CARICOM to Spend $12M to Revitalize Guyana Villages Founded by Formerly Enslaved Africans

The Rebirth of the African Village Movement

The Caribbean Development Fund (CARICOM) recently announced that it will invest $12 million into the revitalization of villages founded by formerly enslaved African people in Guyana. It is believed, however, that this would have happened much sooner if not for Guyana’s previous and majority East Indian government, that ignored development within Afro-Guyanese villages.

Unfortunately for the Afro-Guyanese, achieving permanent upward mobility has been a strenuous effort as the sociopolitical dynamics of Guyana are complicated, to say the least. Since Guyana’s colonial era, many of the Afro-Guyanese have been afflicted by racism, racial tensions with Guyana’s East Indian population (something many could say was originally orchestrated by the British), and poverty.

With the new investment, Finance Minister Winston Jordan revealed the land will be cleared for crops, improve drainage and irrigation and dig more than 150 kilometers (about 90 miles) of new canals to provide water for farms. Approximately 35,000 people in towns such as Buxton are expected to benefit.

It hasn’t yet been confirmed as to when the development will officially take place, but in the meantime, here are some of the villages that will be included in the development initiative and their history.

Buxton Village

Buxton Village, Guyana. Image Credit: Flickr (Mark Meynell)

In 1840, former Black people in bondage purchased the land now known as Buxton for $50,000. They went on to build farms, schools, churches, housing and other infrastructure in hopes of being self-sufficient.

Victoria Village

Victoria Village is said to have been purchased by 83 ex-enslaved Africans in 1839 for a little over $10,000 and was one of the first villages to have codes of local government in Guyana. The village also became one of the leading exporters of goods made from cassava and coconuts.

Lichfield Village

Very recently, Lichfield celebrated its 176th anniversary. According to the village griot, 12 ex-enslaved Africans purchased the land in 1840. The land was initially used for the cultivation of many crops including coffee, cotton and tobacco. With returns from the crops, villagers built schools, railway stations, churches, etc.

Golden Grove Village

A former sugar plantation known as Williamsburg, Golden Grove was founded by 50 formerly enslaved Africans who pooled their resources to buy the land in 1848. Eventually, the village became a staple in Guyana’s agricultural industry and profits allowed residents to build homes and sustain their livelihood in a variety of ways.

Plaisance Village

Plaisance Village was purchased in 1842 and was officially declared a village in 1892, after 50 years of negotiations with the British-Guyanese government.

Today, groups such as the Plaisance Sparendaam Goedverwagting Development Association work hard to keep the village’s history and culture alive with many community and cultural initiatives.

Afro-Guyanese schoolgirls. Image Credit: The Best Travelled (Miodrag Colic)

How The African Village Movement Began

The 1830s was perhaps one of Guyana’s most critical decades, colonial Guyana had undergone many drastic changes and it’s social and political climate was changing without a question.

During this period, the governor of “British Guiana” (the country’s name at that time), Sir Benjamin D’Urban had given a group of enslaved people known as “Winkel People” in the country’s Berbice region their freedom as a retaliatory act against the Dutch, whom they had seized the region from following the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.

The freeing of these Winkel people along with Guyana’s official slave emancipation sparked a period of major change in the nation, including what is now known as the “African Village Movement” to Afro-Guyanese historians.

Following their emancipation, many of the Afro-Guyanese purchased land, sometimes even their former plantations and created villages in hopes of a more promising future for their descendants. There are now more than 40 Afro-Guyanese villages in Guyana.

 

List of All Afro-Guyanese Villages In Guyana

1. Victoria
2. Buxton
3. Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara
4. Golden Grove, West Coast Berbice
5. Plaisance
6. Belladrum
7. Lichfield
8. Nabaclis
9. Den Amstel
10. Agricola
11. Hopetown
12. Friendship
13. Sandvoort
14. Gibraltar/Fryish Courtland
15. Beterverwagting
16. Baracara
17. No. 53 Union
18. Kildonan
19. Liverpool
20. Sisters
21. Ithaca
22. Prospect
23. Dingwall (No.40 village)
24. Joppa (No.43. village)
25. Phillipi (Corentyne coast 37 Km from New Amsterdam )
26. Seafield (No.42 village)
27. Kingelly (West Coast Berbice)
28. Lovely Lass, West Coast Berbice
29. No.41 village
30. Bagotville
31. Dartmouth Village
32. Eversham Village
33. Airy Hall Village
34. Calcutta Village
35. Recess Village
36. Weldaad Village
37. Anns Grove Village
38. Bachelors Adventure
39. Good Intent
40. Perseverance
41. Woodlands and Friends Retreat (No.10 village)

Additional Sources:

 

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