THIRD SUGGESTION: NANNY GRIGG
Let’s recap from last week’s episode. We’re looking at Bajans who should replace Nelson de Green Man in town. There’s a criteria given on how we should look at it and I promised some suggestions, here’s my next one.
Lemme state this, this next suggestion should indicate that people or movements and not just individuals should be honored. Read on and you’ll see why I say so.
There’s not a lot of factual evidence surrounding Nanny Grigg, most of her existence lives through oral traditions which cannot and should not be discounted. Quite like her counterpart General Bussa, their legendary status has been questioned through authenticity; however, the rebellion they are both responsible for is well documented. I would say if not for Nanny Grigg we probably wouldn’t acknowledge Bussa, and this is why.
In 1807, a slow and steady transition to abolish slavery in the British Caribbean began. Acts were formed to reform barbaric force upon slaves. This process was far too slow for slaves and this began a crescendo of resistance by the enslaved in the Caribbean. William Wilberforce succeeded in forcing a registry bill in the British Parliament in 1915. Again, the racist white boys in Barbados wanted to uphold their status and didn’t feel they needed to enforce any changes.
Here begins the legend of Nanny Grigg. Nanny Grigg belonged to the Simmons Plantation where she held a senior position as head domestic house slave. Different from any house slave, she was bought at £130, which is unusually high for a domestic slave. She was a literate slave who possessed a vast knowledge of the colony of Barbados and was very well read. Nanny was aware of the process of emancipation and knew about the revolts in Haiti . She knew the slaves were to be freed on New Years Day and knew the planter society had no plans to inform their slaves of this.
Bussa, an African born slave was the head ranger on the Bayley’s Plantation, he was in charge of the slaves by his role, but he was a leader in different ways. Along with Nanny’s information and few other senior slaves plotted an insurrection on Good Friday under a cover of dance. As General Bussa was the leader, he organised other slaves from different plantations in the east to the island. Nanny Grigg served as the strategist. The plan was to start with arson, the burning of crops and plantation housing.
‘The only way to obtain freedom was to fight for it., otherwise they would not get it; and the way they were to do, was to set fire.Nanny Grigg
On Easter Sunday, April 17th, 1816, The Bussa Rebellion was in full effect. This uprising spread over half the island. 4000 rebel slaves managed to destroy over a quarter of the country’s annual earnings in crops across 70 plantations. A local militia as well as the local British West India Regiment waged war with the rebels in a bloody battle. The rebel slaves were only armed with pitchforks, cutlasses and other tools useless against guns, were forced to retreat after three days. Estimates suggest that 1,000 rebel slave men, women and children were killed. 144 rebel slaves were publicly executed, 140 were publicly flogged, deported and/or suffered immeasurable
torture to extract confessions. The Regiment was shocked to find out that one of the key rebels with tactical intelligence to orchestrate such a plan was a literate slave woman, Nanny Grigg.
The Bussa Rebellion in 1816, represented the first of many slave revolts in the British colonies, Demarara (later British Guiana), 1823, Jamaica 1831-2 are a few notable ones that came after. This led to Britain finally forcing emancipation across its colonies in 1833.
Fortunately, the names of the planters or generals involved in repressing the revolt are not known or celebrated in the public consciousness. The Emancipation statue commemorates the fight against colonial slavery of General Bussa and is affectionately known as the Bussa Statue. Bussa is also recognized as one of our National Heroes. Nanny lives through the oral tradition but deserves more for her invaluable efforts. Her key ability as an educated slave brought the awareness of what was to happen. As a leader and trusted confidant of Bussa she too inspired others to rightfully take the country by force and claim it theirs. Her influence was not only felt here
but to other territories even if they didn’t know her name. This time, we can make sure they do, Nanny Grigg.
“Everybody Hates Kupa” is a weekly column written by Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell.