all charges.

That if any Negro slave, male or female, shall presume to resist any white person whatsoever, in the taking or pursuit of them upon any lawful occasion, the slave or slaves so offending and resisting as aforesaid, for the first offence shall be immediately conveyed to the great fort, and secured till they have undergone double punishment, according to the constitution of runaway Negroes, and branded in the forehead with the letter R ; and for a second offence in this nature, the said slave or slaves so offending shall suffer the same punishment as is adjudged and ordered in the case of striking or assaulting any white person, to wit, to be castrated, if a male, but if a female, to be severely whipped, as aforesaid, and both ears to be cut off, and branded in the forehead and both cheeks.

And in case any slave or slaves, male or female, shall presume to strike any white person whatsoever, with any weapon, the said slave or slaves so offending shall suffer death ; except those white persons who demean and debase themselves in conversing, corresponding, and gaming, with the blacks, as if they were equals, which we judge shall have no more benefit of those laws than Blacks themselves.

And in case any Negro slave, male or female, shall presume to give any, saucy or impertinent language or answer to any white person (except those white persons aforesaid), shall, upon complaint thereof to the master or owners of the said slave, be severely whipt, in the presence of the party offended, to his satisfaction ; and if the said master or owner of the said slave shall refuse, or neglect, to punish the said slave so offending, then the party offended may complain to the Governor, and so cause the said slave to be apprehended, and conveyed to the fort, and punished according to the nature of the offence.

That no Negro slave or slaves shall truck, barter, or exchange anything, without the foreknowledge and consent of the owners of the said Negroes, both the sellers and buyers, deliverers and receivers, of any commodity whatsoever, to the value of one shilling, upon the penalty of twenty lashes, or more if it should exceed that value, according to the judgment of the Governor and, Council, severely to be inflicted on them at the flagstaff, upon the complaint of any one aggrieved by such a clandestine way of one Negro dealing with another.

That no white person whatsoever shall truck, barter, or exchange any commodity whatsoever, with any Negro or Negroes, to sell to them, nor buy of them, any sort of commodity, without the foreknowledge and consent of the owners of the said Negro or Negroes, upon the penalty of being adjudged accessory to felony, and so consequently liable to a fourfold restitution to the owners of the said Negro or Negroes, besides a fine to the Lords Proprietors ; nor no Negro shall alienate any commodity or thing whatsoever, to any white person whatsoever, without the leave and consent of the said Negroes’ master or mistress before had, upon the penalty of severe correction, according to the judgment of the Governor and Council.

That no Negro whatsoever shall prescribe or administer any physic or medicine whatsoever, to any Negro or Negroes, without the consent of his or their master or mistress of that Negro unto whom he shall prescribe or administer any physic or medicine, upon the penalty of severe correction, according to the judgment of the Governor and Council; neither shall any Negro whatsoever take or receive any physic or medicine, or follow the rules or prescription of any pretended black Doctor whatsoever, without acquainting their master or mistress therewith, upon the penalty of the like pain and punishment as the black Doctor who pretends to physic is liable to.

A 1673{4} order from London stated that:

We also order that all negroes{5} both men and women living on the said island that shall make profession of the Christian faith and be baptized shall within seven years after be free Planters and enjoy the privileges of free Planters both of land and cattle.

…though exactly how these new Planters were to acquire land and cattle was not made clear, given that up to the point of their ‘liberation’ they were penniless with no right to own property.

In 1679 rumours of an impending uprising by the enslaved led to the gruesome execution of three of the enslaved and cruel punishment of many others - ghost stories still told on the island relate to these executions. The sad fact is that revolts by the enslaved were not uncommon. The even sadder fact is that they are poorly documented in the Records because the enslaved did not matter that much. What little we could glean is documented on our page Unrest and Rebellion.

In 1735 the local Court was asked to rule on whether the children born to a free woman and an enslaved man were free or enslaved. The Court decided they were enslaved and assigned the three girls and two boys a net value of £33.

Life of the enslaved

Below: Property, not peopleNotorietyAccommodationHealthOpinion

Property, not people

The enlaved remained the property of their owners and could be bought and sold, as the notices (above, right) illustrate. If you click on the images (for the enlarged version) you will observe that the place of the auction is described as ‘under the trees’. The trees in question were the ones still growing at the bottom of Napoleon Street in Jamestown, in front of The Cannister. They are Peepul trees, the Indian trees of wisdom ficus religiosa, sacred to Buddhists because Siddharta attained Nirvana while meditating under one of them. It can only be imagined what he would have made of auctioning human beings under them. Reportedly there are nails hammered into the trunks - one for each person sold. Early photographs show three trees but one seems to have been removed sometime in the 20th Century.


