Barbados Heritage

The Road to Independence: We Made It!

During the month of November Barbados becomes alive with the excitement of celebrating independence, and this year, the nation celebrates fifty-six years as an independent nation. On November 30, 1966, the people of Barbados threw off the shackles of years of colonial governance, therein embracing the right to fully control its own destiny. That meant that the island was embarking on the journey to self-governance as a democracy within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

However, the road to independence and self-governance was a long, hard-fought one, strewn with the remnants of the battle, and fraught with the challenges presented by colonialism, and the struggle to become disentangled from that web of bondage. Barbadians held the desire to, as the national anthem so adequately states, become “firm craftsmen of our fate.”

This journey would take Barbados from emancipation, the work that freed Barbadians from slavery with the hope of equal rights for all, to independence, where the fields and hills of this nation and all within them would become the
property and domain of the people of Barbados.

After emancipation the social and economic circumstances on the island were dire. Political governance still held a strangle-hold on the ‘lower classes’ and this group carried the burden of struggle in an intolerant, change adverse society. However, despite the longstanding opposition to changing the status quo, change was destined to visit and dwell within these shores.

Early political leaders and fighters like Samuel Jackman Prescod, Charles Duncan O’Neal, Chrissy Brathwaite, and Clennell Wickham, were later followed on the vanguard by Grantley Adams, Errol Barrow, Wynter Crawford, M. E. Cox, Erskine Ward, Frank Walcott, John Martineau, Dr. H. Gordon Cummins, Hugh Springer, Frederick Smith, Edwy Talma, Cameron Tudor, and Ronald Mapp, to note some of the early players who shaped the society along the journey to independence.

These men would chart the course to modernize, first the political system to a ministerial and cabinet structure, and to also fight for the right of all Barbadians to vote without qualifications. So, by 1950 universal adult suffrage was achieved and the election of 1951 was the first under which all could vote. Voters did not have to own property of a certain value nor earn a specific annual income. All that was
necessary to qualify to vote was being a Barbadian.

By June 1966 the Barbados Constitutional Conference was called in England, holding discussions towards independence. On Thursday November 3, 1966, general elections were held, and the Democratic Labour Party was returned to power in a resounding victory. The movement toward independence was progressing and the date was set for Wednesday November 30, 1966. When the clock struck midnight, signaling the start of that day, Barbados would put off three hundred and thirty-nine years of colonial possession and rule, and be adorned in independence, that is to say, total self-governance.

So, on this fifty-sixth year of independence, we celebrate the struggles, lessons learned, and progress made, which have brought us to this point in time as a nation. In addition, on this occasion, November 30, 2022, we also celebrate one year as a Republic, as we continue to grow and move from strength to strength as a nation.

As the song goes, God bless Bim on independence day!