Last Updated: January 29, 2018
African Diaspora Heritage Trail Bermuda
About African Diaspora in Bermuda
The word Diaspora originally meant 'scattered' and stood for the dispersion of the Jews all over the world after Babylonian exile. However, during the pre-modern times starting from the 16th century, the word refers to large scattering of the black slaves that mainly took place as part of the transatlantic slave trade from Africa.
It is estimated that during the slave trade period, over 10 million black slaves were transported from Africa to the western hemisphere. Bermuda too had a Legacy of Slavery
for over 200 years from early 1600s when the British colony was formed in the island. It was first in 1616 when Governor Tucker asked for Negroes to be brought into Bermuda to dive and search for pearls and also to grow tobacco. They were not indentured or debt bonded, so could not be called slaves in true sense.
In 1620s, the fist slaves came to Bermuda who were indentured. Soon the indenture period was increased to 99 years which means they became slaves for life. The slavery period in Bermuda continued until 1834 when it was finally abolished.
In 2001, Bermuda Department of Tourism and the international body African Diaspora created a trail tracing the legacy of Bermuda's slavery and preserving the heritage and culture of those belonging to the African Diaspora. All the sites in the trail including dozens of monuments and museums are officially designated as UNESCO Slave Route Project. You will see a Bronze Plaque at each site having this official heritage status inscribed on it.
If you want, you can get a guide from Bermuda Department of Tourism to help you understand the background and the history as you go around the sites.
Here are all the sites of the Trail (as you visit the links, you will find detailed information with pictures of the sites and also know how to reach the places):
Located at the Bermuda Maritime Museum in Royal Naval Dockyard, the Commissioner's House has a two-room exhibit that displays many disturbing artifacts tracing the realities of slavery in Bermuda.
Located at Warwick parish, this is the oldest Methodist building in Bermuda that still exists. It was built by the free blacks and the slaves in 1827 to have a place of worship of their own. They worked mostly during their free time at night to complete the construction.
Barr's Bay, located at Hamilton City, was the site where a ship named Enterprise and carrying black slaves had to anchor in 1835 after being blown off the course by a strong gale. Having already abolished slavery in the previous year, Bermuda customs refused to let the ship sail back again without giving a choice of freedom to the slaves. Check out the link to know what happened finally.
Statue of Sally Basset
: She was a slave during the 18th century. But unlike others she allegedly went a step ahead, and as a silent but strong rebellion against slavery, she tried to kill her master and his wife by poisoning them. She was however tried and found guilty, and sentenced to a brutal death by burning her alive as hundreds witnessed the act. A statue of Sally Bassett was built in 2008 at the Cabinet grounds in Hamilton to keep a chapter of Bermuda's dark history alive. This was the first memorial created for a slave in Bermuda.
Slaves in Bermuda helped building this elegant house with lush gardens and maintained it for about 125 years until the slavery was abolished in 1834.
This cave located in Smith's parish at the Spittal Pond Nature Reserve is named after a slave who escaped his master and hid at this well concealed cave for over a month before he was caught again.
This beautiful island guarding the Flatts Inlet is located at Smith's Parish. This was one of the places in Bermuda where the slaves who rebelled or tried to escape were executed and their bodies displayed in public.
The memorial is located at the Great Head Park in St David's island at St George. Many slaves worked and lived on boats as fishermen, whalers and pilots. Some never returned home as storms would have swept them overboard or the boats may have capsized. This memorial Figurehead was created in memory of those who were lost at the sea.
This used to be a private home in 1730s owned by a successful black couple who had their own slaves. The museum has exhibits and collections reflecting their day to day life.
Located at the heart of St. George, St. Peter's Church is the oldest Anglican church in the western hemisphere and is a key site of African Diaspora in Bermuda. There was a separate graveyard created here for the Christian blacks, whether free or enslaved. A separate gallery was created for them so that they could attend the services.
Located at Water Street in St George, the museum has many artifacts, exhibits and photographs reflecting the legacy of black slavery. It also preserves the social and historical heritage of the blacks including sports, social history, politics, professional and personal accomplishment and also a bit of scandal. This is the Bermuda's only black history museum.
Located at St. George, the kitchen of the Tucker's House was used as a barber shop by a black man who fled the American Civil War in 1862 and landed in Bermuda from South Carolina. When he went back to USA in 1866, he joined politics and became one of the first blacks to be elected in the U.S. House of Representatives.
James Darrel, one of the most respected black pilots, was the first documented black Bermudian who was freed from slavery. British Admiral George Murray was so impressed with his navigational skills that he requested for his freedom. The place in St. George where his house is located, is called Darrel's Square.
Book tour of African Diaspora
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Visitors' Reviews & Comments
Jennifer Cassidy (January 2018)
Good day. I am a teacher at Purvis Primary and am looking for the contact information for the people who do the tour to see if I can get a field trip. I'm hoping you can help me with who to contact. Thank you so much.
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) January 2018
Hi, the company 'Bermuda Island Tours' conducts group tours of African Diaspora Heritage Trail. They do it for a group of 10 or more @$87 per person. It's a 6.5 hours tour covering points such as Tucker House Museum, Pilot Darrell's Square, Commissioners House, Cobb's Hill Methodist Church, St. Peter's Church etc. Entry fees and meals are not included. Call (441)-704-8477 or email [email protected]
for further info and booking.