The enslaved rarely get a mention in the Records. Mostly it is only when they fell foul of the law. One exception is Toby who became friends with Napoleon while the latter was living at The Briars Pavilion. He has a page dedicated to him


The enslaved, of course, lived near where they worked. Many of the larger houses in Jamestown and around the island have more rudimentary buildings at the back - the ‘slave quarters’. Where the enslaved were working on plantations up-country they would have had shacks, naturally located well away from the main house. The name Hutts Gate relates to rudimentary huts there in which the enslaved were housed.


On 18th June 1717 Smallpox broke out among the enslaved from Madagascar. They were sent into quarantine in Lemon Valley.

The burial records (held by the Church, which dealt with all official burials) for May 1807 are reported thus: So even in death the enslaved were not afforded the same respect as their masters.


C.F. Nobel visited St Helena in 1747 and commented:

This being the first place where I had ever access to see the slavery of our fellow creatures, I could not help bewailing their hard fortune, and being sensibly touched at the sight of their misery. My heart silently pleaded on their behalf, and pitied their masters insensibility, and sometimes cruelty, at the same time that I condemned them. Nothing ever gave me better lesson of the misery and weakness of mankind. What is more cruel, barbarous, unchristian, and shocking to nature, than to see one half of mankind torturing the other; or that the different tincture of the skin, or simplicity of manners, should induce us to exercise the greatest cruelty towards them. With what shew of justice can we make slaves of a people of another free country, and even of little children, who have done nothing to provoke us? Were they not, were not all mankind otiginally born to liberty? Custom may make such practices common, but will never make them lawful.

Maintaining the stock

The Records tell the story of an adventure to Madagascar for the purpose of recruiting some more people to be enslaved:

As indicated, he trip was more of an adventure than had been expected. In the rebellion the ship’s Captain was killed and the ship’s mate wounded. In the ensuing battle five of the enslaved were shot, two fatally. The ringleaders were brought back to St Helena, tried and hanged.

There are and always will be some who, ashamed of the behaviour of their ancestors, try to prove that slavery wasn’t so bad after all, that its evils and its cruelty were the exaggerations of propagandists and not the habitual lot of the enslaved. Men will say (and accept) anything in order to foster national pride or soothe a troubled conscience.{e}

Towards Liberation

In 1792 a new set of ‘slave laws’ were introduced to the island. Although the 42 Articles mostly concerned the correct treatment of the enslaved by their owners, Article 39 is of some interest: it stated that no new enslaved persons could be imported to St Helena. Anyone breaching this law would be fined £50 and also bear the cost of returning the enslaved to their place of origin. Although this did not end slavery on St Helena it did mean that only the existing enslaved and their children would remain in slavery - a small but significant step forward.

Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano{6}

Fifteen years later, in 1807, the Slave Trade was banned throughout the British Empire. This did not, however, free the existing enslaved. St Helena had stopped importing enslaved persons in 1792 so the new law had no impact on the island. As late as 1815 segregation was still very much part of island life:

It should be noted that Governor Beatson (1808-1813) proposed to Council the abolition of slavery on St Helena, but his enlightened move was opposed by the landowners, led by Sir William Doveton. The proposal was abandoned and the island’s enslaved had to wait another twenty years for their freedom.

In 1818 Governor Lowe initiated the first step in emancipating the enslaved by persuading owners to give all enslaved children born after Christmas of that year their freedom once they had reached their late teens.

On 19th December 1826 The East India Company Directors instructed: The speedy and entire abolition of slavery is essential to the welfare of the island. Emancipation should be secured the moment the enslaved understands and appreciates the blessing, and the means of instruction should be steadfastly and zealously pursued at the cost of Government. This initiated the process and the phased emancipation of over the remaining 800 resident enslaved began in 1827. Under certain circumstances one of the enslaved could buy their freedom, using money borrowed from The East India Company.

In Governor Walker’s time church attendance by the enslaved was mandatory; any owner who didn’t make sure their enslaved attended would get fined. So much for Freedom of Religion


The following table{f} also illustrates the numbers of enslaved just before emancipation:

Population of St Helena by Classes 1814-1821










White inhabitants


















Free blacks









Company’s Civil Establishment









Company’s troops









King’s troops









Families of King’s troops



























Company’s slaves









Slaves to Company’s troops









Slaves to King’s troops


















Total slaves









You can See a catalogue of the island’s enslaved, 1827-1834{g}.

