History of Guyana

Like other countries, Guyana’s history is a multi-colored patchwork of events by “people on a mission”. Reportedly, one such mission started some 3500 years ago, when migrants who would later to be identified as Carib and Arawak Indian tribes, arrived from Eurasia…

Eurasia covers around 55,000,000 square kilometers (21,000,000 sq mi), or around 36.2% of the Earth’s total land area; and is home to the largest country in the world, Russia. The landmass contains well over 5 billion people, equating to approximately 70% of the human population.[1]

In 1499 in essentially “a new world”, Spain’s Alonzo de Ojeda’s expedition encountered the above tribes in the Essequibo, largest of Guyana’s three prominent or “county” rivers. Perhaps to the detriment of the indigenous people, the “trading” that ensued eventually led to the colonization or “control’ and governance by Spanish, French, Dutch and British settlers…

Given their lush tropical environments, adequate rainfalls and rich soils, the financial attraction of agriculture was zealously pursued by then colonial rulers of what were originally – three Guinias. Facing the Atlantic Ocean on the far right or East is French Guiana. Next to the left or West is Surinam or Dutch Guiana.

Finally on the left or West, what was formerly known as British Guiana became independent in 1966 as the Republic of Guyana. Most prominent of its agriculture is sugar. The labor for sugar plantations was first forced by the Dutch colonizers and eventually British, on slaves snatched (typically by the Portuguese) from countries on the African continent.

Slave Census of 1819 SUMMARY Number of slaves 23,881 Creole (i.e. born in the Americas) 10,954 (46% of total) African 12,867 (54% of total) African specified ethnically/regionally 1,198 (5% of total) Breakdown of African Born Slaves Kongo (Congo) 212 – 18% of African specified Coromantee (Ghana) 139 – 12% of African specified Popo (Benin/Togo).[2]

After major slave rebellions in 1763 and 1823, the 1833 Abolition Act by the British Parliament finally “took”, and on August 1, 1834, freed over 800,00 Africans in the colonies of Canada, Caribbean, and South America.[3] Having lost their access to slave labor, British plantation owners came up with the idea of “indentured” slavery.

First, they tried to convince Chinese and Portuguese immigrants to “sign on” for contractual labor but failed. Then their agents travelled to India. There they convinced illiterate Asian or East Indian laborers to affix their thumbprint on the “X” in agreement for eventual ownership of land as renumeration or payment.

The new labor force solved the plantation owner’s dilemma. Known as “coolies” East Indian laborers replaced African slaves who of course were denied opportunity to choose a livelihood. But after gaining freedom, former African slaves choose to sell produce or eventually, to seek “city” jobs amid varying and tumultuous conflicts with former “owners”.

Birth registers for 1869, and many years after, show in intervening years Sierra Leoneans, Angolans, Congos, Krus, Akus, Black Portuguese, Black Cape Verde-ans, Black West Indians, Colored, Colored West Indians, Creole natives of Anguilla, Barbados, St. Kitts, and British Guiana had formed various types of relationships.[4]

With growing use of technology in ancestry tracing, the above may hold nuggets of hope. For a now seemingly impossible task – to connect each member of Africa’s far-flung diaspora to their “first country” as evident now only by their skin color.    

After independence in 1966 and later a member of the British Commonwealth in 1970, the developing story of Guyana is a bitter-sweet saga of “what has been, and “what may have been”. Keyed to “BG history” were Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham from a crowd of “gifted and talented” – as “potential change agents” from colonialism to self-sufficiency…

As “El Dorado” from “ashes of the past”, arguably Guyana’s success is tied to her six main people groups – to end all forms of racism and grasp the benefits of “best for all” in a “genuine” Cooperative Republic of Guyana. Carlton J. Bruce aka Dr B. GO! Editor & Ministry Partnership Development.


Carlton J. Bruce aka Dr B.
GO! Editor & Ministry Partnership Development

[1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Guyana
[2] tracingafricanroots.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/
[3] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Guyana
[4] www.jstor.org/stable/2717498