Slave owners identified

The period is not now far distant when Slave labour shall be rejected by the civilised world. There is something revolting in it to civilisation.{h}

Here is a complete list of owners of the enslaved in 1827{7} - there are 174 of them, with many prominent names:

Mrs Alesworthy ⋅ Frederick Alexander ⋅ Mr G. W. Alexander ⋅ Mr H. Alexander ⋅ Mr Samuel Alexander ⋅ Mrs M. Alexander ⋅ Mr John Bagley ⋅ Mr O. R. Bagley ⋅ Mr Richard Bagley ⋅ Mr Barker ⋅ Mrs M. Barnes ⋅ Mr John Bayes ⋅ Mrs Bazett ⋅ Captain Beale ⋅ Miss Beale ⋅ Mr A. Beale ⋅ Captain Bennett ⋅ Mr Blake ⋅ Mr Blenkins ⋅ Rev. Boys ⋅ Mr Brabazon ⋅ Captain Broadway ⋅ Mrs Broadway ⋅ Mr Brooke ⋅ Mr G. R. Bruce{8} ⋅ Mr John Burnham ⋅ Mr S. Burnham ⋅ W & J of London Burnie ⋅ Sergeant Carolans ⋅ Mr T. Carr ⋅ Mr W. Chamberlain ⋅ Mr Charlette ⋅ Mr Clements ⋅ Captain H. Cole ⋅ Miss E. Cole ⋅ Miss S. Cole ⋅ Drum Major Connolly ⋅ Mr Cruickshank ⋅ Mrs Cruickshank ⋅ Mrs Cruickshanks ⋅ Mr Darling ⋅ Mr J. De Fountain ⋅ Mr John De Fountain ⋅ Mrs E. De Fountain ⋅ Mr C. Desfountain ⋅ Mrs E Desfountain ⋅ James Dickson ⋅ G. Doveton ⋅ Sir W. W. Doveton ⋅ Mr Dring ⋅ Dr. J. C. Dunn ⋅ Mr Eddlestone ⋅ Mr Eyre ⋅ Mr E. Fowler ⋅ Mr Gideon ⋅ Mr Greenland ⋅ Mr Greentree ⋅ Mr Gunnell ⋅ Mrs Gurling ⋅ Mr D. Hamilton ⋅ Mrs Harper ⋅ Mrs Anne Hayes ⋅ R. Hayes ⋅ Mrs Haymes ⋅ Mrs Hayward ⋅ Colonel Hodson ⋅ Mrs A. Hodson ⋅ Mr A. Isaacke ⋅ Mr Alfred Isaacke ⋅ George James ⋅ Governor Janisch ⋅ Mr R. Julio ⋅ Mr William Julio ⋅ Dr. Kay ⋅ Henry Kay ⋅ Miss C. Kay ⋅ Mr Henry Kay ⋅ Mrs E. Kay ⋅ Lieutenant William Kennedy ⋅ Mr John Knipe Senior ⋅ Captain Knipe ⋅ J. B. (children of) Knipe ⋅ Mr J. B. Knipe ⋅ Mr T. B. Knipe ⋅ Mr W. B. B. Knipe ⋅ Mrs Henry Knipe ⋅ Mrs Mary Knipe ⋅ Mrs A. Lambe ⋅ Mrs M. Lambe ⋅ Mrs Matilda Lambe ⋅ Mrs Le Breton ⋅ Mrs Richard Leech ⋅ Mr Legg Senior ⋅ Mr S. Legg ⋅ Mrs Leicester ⋅ Mrs Lester ⋅ Dr. Lorimer ⋅ Mr Marrowbeck ⋅ Captain Mason ⋅ Colonel Mason ⋅ Ensign John Mason ⋅ Lieutenant William Mason ⋅ Miss Mason ⋅ Mr Ben Mason ⋅ Mr James Mason ⋅ Mrs R. P. Mason ⋅ Mr Meade ⋅ Mr J. Metcalfe ⋅ Mr Moss ⋅ Mr Mullhall ⋅ Mrs E. Noqueda[h] ⋅ Captain O’ Connor ⋅ Lieutenant O’ Connor ⋅ Mr Oswald ⋅ Mr C. Patterson ⋅ Dr. Price ⋅ Mr Prince ⋅ Lieutenant James Pritchard ⋅ Major D. K. Pritchard ⋅ Major H. H. Pritchard ⋅ Mr S. Pritchard ⋅ Mrs E. Pritchard ⋅ Mrs S. Pritchard ⋅ Mr Jacob Rich ⋅ Mr John Rich ⋅ John Roake ⋅ Mr Edward Roakes ⋅ Mr J. Robinson ⋅ Mrs Rofe ⋅ Captain Sampson ⋅ Major (1833) Sampson ⋅ Lieutenant John Sampson ⋅ Mr R. Scott Junior ⋅ Mr R. Scott Senior ⋅ Mr Charles Scott ⋅ Mr John Scott ⋅ Mr W. Seale Junior ⋅ Mr William Seale Junior ⋅ Major Seale ⋅ Mr H. F. Seale ⋅ Mr R. F. Seale ⋅ Mr William Henry Seale ⋅ Captain Shortis ⋅ Colonel Smith ⋅ Lieutenant A. Smith ⋅ Mrs A. Smith ⋅ Mrs Mary Smith ⋅ Mr B. Solomon ⋅ Mr S. Solomon ⋅ Captain Statham ⋅ Mrs Stewart ⋅ Mrs S. Stewart ⋅ Leech, Trustees Thomas ⋅ Captain Thorn ⋅ Mr Harry Tim ⋅ Captain Torbett ⋅ Mr R. Torbett ⋅ Mr Richard Torbett ⋅ Mrs M Torbett ⋅ Mr Tracy Senior ⋅ Mr C. Tracy ⋅ Dr. Watson ⋅ Mr Weston ⋅ Mr R. Wills ⋅ Colonel Wright ⋅ Mr Robert Wright ⋅ Mr Youd ⋅ Jonathon Young ⋅ Lieutenant S. Young ⋅ Miss P. Young ⋅ Mr Am-t Young ⋅ Mr John Young

In the period from 1715 to 1764 at least 58 of the enslaved attempted to escape from St Helena, mostly in very small boats not at all suited to an ocean voyage. Very few of them are known to have survived.


The UK ‘Slavery Abolition Act, 1833’ came into force on 1st August 1834 and abolished slavery almost throughout the British Empire, but contained the provision (LXIV) And be it further enacted, That nothing in this Act contained doth or shall extend to any of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company, or to the Island of Ceylon, or to the Island of Saint Helena. The actual abolition of slavery on St Helena had to wait until 27th May 1839 when the ‘Ordinance For the Abolition of Slavery in the Island of St Helena’ was enacted. In practice, by 1st May 1836 the last of the enslaved had been ‘freed’, though they remained Indentured to their former owners.

All was not well, however. The transfer to the Crown meant many employees of The East India Company lost their jobs and the economy declined sharply, with food prices rocketing. Inevitably the situation was worst for those at the bottom of the social scale, the formerly-enslaved, many of whom also had emancipation loans following the 1827 law. Freedom did not confer prosperity and the formerly-enslaved suffered just like - possibly more - than the general population, of which they were now part.

To underline the change, in copies of The ‘Blue Book’ for 1839 the column headers for ‘coloured’ and ‘white’ population were struck through and a single column replaced both, headed ‘Population’. Officially there were no longer racially divided people on the island. Also in December of that year the remaining unpaid emancipation loans were written off: of the £31,645.10 that had been loaned 91% remained unpaid.

One formerly enslaved, Clara George, went on to found one of the island’s most successful schools

Slavery Commemorations

A number of annual days mark themes related to slavery, which are observed to varying degrees on St Helena:

For more annual events see our page This Year.

The first enslaved people here actually came of their own free will and lived free. Sometime before 1557, before the island was settled, three male and two enslaved women escaped from a ship and remained hidden on the island. When discovered in 1557 their number had to risen to twenty. Sadly we do not know what became of them. They were either rounded up by the Portuguese (who then owned the island) and re-enslaved, or their colony died out for other unknown reasons. There is no record of there being any indigenous inhabitants when the English arrived in 1659.

Read More

Below: WikipediaInternational Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, 2020Article: Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery



The International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, 2020

Published in The Sentinel, 27th August 2020{10}

This 23 August, we honour the memory of the men and women who, in Saint-Domingue in 1791, revolted and paved the way for the end of slavery and dehumanization. We honour their memory and that of all the other victims of slavery, for whom they stand. (...) To draw lessons from this history, we must lay this system bare, deconstruct the rhetorical and pseudoscientific mechanisms used to justify it; we must refuse to accept any concession or apologia which itself constitutes a compromising of principles. Such lucidity is the fundamental requirement for the reconciliation of memory and the fight against all present-day forms of enslavement, which continue to affect millions of people, particularly women and children.

Audrey Azoulay, Director General, Message on the occasion of the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

EHRC logo

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was the largest forced migration in history, and undeniably one of the most inhumane. The extensive exodus of Africans spread to many areas of the world over a 400-year period and was unprecedented in the annals of recorded human history.

As a direct result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the greatest movement of Africans was to the Americas - with 96 per cent of the captives from the African coasts arriving on cramped Slavers at ports in South America and the Caribbean Islands.

From 1501 to 1830, four Africans crossed the Atlantic for every one European, making the demographics of the Americas in that era more of an extension of the African Diaspora than an European one. The legacy of this migration is still evident today, with large populations of people of African descent living throughout the Americas.

2020 Theme: Confronting Slavery’s Legacy of Racism Together

One devastating legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade was racism. Historically, it was used to justify the enslavement of Africans. And today, it has led to people of African descent being relegated to the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society. The 2020 theme underscores the reality that lasting effects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, including racism, continue to divide societies across the globe and hamper our advancement towards a world that respects human rights and enables sustainable development for all. Only through confronting these legacies can we truly promote inclusion and move forward together.

When Slavery was abolished in the UK 1807, the colonies had not, St Helena included. The 400 years of enslavement of African people left behind an island fundamentally altered by centuries of systematic discrimination against the enslaved and their descendants. The effects of slavery on the island echoed through the earlier half of the nineteenth century.

Through the Black Lives Matter Campaigns, we acknowledge that globally the descendants of enslaved people continue to face violent intimidation when they have transgressed social boundaries or asserted their civil rights, and the criminal justice system continues to target people of colour. Globally, these legacies have yet to be confronted.

In commemoration of the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition, The Equality and Human Rights Commission along with the Museum of Saint Helena will be launching an addition to the permanent exhibition on the history of slavery in Saint Helena on the 24th August 2020. The expansion on the exhibition aims to acknowledge the victims of slavery by embarking on a truth telling and reflective journey about 400 years of slavery on Saint Helena and its Legacy.

Article: Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery

Published in the St Helena Herald, 30th March 2007{10}

Logo: Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery

On Sunday 25th March St Helena joined other countries around the world to celebrate 200 years since the passing by Parliament in 1807 of the Slave Trade Act, which commenced the abolition of slavery within the British Empire.

The enslaved did not gain their full freedom until 1838 and, although slavery was finally abolished in the Americas in 1888, it is estimated that over 20 million people worldwide are still in forms of servitude today.

In the United Kingdom various events were organised to commemorate the abolition of Slavery and the St Helena Government UK Representative, Mrs Kedell Worboys, was invited to attend the National Service of Commemoration at Westminster Abbey.

Here in St Helena a special thanksgiving service to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery took place in St Paul’s Cathedral. This service was well attended, with an estimated congregation of around 100, and also Her Excellency the Acting Governor Mrs Ethel Yon MBE and Mr Gilbert Yon MBE were in attendance. The service was recorded by Radio St Helena for broadcast on Sunday evening.

{a} John Brunner{b} Colin Fox{c} Letitia Elizabeth Landon, The African{d} John Kass{e} C. L. R. James{f} From ‘A Handbook and Gazetteer of the Island of St Helena’, by G. C. Kitching, 1947{g} Colin Fox for the Museum of St Helena{h} Governor Walker{11}


{1} Please Note Not a St Helena image; included for illustration purposes only.{2} 29 enslaved identified their origins for an investigation to the legality of their enslavement in c.1820.{3} The Records are not clear whether he was also denied water, in which case he would have died of dehydration within days, even in the winter, or given water to extend his suffering for maybe a fortnight.{4} In the aftermath of the re-taking of the island from the Dutch.{5} a.k.a. the enslaved.{6} Formerly a slave in ‘the colonies’, his autobiography, published in 1789, helped in the creation of the Slave Trade Act 1807 which ended the African slave trade for Britain and its colonies. He is celebrated in the name of ‘The Cable’.{7} Please note: we have not verified this list and there may be duplications. For example, are Captain Torbett, Mr R. Torbett and Mr Richard Torbett the same or different people?{8} An ancestor of Ian Bruce.{9} In 2022 this was marked with an event outside The Cannister, linked to the recent reburial of the ‘Liberated Africans’ exhumed while Building St Helena Airport.{10} @@RepDis@@{11} 5th November 1827.